Women’s History and Developmental Disabilities Awareness in March

When I was in elementary school I remember having to do reports on historical figures each month depending on what type of awareness was being raised.  I hope this type of assignment still exists today.

March is National Women’s History Month and 2015 marks the 35th anniversary of the Women’s History Movement and the National Women’s History Project.  This year’s theme is Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives.

This month is also Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.  First proclaimed in 1987 by President Reagan during a significant time of social change and shortly before the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the presidential proclamation called upon Americans to provide the “encouragement and opportunities” necessary for people with developmental disabilities to reach their potential.

These should not be viewed as competing events.  In fact, in terms of the barriers that women and people with developmental disabilities still struggle to overcome, they have more in common.  Both have to address stereotypes and discrimination.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 29.3 percent of charges filed in 2014 were based on gender while 28.6 percent were based on disability.  Neither is equally represented in the workforce, particularly in positions of leadership.  In 2013, only 57.2 percent of women were in the workforce compared to 69.7 percent of men.

The Office of Disability Employment Programs regularly reports that nearly 80 percent of people with disabilities are not part of the labor force.  Each is vulnerable to poverty and is likely more dependent on government funded programs.  Nearly six in ten poor adults are women.  In 2013, individuals with disabilities had a poverty rate of 28.7 percent. In contrast, those without a disability had a poverty rate of 13.6 percent.

So as you work with your children to identify who they might write about, don’t forget to educate them about both of these important groups, worthy of more than just a month of awareness.  We should celebrate their contributions to our history and our society daily as we work to remove their challenges to employment and independence.  As an adult, you can also support the rights of these populations and others served by Goodwill® by joining Goodwill’s Legislative Action Center where you can receive updates and take action on issues of importance year round.