Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month is the right time to talk about it

by Lisa Guliano

Before the 1950s, Ohio residents with developmental disabilities were often sent to institutions or kept at home, isolated and hidden from the public. Thanks to the advocacy efforts of parents who wanted better for their children, change was brought about. In 1952, parents in Butler County formed what would later become the Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities (BCBDD).

With such a start, BCBDD has always had a hand in advocating for people with developmental disabilities and despite progress, there are many ways that advocacy is still needed to this day.

In 1986, the Ohio Legislature signed into law a Bill of Rights for people with developmental disabilities.  The statute includes 24 rights to legally reinforce the freedom to choose and experience life.  These are basic rights such as:  the right to participate in decisions that affect their lives; the right to social interaction with members of either sex; the right to food adequate to meet accepted standards of nutrition; and the right to privacy, including periods of privacy and places of privacy to name some examples. 

It has always been difficult for me to accept that people with disabilities needed additional protection under the law to simply be treated equally as all citizens. 

Given that reality, our Board’s mission focuses on supporting people to live, work and learn in their community.  What that looks like is different for every person depending on their goals and dreams for their future – just like you and me.  Our role as advocates is an honorable one — it is vitally important given the history of people with disabilities living in institutions and being hidden from the community for being different. 

Supporting people with disabilities to access opportunities to develop their full human potential – language also included in the Bill of Rights – incredibly increases our value as a society.  Each person realizing their goals and dreams has an exponential effect on all of us. 

If you’re trying to think of examples of what our mission looks like in the community, I’d encourage you to look at yourself, possibly your family members and even your friends.  Haven’t we all worked on a plan for our lives and accessed support from others along the way?  Are there times when you or someone you know faced challenges, or even barriers because of being different or not fitting a “typical profile?”  As you’ve walked your path in life, recall the times where your opportunities led you to reaching goals, getting closer to your full potential, contributing to your sense of worth, your family and your community. 

Diversity doesn’t look all that different for people with disabilities as they focus on living their best lives – not defined by us – but supported by us.  We celebrate Developmental Disabilities awareness month in March and I’m challenging you to focus on the abilities, not the disabilities of people in our community, recognizing the unique ways all of us contribute to society.

Lisa Guliano is the Superintendent for the Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities and has held that position since July 2012. Originally from Warren Ohio, she resides in Liberty Township. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Akron and obtained a master’s in business administration from Ashland University.  Over half of Lisa’s career focused on nursing management at University Hospitals in Cleveland, in long term care facilities and in the field of developmental disabilities. 

The Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities provides services and supports to over 3,700 Butler County residents so they can successfully live, work, and learn in the community. Supports and services are available life-long through partner agencies or directly provided by the Board. The Board’s primary source of funding is from property tax levies collected annually and the Board was last on the ballot in 2004.

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