Raising awareness about disabilities
LIHU‘E — The excitement of holding a sign advocating for developmental disability awareness was the same whether on the lawn of the Historic County Building on Rice Street in Lihu‘e or under the eaves of the Mo‘ikeha Building of the Lihu‘e Civic Center.
Members of the Kaua‘i Self-Advocacy Advisory Council and its partner agencies, including aster Seals of Hawai‘i, Bayada Rehabilitation and the Hawai‘i State Council on Developmental Disabilities, were scheduled to do a couple of hours of sign-waving along Rice Street on Wednesday.
The sign-waving was meant to raise awareness that March is National Developmental Disability Awareness Month. The effort also educates people about developmental disability issues and celebrates inclusion.
But the arrival of rain and bouts of gusty winds forced a change of plans, moving the group to the shelter of the Mo‘ikeha Building, where the sign-wavers were protected from the rain that on occasion fell relentlessly.
The sense of excitement among the dozens of participants demonstrated the value and talent people with disabilities add to workplaces and communities at the sign-waving-turned-rally.
In Hawai‘i, the self-advocates adopted their own theme, “Friendship and Leadership is Forever,” that differs from the national theme of “Beyond the Conversation.”
“This year’s theme encourages people to understand that by building relationships and supporting one another, we become friends and build new leadership,” said Daintry Bartoldus, the executive administrator of the Hawai‘i State Council on Developmental Disabilities.
“We all deserve to be respected. We all are equal. When we start recognizing our similarities, everyone benefits.”
Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami presented the group with a proclamation, stopping by to greet and chat with many of the gathering participants after recognizing them from the different arenas where he met them.
“New opportunities have been created through the efforts of those with developmental disabilities and their family members, along with professionals and officials at all levels of government,” said Ronald Reagan in the proclamation he signed in 1987 declaring March as National Developmental Disability Awareness Month.
Earlier in February, the Kaua‘i self-advocates visited Smith’s Tropical Botanical Gardens to get photographs that were on display at the Hawai‘i Capitol when the Hawai‘i State Council on Developmental Disabilities and its collaborative partners visited the Capitol during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month on March 3.