Celebrating Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

A photo of a developmentally disabled person next to his boss. They are at a bakery where they work.

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, and we seek to celebrate individuals with developmental disabilities in all areas of our communities!

A photo of a developmentally disabled person next to his boss. They are at a bakery where they work.
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Celebrating Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, and we seek to celebrate individuals with developmental disabilities in all areas of our communities! Disability Rights California (DRC) has long advocated for people with developmental disabilities and will continue to do so.

We encourage everyone to recognize and continue to push for equal rights for persons with developmental disabilities. Persons with developmental disabilities should be able to have the opportunity to obtain meaningful work at a competitive wage, have access to health care, and challenge any civil rights violations that they face. They also deserve access to Regional Center services that reflect their needs, choices, and cultural values. Also, they should not be forced into institutions and be able to participate in making decisions about their own lives. #CaliforniaForAll

Brief History of Developmental Disabilities Advocacy

1969

In California, the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act is a law passed in 1969 that gives people with developmental disabilities the right to services and supports they need to live like people without disabilities.

1987

President Ronald Reagan proclaimed March Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month which led to the foundation for change. In 2018, California Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D- Contra Costa) authored HR 89, furthering the awareness of people with developmental disabilities and shining light on ways in which barriers are still in place.

1993 DRC Case

The San Francisco Superior Court approved the settlement in DRC’s class action, Coffelt v. Department of Developmental Services. The settlement was the largest of its kind in the country. It called for – and funded -- a five-year plan in which the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) and the regional centers were required to provide community living arrangements and help 2,000 individuals transition to living within communities. The settlement also included a new service model, supported living, which allowed regional center consumers to live in their own home with supports.

2009 DRC Case

Capitol People First v. Department of Developmental Services was settled in Oakland, helping 7,000 people with developmental disabilities live in the community instead of institutions. The settlement provides for additional funds for case management to assist class members in state-run institutions called developmental centers (DC); improved information to class members and training for DC staff about community living options; increased state-level coordination of services for people diagnosed with developmental and mental health disabilities; and continued funding and program efforts to provide community living alternatives for class members.

2015

Department of Developmental Services (DDS) announced plans to close the remaining developmental centers and transition each resident into the community with appropriate supports by 2021. This decision came after federal findings about the quality of care at developmental centers and the case Capitol People First v. Department of Developmental Services.

2020 DRC

Disability Rights California (DRC) continues to advocate for people with developmental disabilities, and promote acceptance, and awareness about inclusion in all areas of community life.

 To learn more read our self-advocacy publications: