In 1987, Ronald Reagan declared the month of March as National Disabilities Awareness Month. It serves as a formal time to recognize the efforts, struggles, and initiatives surrounding people with disabilities. In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, thus officially giving legal rights to those with disabilities regarding workplace discrimination.

According to The Arc, whose mission is to protect the rights of human beings with intellectual and developmental disabilities, at least 4.6 million Americans have a disability. The Arc advocates in many ways for those with disabilities, including shaping public policy, providing services like employment programs and residential support, and preserving and protecting rights through education and activism.


Triangle is a nonprofit organization in Malden, Massachusetts, that “empowers people with disabilities to enjoy rich, fulfilling lives.” Together with the Accessible Icon Project, they are working to transform the original International Symbol of Access into something more visually representative of today’s individuals with disabilities. The new image conjures up words like “active, abled, engaged, ready for action, determined, and motivated…which helps provoke discussion on how we view disabilities and people with disabilities in our culture.” (Read more on the About section of the Accessible Icon Project Web site.)

Follow these suggestions or add your own to raise awareness for those with disabilities:

  • Make the Accessible Icon your profile picture on Facebook, and post a status on social media (i.e., Facebook, Twitter) like, “I support and celebrate people with disabilities, and you should too!”

  • Volunteer or donate to the cause in your area. Use the Network for Good as a starting place.

  • Contact your legislator to advocate for public policy to assist people with disabilities.

  • Support businesses that employ people with disabilities.

  • Take time to educate yourself and others about the needs of people with disabilities in your area.

  • Make sure that your own words and actions are respectful of those with disabilities.

  • Get involved in community-based activities that raise awareness in your school or business.


 
Although overall life expectancy in the U.S. has increased from 75 years to 78 years in the past decade, information from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle has found that Americans are spending more of their lifetime dealing with disability.

According to the research, Americans are now spending an average of 10.1 years living with a disability, up from 9.4 years reported before 1990.

Of the top five disabilities, two are mental health diagnoses – major depressive disorder (ranked No. 2) and anxiety disorders (ranked No. 5). These rankings have not changed from the 1990 report. The researchers hope that this report can help focus on which diseases, injuries, and health problems are the greatest losses of health and life, with the hope of using that information to better serve these problems with improved health and medical care.

More information about this study is available in the July 10 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.