FARMINGTON — With March being Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, Life Enrichment Advancing People is sponsoring a pledge board to remind people that individuals of all abilities have rights and deserve to be a part of their communities.

To sign the pledge, stop by the LEAP Central Office at 313 Farmington Falls Road.

LEAP is a local nonprofit residential service provider that strives to empower individuals to believe in themselves, live healthy and well, make friends and have hope for the future. LEAP also works to raise awareness about the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities.

Into the 1960s, people who were born with disabilities that made them look, act or sound “different” were often housed, in  essence “warehoused,” in large state-run institutions, according to LEAP. Their lives were devalued and they were deprived of dignity, respect and perhaps most importantly, hope.

At that time, people with a variety of physical and intellectual disabilities were labeled, and mislabeled, as “mentally retarded,” the organization said. This included people with physical limitations, no speech, cerebral palsy, and mental illness. 

Under the leadership of John F. Kennedy, the tide started to turn in 1961, when he convened the President’s Panel on Mental Retardation. Based on the reports of this panel and their blueprint to Congress, in 1963 President Kennedy announced a bold new approach to intellectual disabilities, according to LEAP.

In the 1970s, the movement from large institutions to community settings took off, and the exodus is still occurring institution by institution across the United States.

Twenty-five years ago, spurred by advocates across the nation, President Ronald Reagan declared March to be Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, urging “all Americans to join me in according to our fellow citizens with such disabilities both encouragement and the opportunities they need to lead productive lives and to achieve their full potential.”

For more information on LEAP, and to learn more about its mission and services, visit www.leapcommunity.org


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