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Beauty Highlighted During Disabilities Awareness Month

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Advocates say we've come a long way in accepting people with differences. (Victoria Jordan)
March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Advocates say we've come a long way in accepting people with differences. (Victoria Jordan)
March 7, 2016

OZARK, Missouri - In 1987 President Ronald Reagan declared March Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, calling on Americans to provide the "encouragement and opportunities" necessary for people with developmental disabilities to reach their potential.

Jan Jones is director of Abilities First, which works to break down some of the barriers the developmentally disabled face in everyday life. She says society has come a long way when it comes to acceptance.

"Just because I may be better at one thing and not as good at something else doesn't define who I am, either positive or negatively," says Jones. "It's just who I am."

Jones says there are still things that need to be done to advance opportunities for people with disabilities, including removing labels and the offensive "R" word from our language.

Jones says young people are key to promoting acceptance. Her 17-year-old daughter, Mallory, has organized what's called an "Inspired Fashion Show" as a high school project.

Mallory says it's important to remember people are just people, no matter what they look like.

"There are too many situations in which I have experienced some of my peers just saying to me. 'Mal, I don't know how you do it,' and I say, 'Do what?' and they say, 'I don't know how to interact with them,' 'them' being people with developmental disabilities."

She says she's seen too much bullying and oppression, and says it upsets her to see how some people will treat others, because they are perceived to be different.

Mallory says those participating in the fashion show probably never imagined they'd get to walk the runway like a supermodel.

"It's addicting, the feeling that you get from being in this environment," she says. "And feeling like you can be you, and not have to worry about being judged by anybody," says Mallory. "It's just amazing. It's like you're on the top of the world."

The Inspired Fashion Show is being held March 18 at Ozark High School.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MO