By Robert B. Fleming, CELA
In 1987 President Ronald Reagan proclaimed March “Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.” The deinstitutionalization movement of the seventies and early eighties had laid the foundation for significant social change, and the presidential proclamation called upon Americans to provide the "encouragement and opportunities" necessary for people with developmental disabilities to reach their potential.
As those citizens began living within the general community in larger numbers, programs to provide career planning, job coaching and supported employment began to emerge. The idea that individuals with developmental disabilities could become productive members of the workforce was new to many people, and entrenched preconceptions had to be overcome. Advocates recognized a moral imperative to engage individuals with developmental – and other – disabilities. With passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, workplace discrimination against people with disabilities became sanctionable.