The month of December brings feelings of warmth and love. For many, it’s a celebration of a savior's birth, for others it’s a season of remembrance. For some, it’s just a time when the house smells like cinnamon and pine and is filled with family and friends.
This December however, we want you to think about the men, women, boys and girls in the special needs community and those with varying degrees of disabilities. December 2nd is National Special Education Awareness Day and with December 3rd comes the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. For many, reading this blog is just a review of what has happened or is happening within their own family. For many of us here at The Unique Friends Foundation, we are intimately acquainted with IEP’s and ARD meetings for our children.
We can breathe easier knowing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) protects our children and ensures they are provided with Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) that is tailored to their individual needs. As parents of children with disabilities, we want our children to be included as much as possible in peer to peer activities happening in their schools. When the community is aware of these needs, it makes it easier for understanding and empathy to prevail over prejudice and ignorance.
Thanks to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), adults with disabilities are protected from discrimination and prejudices in the workplace. Under the ADA, employers with 15 or more employees are required to provide qualified individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from the full range of employment-related opportunities available to others. Sadly, society doesn’t have an ACT or piece of legislation to require its citizens to treat each other with respect and dignity but as a community, the men and women with disabilities (whether cognitive or physical) aren’t sitting around anymore waiting for acceptance and appreciation. People like Chris Nikic are taking the bulls by the horns and doing what they love on their terms. Chris just became the first person with Down syndrome to complete a triathlon.
This December, think about becoming a champion for change in your area. Consider, for a moment, how you can contribute to a solution of inclusion and equality for those in your community with special needs and disabilities. If you’re reading this blog post, one way is to support our efforts.
If you’re a local business owner, become TUFF Certified. If you’re a parent, learn more about our resources and how you can join us in empowering, encouraging and educating people for the benefit of your child or family member. And finally, if you’re a community member, become a champion. When you see something, say something. Where there is an opportunity for someone with disabilities to volunteer or be employed, suggest it to the business owner/organization leader.
Together we can make a difference for those with disabilities and special needs. We’re doing our part… Join us!