Developmental Disability Awareness Month – Deaf History Month

By: Christina Bein – LCSW

March is often known to be the start of a new season, where we can move out of winter and into spring. It’s also a month of bringing awareness to Development Disabilities and Deaf History Month (from March 13 – April 15). 

In a world where people come in all shapes, colors and sizes, we also have variations in our developmental and physical capabilities. 

Some limitations in capabilities are more noticeable and some are less obvious – yet each person learns to find a way to navigate through the intricacies of being part of society.

During the height of protests and marches in support of Black Lives Matter in 2020, diverse groups of people came together to take a unified stand on how this country, government, police, etc – need to do better when it comes to how we treat and support our black communities.

In these protests, deaf people and translators came and represented. They also took it a step further to re-language how people sign “black” (referring to the people) to make it more appropriate, empowering, and respectful. 

The intersectionality of being black and deaf is a unique experience not often shared or discussed in mainstream society. 

During the 2020 protests, and even before it, black deaf people were targeted and misunderstood for using sign language, mistaking them for communicating gang signs. 

When protests were happening there was not enough clear warning to those of impaired hearing, inability to read lips because of masks, or other developmental disability to avoid nearness to flashbangs, gasses, and other tactics used by police forces to disperse protestors. 

The argument from the other side is that these particular persons should not attend protests. It speaks to how little society allows for the integration of developmentally disabled or deaf individuals to participate as their whole self.

What does it look like to help build an environment for our fellow human beings to show up as their whole self?

We could expand our understanding and help by being an ally to their advocacy, sometimes using our voices to amplify theirs to be heard.

Here are some local agencies whose mission is to support communities with developmental disabilities.

Local agencies & resources with information and events supporting developmental disabilities:

Community Pathways

Oregon Council on Developmental Disabilities

Compilation of services/agencies in Lane County

Oregon Association of the Deaf

Video for ASL “Black Lives Matter” from June 2020 during protests