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March named Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in Michigan; Lt. Gov. Brian Calley: "Look for different abilities, not disabilities"

For Immediate Release: March 2, 2015

LANSING, Mich. – To celebrate the different abilities approximately 180,000 adults and children in Michigan have, March has been proclaimed Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month by Gov. Rick Snyder, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH), and the Michigan Developmental Disabilities Council (DDC).

“Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month is a chance for Michiganders to help create and be part of a more inclusive community,” Calley said. “I often say people have different abilities, not disabilities. This is a perfect time to look at things from a new perspective.”

This year’s theme, “Side-by-Side: Celebrating Togetherness”, encourages residents to participate in the awareness month by meeting, talking with, and engaging people with developmental disabilities to promote an inclusive community.

“Michigan has recently made great strides in promoting positive change in our communities through the Michigan Health and Wellness Commission and Employment First initiatives,” said Nick Lyon, director of the MDCH. “The work does not stop there however and Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month is a great opportunity to continue that work.”

Local self-advocacy groups, such as Michigan’s Regional Inclusive Community Coalitions (RICCs), are hosting events throughout the month of March to celebrate togetherness and to emphasize opportunities to support people with developmental disabilities. Residents can get involved in the month-long awareness effort by contacting their local RICC.

“Reaching out to their local RICC is a great way for the public to get involved in their community and include people with disabilities in their everyday lives,” said Vendella M. Collins, executive director of the DDC. “I encourage everyone to take the important first step of getting involved.”

A developmental disability is a severe, chronic disability attributable to mental or physical impairment, or combination of such impairments, which manifests before the person is age 22 and is likely to continue indefinitely. It results in substantial functional limitations in three or more major life activities including: self-care, receptive and expressive language, learning, mobility, self-direction, capacity for independent living and economic self-sufficiency. Some examples of a development disability include autism, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, intellectual disabilities and epilepsy. 

Last year, Michigan took action to reduce stigma around intellectual and developmental disabilities by enacting R Word legislation which removed the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from statute and replaced them with inclusive, people first language.  Michigan continues its support of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and is guided by the Mental Health and Wellness Commission recommendations.

For more information about Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and how to participate in a local event, visit For more information about the Mental Health and Wellness Commission, its full report and recommendations, visit

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