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Local organizations raise awareness during Developmental Disability Awareness Month, beyond

The Triangle Disability Awareness Council provides training for disability awareness and is located on Homestead Road, pictured here on Friday, March 10, 2023.

During Developmental Disability Awareness Month, the Triangle Disability Awareness Council and local businesses are facilitating conversations about intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

On March 18, the council will host an event called “Let’s Talk Tech,” which will be dedicated to educating people on how to help increase accessibility through assistive technology. 

Let's Talk Tech will be held at the Chapel Hill Public Library from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and will feature four guest speakers.

Tim Miles, executive director of the Disability Awareness Council, said the month is important because people need to be aware of the needs of individuals with different types of disabilities. 

“We will talk about how technology can empower independence in the home, work and play,” he said.

The event will also be an opportunity for people to talk with tech specialists who can provide help with devices such as phones, tablets and computers, Miles said.

The Disability Awareness Council provides training for awareness and workshops and is always in need of volunteers to help with tasks, Miles said. The organization also needs volunteers for CPR and basic life support management same-day certification.

Miles said that every disability is unique.

“If you know that someone has a disability, approach them and spend a little time with them and see how they navigate and move around in their communities,” Miles said. 

Jacklyn Boheler, co-founder and executive director of B3 Coffee, a nonprofit coffee shop in the Chapel Hill Public Library, said developmental disabilities have been “overlooked” as other aspects of diversity, equity and inclusion have received more traction.

“The hope is that we move beyond just awareness and we eventually, as a society, can move into more of a model of allyship and accomplice-ship, which will require a lot of systematic reimagining and action,” she said.

A crisis currently affecting people with IDD is a lack of services and funding. This is heightened by work shortages of those who help with at-home routines and other things, Boheler said. 

Over 15,000 people with IDD are on the waitlist for the N.C. Registry of Unmet Needsand the average wait time for service is 9.5 years, according to the center for integrative health. Many have to wait over a decade.

The registry is for individuals who are in need of IDD services and funding.

Boheler highlighted another important aspect of IDD awareness which is issues with unemployment. Only 56 percent of adults with IDD aged 21 to 64 are employed, according to a study by the Center for Social Development and Education at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

“It has nothing to do with people with IDD not being meaningful contributors to the workforce, it really has everything to do with stigma and misconceptions around disability,” she said.

Purple Bowl is a restaurant on Franklin St. that focuses on the inclusion of the IDD community — 10 percent of the staff are those with IDD, Purple Bowl CEO Paula Gilland said. 

Gilland said Jake Gerber, the first employee of Purple Bowl, has Down syndrome and still works at the restaurant three days per week. 

“We felt like it was a nice opportunity for people to work alongside folks with disabilities, so that when they go out into the world and start businesses or lead hiring practices at different places that they consider hiring people with disabilities,” Gilland said. 


@DTHCityState | 

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