The Board of Supervisors has designated March "Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Inclusion Month" in Fairfax County. Both those with disabilities and those without have their lives enriched when people with disabilities are fully included in the community. This special month seeks to help those with disabilities find ways to be involved in the community, and bring awareness to others of these engaged neighbors.
On March 29, a special movement of inclusion will take place. In Fairfax County and in communities across the country, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities will spend time doing things they love out in the community. The ARC, an organization that advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in our area, explains that this "simple day out and about is designed to help raise awareness and generate some conversation about people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This one-day movement will serve to harness our collective power to gain allies, foster understanding, dispel myths and encourage a greater understanding among people without a disability." The ARC of Northern Virginia provides many resources to people with disabilities in our area including support for families, employment programs, and leisure and recreational programs.
An organization here in Braddock that also offers services for adults with life-long disabilities is SPARC (Specially Adapted Resource Club). By providing a different solution for long-term care, SPARC helps parents answer the difficult question "What will my adult child with disabilities do after high school graduation?" The club focuses on offering life-skill and vocation skill development as the club members learn to become self-advocates. Demand for these services is so high that the club has a waiting list of individuals that would like to join.
In addition to the great resources available through the ARC of Northern Virginia and SPARC, Fairfax County offers opportunities for community involvement for individuals with disabilities. The County assists these community members through increased transportation, training, community advocacy, and more. The John Hudson Internship Program is a great example. This paid internship program in Fairfax County Government is for college students and recent graduates with disabilities, and is accepting applications through April 13.
All of these organizations seek to empower individuals as they move toward a more independent life. Whether or not intellectual or developmental disabilities directly affect your family, this is a community issue that affects all of us. I am confident through these initiatives and more we can develop strong partnerships to improve lives, so let’s continue the discussion here in Fairfax County about steps we can take to make our area more inclusive. We should use this celebration as an opportunity to strive for an inviting and engaging community.
For more information on The ARC of Northern Virginia please visit www.thearcofnova.org. For more information on SPARC please visit www.sparcsolutions.org. For information about resources available for those with disabilities in our area, please visit the Fairfax County Long Term Care Coordinating Council website at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/hd/ltccc