February 16, 2024

Cultivating Awareness: Disability Awareness Month 2024

Disability Awareness Month, picturing child in wheelchair, child learning sign language, and older man in a wheelchair looking at phone with a middle-aged man looking over his shoulder.

By Kelly Hartman

Every year in March, we celebrate Disability Awareness Month! We asked co-chair for the Fishers Advisory Committee on Disability, Kelly Hartman, to write a guest blog about her personal connection to this month and her thoughts on the importance of empowering people with different abilities. Read her story and find our upcoming Disability Awareness Month events below!

Awareness. The quality or state of being aware: knowledge and understanding that something is happening or exists.

Awareness is an interesting concept. You can think you know something – but being “aware” really is very individualized and based on personal experience. What do you think of when you hear the word disability? Special Olympics? A family member with Parkinson’s? A behavioral meltdown you witnessed at the store? The “resource classroom” at school? Your neighbor who uses a wheelchair to get around? Maybe your own thoughts of disability are, “I wish more people were aware of the needs we have every day as a result of disability.”

Awareness of the statistics is staggering. Of all adults in the US, 27% have some kind of disability. Whether it be challenge in mobility, cognition, hearing, vision, or other areas of independence, we can surmise that more than 25,000 of our Fishers residents have a disability. Even more eye-opening is that nearly 10% of all people have disabilities that impact independent living or self-care. That is nearly 10,000 who need support, right here in our community.

The month of March is Disability Awareness Month and has been recognized since 1987 after a presidential proclamation by Ronald Reagan. While nationally it is more specifically a time of celebrating the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities, in Fishers we are celebrating all people with disabilities. In a city striving to be smart, vibrant, and entrepreneurial, Fishers is a community that wants to assure accessibility and inclusion for all people.

Increasing awareness makes this possible. Increasing awareness makes Fishers a better place to live. Increasing awareness allows us to see things differently in our community. Increasing awareness helps all of us live better lives!

Disability Awareness Month March 2024Starting with the kickoff on March 1st hosted by Mayor Fadness and the Fishers Advisory Committee on Disability (FACD,) we will recognize champions in our community with the annual Disability Inclusion and Accessibility Awards and hear from Stacey Oldham, Fishers resident and member of the FACD, about her inspiring journey of more than 40 years with Multiple Sclerosis.

The rest of the month is filled with opportunities to increase your awareness of people with disabilities – both their triumphs and challenges! Events include an art exhibit, several workshops hosted by the Hamilton East Public Library, strategies around increasing employment of people with challenges, and finally, in partnership with the Indy Fuel (soon to find their home in Fishers), we will have a March Disability Awareness Night on Friday March 22nd at Farmers Coliseum at the State Fairgrounds. Details and registration for all of these events can be found at fishersin.gov/DisabilityAwareness.

As someone who has spent nearly 35 years in a career working to empower people with different abilities, I have learned a great deal about awareness and why it is so important. Historically, society shunned people with disabilities, often sending them to institutions. I have worked with many people whose families were told in the 1960s to “drop them off.” While we know this was part of the eugenics movement and our misunderstanding of people who were born with developmental challenges, we also know that even now, in 2024, society is still experiencing misunderstanding, negative stigma, exclusion, and fear. Increasing awareness allows us to change our lens and see what an incredibly valuable part of our community all people are.

Some of the most incredible lessons I have learned about being human have been taught by those people who might learn differently than me. Some of the people I know with the greatest eye for detail and data were never even given a chance to get a diploma. Some of the most communicative people I know don’t necessarily use words. Some of the greatest belly laughs and brightest smiles exude from friends who cannot get out of bed without help. I am eternally grateful that I am aware of their amazingness amongst us.

I hope you will join us in March to increase awareness.”

About Kelly Hartman

Kelly HartmanKelly Hartman, MA is a state leader in behavioral health and advocacy for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities. In addition to being co-founder of Outside the Box and her work with Insights/ViaQuest Community Solutions as a service provider in the Medicaid Waiver program, she currently serves as co-chair for the Fishers Advisory Committee on Disability. In her nearly 35 year career of supporting people, she has always maintained a focus on individuals’ capabilities, not their disabilities. In her passion to help people achieve better outcomes in life, she believes in building on what a person CAN do through teaching a non-aversive, person-centered approach to personal success. Hartman is best known for her sense of humor and helping others see things from a different perspective.

Fishers Parks’ Storywalk: Just Askjust ask by sonia sotomayor

Daily, March 4 – 31 | Brooks School Park (11780 Brooks School Road)

Enjoy an easy, family-friendly hike around Brooks School Park as you enjoy March’s featured book, Just Ask, written by United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The #1 New York Times bestseller is the winner of the Schneider Family Book Award.


Disability Awareness Month Events at HEPL

Get Involved with Special Olympics Indiana: For teens & adults
Tuesday, March 5 | 6 – 6:45 p.m. | Fishers Library

Dyslexia 101: For adults
Wednesday, March 13 | 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. | Fishers Library

Supporting Children with ADHD: For adults
Saturday, March 16 | 2 – 3 p.m. | Noblesville Library

Notes on Blindness: For adults
Tuesday, March 19 | 5 – 5:45 p.m., 6 – 6:45 p.m., 7 – 7:45 p.m. | Fishers Library

Assistive Technology for Individuals with Disabilities: For adults
Saturday, March 23 | 1 – 2:30 p.m. | Fishers Library

Preparing for Adulthood on the Autism Spectrum: For adults
Sunday, March 24 | 3 – 4 p.m. | Virtual