This message is brought to you by the Boards of Developmental Disabilities of Butler, Clermont, Greene, Hamilton, and Warren Counties. With support from their local self-advocacy groups, they have created this message that is so important and easily forgotten. People with developmental disabilities deserve to be a part of the conversation. If you’ve got questions, just ask.
It’s likely you know someone with a developmental disability—a friend, family member, or neighbor. If you’ve ever wondered how best to communicate with them, the answer is simple: with respect. We all have a voice and want to be heard. So, if you’ve got questions, just ask.
We’ve created this helpful guide to share communication tips, advocate stories, and important, local resources.
At the end of the day, it’s all about respect.
Here are some helpful tips:
Speak directly to me; I can speak for myself.
It’s okay to ask me if you don’t understand what I said.
You can shake my hand.
It’s okay to be curious about my disability as long as you’re respectful.
I am a person; get to know me.
“I’m smart and a good person. I’m nice and I get along with people. I don’t like to be called different names,” said Danny Crews. “I work hard and do good work, just like anyone else.”
Before the pandemic, Danny was employed at Kroger in Oakley. He worked at least two days per week, making sure the store shelves and displays were always neat to make it easier for customers to shop. Danny now chooses to participate in Ohio Valley Goodwill’s work training program at its corporate headquarters in Woodlawn.
“I really loved my job at Kroger, but I also have a lot of friends at Goodwill and it’s important to me to see them, too,” he said. “Just because I only have the use of one arm doesn’t mean I can’t work hard and do a good job. It hurts me when people tease me or act like I’m not working hard. It’s about being treated with respect.”
Melinda Gabelman is a long-time self-advocate who has received multiple awards for her advocacy efforts in teaching others about Prader-Willi Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that affects many parts of the body and may coincide with intellectual functioning.
“As a person with Prader-Willi Syndrome, it is important to me that people understand what it is and how it affects me and others,” she said. “I like to be treated with respect. I work on my communication skills, and I work with others to help them to speak up for themselves in different situations.”
She has testified before Cincinnati City Council in support of accessible and affordable transportation, as well as supporting and advocating for initiatives that benefit all citizens with disabilities.
“People need to try to understand people with disabilities point of view and listening is very important,” she said.
Patrice McHale has been an advocate for herself and others for her entire adult life. For decades, Patrice visited schools to educate students about Down syndrome.
“Everyone is different, and everyone is smart in his or her own way,” she said. “I like to let people know that I can do things on my own and think for myself. I like to make my own decisions. Down syndrome is just a small part of who I am.”
Patrice has been published in a book called “Writing Our Lives,” which included short stories and poems about individuality, and continues to be engaged in The Tall Institute.
Patrice says employment is very important to her as she has worked at the YMCA, the Cincinnati Public Library, and the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati.
Jennifer Holladay is the manager of Volunteer Services for the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CABVI), where she has worked for more than 15 years.
“When I am doing my job or interviewing people who would like to volunteer for the organization, I am also educating people about how to interact with someone who is blind or visually impaired,” she said. “As a sighted person, it is always good to introduce yourself and offer assistance without assuming that someone with vision loss needs your help.”
Jennifer has not let her visual impairment stand in the way of her personal growth and absolute independence as she earned a master’s degree from Northern Kentucky University.
“If a person who is blind or visually impaired needs help, it is a good idea to ask that person how you can best assist them. People with vision loss are always people first and it is good to think of them as being capable, independent and empowered,” she said.
Hamilton County Board of Developmental Disabilities Services
Our Mission: Promote and support opportunities for people with developmental disabilities to live, work, learn, and fully participate in their communities.