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.


 
Adults with disabilities, particularly mental illness, have been found to be at an increased risk of being a victim of violence, according to a study funded by the World Health Organization’s Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability. This finding, a meta-analysis of 21 studies, found that one in four people with a mental illness experience some type of violence in a given year – a much higher rate than that experienced by the general population.

The chance that a person with a mental illness will experience physical, sexual, or domestic violence was found to be 3.86-fold higher than the odds of an adult without any disabilities at all. However, violence against individuals with other disabilities was common – it was found that individuals reporting any disability were 50 percent more likely to experience physical, sexual, or intimate partner violence in the prior 12 months than those individuals without a disability, and 60 percent higher for people with intellectual impairments.

Researchers believe that their inclusion criteria probably underestimated the prevalence of violence against people with disabilities because many of the studies were based in high-income countries with lower reported rates of violence. Furthermore, there were no studies of violence against individuals with intellectual disabilities in institutional settings or studies of individuals with sensory impairments included in the analysis.

Approximately 15 percent of adults worldwide have a disability.