A guide to local accessible activities for Developmental Disabilities Month

March is National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month (D.D.A.M.), a nationwide event to raise awareness about overall inclusion of people with developmental disabilities. This month is about understanding the myriad ways that members of the disability community navigate challenges, and the promotion of equity in society at large. While many public spaces have a long way to go in the way of accessibility, there are currently a number of spaces and events designed specifically to cater to the all-ability population. Here are a few accessible activity options to explore this month:

Arts, entertainment and culture

There’s no business like show business! Between the bright lights, bustling crowds, and booming rumble of an orchestra, a night of live entertainment can be overwhelming for any one, especially someone with sensory issues or another impairment. That’s why theaters across the country are taking a closer look at how they operate, and striving for an inclusive theater-going experience for all patrons.  Such venues as the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, the Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, and the Palace Theater in Waterbury have sensory-friendly performances, and most Connecticut theaters are wheelchair accessible with audio- and visually-enhanced show options available as well. If a show isn’t your cup of tea, visit one of the many disability-friendly museums across the state. From the Connecticut Science Center to any of the Yale University museums, there’s fun for all ages and abilities to be found in our big little state! 

Active experiences

For some outdoor adventure or classes to get the blood pumping, check out Connecticut’s adaptive fitness, health, and wellness scene. There are dozens of organizations, studios, and gyms across the state that are specifically designed for those who are physically or mentally impaired. Some stand-outs include Autism Health & Fitness Center in Orange, Flower Petals Adaptive Dance Company in Greenwich, and Leaps of Faith of Sandy Hook. All three organizations offer individual or group sessions to help visitors understand, develop skills within, and enjoy the benefits of physical activity in a safe, inclusive setting. From paved nature trails to blind ice hockey games, there’s a lot to explore out there!

Disability-friendly businesses 

There are dozens of Connecticut businesses that have hiring initiatives for the disabled community. Even larger nationwide operations like Goodwill and Lowe's Home Improvement have specific programs to train and empower folks of all abilities–but did you know there are a few local businesses with the same goals? Both The Nest Coffee House in Deep River and Reread Books & More in Cheshire are nonprofit shops dedicated to positively impacting the lives of young adults with disabilities. They help folks with disabilities gain confidence, life skills, and work experience in spaces that are based in acceptance, celebration, and support. Every day, these organizations show communities people with disabilities being active contributors to a workplace, and to society as a whole! Be sure to show these local businesses some love this month! 

The road to inclusion for all is a long one, but one worth building and improving each day! This National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, try to expand your horizons and contribute to equity in whatever way you can! 

Francesca Fontánez is a Meriden-based journalist, educator, and creative. Email Francesca at eastsidevib eswithcess@gmail.com with tips on what you want to read about next, or just to say hi!


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