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During March, Bethesda issues challenge to #IncludeAllAbilities

National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month celebrated with events, new symbol

MILWAUKEE, Feb. 26, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, and throughout the month Bethesda, one of the nation's leading providers of services supporting people with developmental disabilities, will make a compelling case for including people of all abilities. Bethesda is implementing a nationwide awareness campaign that includes a new symbol, high-profile events and opportunities for everyone to get involved.

Symbol for Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

"More than 6 million people in the U.S. have a developmental disability," said Mike Thirtle, Ph.D., president and CEO of Bethesda. "While progress has been made in recent years, there is so much left for all of us to do. We can make the world a better place by including people of all abilities. That's why we're committed to making the biggest impact we possibly can during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month."

Bethesda's campaign kickoff includes a presence at the NASCAR Cup Series – Auto Club 400 race in Fontana, Calif., on March 1, in partnership with Motor Racing Outreach. Five Bethesda "ambassadors" – people Bethesda supports who are avid racing fans – will have the opportunity to attend the race and spread awareness about people with developmental disabilities.

Bethesda will also promote the importance of including all abilities at several events across the country, including:

  • Winter Jam Christian music concerts in Fort Wayne, Ind., and Hoffman Estates, Ill.
  • A Los Angeles Clippers game
  • A Minneapolis concert featuring Michael Tait of the Grammy-winning Newsboys, plus singer-songwriters Adam Agee and Dave Stovall
  • Hundreds of churches across the U.S.


Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month was proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan in 1987. The proclamation called upon all Americans to provide support and opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities, such as autism or Down syndrome, to reach their potential. The number of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities continues to grow. More than 50,000 young people with autism graduate from high school each year, according to the Institute for Corporate Productivity 2019 Study. There's often no clear path forward for these individuals after high school:

Employment: Four out of five adults with developmental disabilities do not have a paid job in the community, according to a Delivering Jobs report. This comes at a time when most organizations are hungry for talent – but their leadership frequently will simply not consider someone with a disability, fearing the cost of accommodation or the potential that they will not be able to perform.

Housing: According to The Arc, nearly 1 million people in the U.S. with intellectual or developmental disabilities live with an aging caregiver, often a parent, putting their future at risk. Additionally, 4.8 million people with disabilities only receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and there's no housing market in the U.S. where SSI alone will pay for a safe, decent rental unit, according to the Technical Assistance Collaborative.

Faith/community: Faith is important to more than 8 in 10 people with disabilities, but only about 10 percent of faith communities offer a congregation-wide disability awareness program, according to the Collaborative on Faith & Disabilities.


Bethesda answers these challenges by providing solutions for people with developmental disabilities. For example, in the employment arena, Bethesda offers job coaching services in multiple states as well as Bethesda College, a two-year education and training program at Concordia University of Wisconsin. Bethesda provides numerous innovative housing arrangements, including Shared Living and Supported Living environments, and last summer broke ground on Bethesda Cornerstone Village in Victoria, Minn., a unique residential community that will integrate people with disabilities with active adults age 55 and older.

Bethesda also employs a network of staff and volunteers to help ensure people with disabilities can experience a welcoming faith community, and regularly advocates one-on-one with influential state legislators to increase reimbursement for provided supports.


Also new this year, Bethesda is introducing a symbol for Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. It shows an engaging figure with a heart, waving a hand – to remind everyone about the need to include and that people with disabilities have many abilities they want to share.


To learn more about Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and Bethesda's campaign, visit IncludeAllAbilities.com. Resources on the dedicated website include comprehensive guides for employers interested in hiring a person with a developmental disability, for congregations looking to become more inclusive, and for everyone who wishes to learn more about including people who have a disability. Additional resources include:

  • Facts about disabilities and a pledge to join the movement
  • Access to lawmakers for advocacy purposes
  • Inspiring video profiles of the Bethesda ambassadors as they prepare to attend the Auto Club 400
  • And much more – check back often

Bethesda will also employ the hashtag #IncludeAllAbilities on social media.

About Bethesda

Headquartered in Wisconsin, Bethesda is a national nonprofit organization providing homes, employment services, faith supports and other key services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Bethesda offers more than 300 programs across the country, provided 4 million hours of support across all programs in the most recent fiscal year, and is guided by Christian faith. For more information on Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, go to IncludeAllAbilities.com. To learn more about Bethesda, visit BethesdaLC.org, like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.


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SOURCE Bethesda