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Advocates Seek to Spotlight Developmental-Disability Issues Year-Round

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As Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month comes to a close, advocates say the work to secure equal rights and independence for people with disabilities continues.

The Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council (MODDC) is among those working to spotlight the issues that matter most to the communities they serve.

Animesh Shah, chair of the Council, said it is important for everyone to be aware of the challenges people with developmental disabilities face, from issues around independence and guardianship and workforce training to criminal justice and first-responder disability awareness.

"The idea of accessing a variety of services that others take for granted. For example, government services or accessing a restaurant or accessing a website," Shah outlined. "There are also a variety of issues in the education system and in the criminal-justice system that we hope that with the advocacy we'll be able to do much better than what we are able to do today."

One in three Missourians has a disability. Shah pointed out many resources are available in Missouri and across the country to help people thrive if they know how to access them.

Shah entered disability advocacy after his daughter was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome. He struggled at first to navigate disability-support networks, but noted groups such as MODDC are there to help individuals and their families or caregivers access resources.

"My goal is that eventually we reach to a level where every individual is self-aware of their capabilities, their rights," Shah remarked. "And people around that individual are working to uplift people with disabilities and not just create roadblocks."

Shah added MODDC also is working to support a training program for individuals with developmental disabilities to become self-advocates. Developmental Disabilities Month was started in 1987 and has been recognized as a time to support individuals with disabilities ever since.

The Missouri News Service is a partner with KRCU Public Radio.