NEW PHILADELPHIA -- The Tuscarawas County Commissioners officially proclaimed March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.

"Look Beyond" is the theme for Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month 2013. Tuscarawas County Board of Developmental Disabilities (TCBDD) and other related organizations and providers celebrate Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month this month and invite you to consider the true meaning of this year's theme, "Look Beyond."

Statewide, and across the nation, organizations devoted to serving individuals with developmental disabilities are planning special events in March to raise public awareness of the many abilities people have, regardless of disability.

"Look Beyond" encourages people to "look beyond" the disability and understand that when people with disabilities are welcomed into local neighborhoods, workplaces, houses of worship, and schools everyone wins.

"This is a time when we focus on encouraging the public to better understand the individuals we support," said Natalie Lupi, superintendent. "In fact, we take 'Look Beyond' even further and tie it to a regional initiative called Imagine that we're very invested in. Imagine will change the way we do business. The Imagine system is Person Centered which means that it focuses on what is important to and for the person who elects supports from TCBDD. We will truly 'look beyond' by focusing all of our planning and interactions on what a person CAN do, rather than on their disability. During Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, we encourage people to learn more about the over 500 people in this community who have developmental disabilities and to recognize that all of us have talents and abilities that we can offer to make this a better place to live.

This ties closely with our vision for a community that recognizes the importance and potential of all citizens."

TCBDD recognizes March as DD Awareness Month in many ways. The public can look for a Community Report on TV2 throughout March focusing on Imagine and the positive changes that are coming to our business model.

The main display case at the Tuscarawas County Public library will be filled with art, products, and achievements of individuals supported by TCBDD programs and services.

The Tuscarawas County Library's Children's Department will also feature a special display to help parents talk with their children about people who have disabilities or who are different from them and includes a book list to help parents introduce that discussion.

TCBDD will also host a training luncheon for residential and day providers that will focus on developing stronger advocacy and self advocacy initiatives for individuals with developmental disabilities in this county. Friends of Starlight are also offering their cook book at the special half off price of only $5 during March.

The cookbook features receipts from TCBDD staff, board members, friends, families and individuals with disabilities. Cookbooks can be purchased at the TCBDD Service and Support Center at 610 Commercial Ave. SW, New Philadelphia Monday through Friday during business hours.

"Another really exciting announcement we have for March is that on March 18th, we will launch our redesigned web site and our first ever mobile app to allow families and community members to get information and announcements right on their smart phone," said Erin Jones, Community Relations and Special Projects coordinator. "Last year, we had survey responses that told us we needed a better way to reach the more tech savvy demographic, so we got to work on this project. Our overview to the site functions like a book with pages that turn offering high level information on our various offerings within the site. You can then click 'for more information' on any page of that book to get into the meat of the web site. We will be adding informative video clips to our various program areas, we have voice-overs on our introductory pages for people who either have difficulty reading or who don't want to sift thru a lot of information to get to where to call for a particular service. Our site can be translated into Spanish at the touch of a button. We really want to be accessible to people in the community. We have a link to contact us with questions, ideas, concerns - really, whatever is on your mind. There is also a survey link to tell us how we're doing. We depend on community members for support, input and ideas. When you have questions, we want to provide answers. It is important to us that the community knows that we are listening. I encourage you to look for our new web site after March 18 at www.tuscbdd.org. If you would like to learn more about Tuscarawas County Board of Developmental Disabilities, our programs, products, activities or how to get more involved, please call me."

Jones can be reached at 330-339-9573.