Disability Awareness Month aims to educate Nebrascans

HASTINGS, Neb. (Nebraska) — March is Developmental Disability Awareness Month, and an estimated 31,000 people in Nebraska have some type of developmental or intellectual disability.

When you include people with all types of disabilities, that number rises to about 250,000, which is close to 13% of the states population. Disability officials said, acknowledging it is key to inclusion.

“Education can really help break down barriers because it shows people that disability is nothing to be afraid of,” said Sharon Ohmberger, Community Engagement Director at Disability Rights Nebraska. “That there’s nothing wrong with welcoming people and making accommodations for people so they can participate like everyone else.”

Ohmberger said it’s important for people to know that people with disabilities are capable of doing anything. But for parents with a disabled child, the process can be full of twists and turns.

“It’s a roller coaster ride,” said Joshua Lucius, president of Arc of Buffalo County. “There are a lot of unknowns that we have to deal with and I think that’s the scariest part. I think it’s when people see people with disabilities that, I think they’re more curious.

Lucius’ 8-year-old daughter Jordyn has Down syndrome and had to eat through a tube for the first four years of her life. She was also nonverbal for most of her life. There were situations where he could feel judgment from people, but they countered that with love.

“I think the most important thing is that you learn to be tough-skinned,” Lucius said. “Jordyn is happy and her smile lights up and people gravitate to that.”

Lucius said that when people stared, it made them realize that Jordyn loves to dance and sing. Jordyn also knows sign language.

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