Awareness for people in need of help is important because it increases the chances that it will reach someone - or several someones - who can do something.
But awareness for people with disabilities is useless. Just look at the way we treat the situation.
People who need wheelchairs are commonly used as an example when introducing children to disability. So why do we look at these people and stare, make comments on how we wish we could be sitting down, or ask them why they need a wheelchair?
Diagnoses of autism have been increasing since the term was broadened. Why, then, do so many parents and educators use the command "quiet hands"? (If you are in ANY way involved with the autism community - read that post.)
Down syndrome is a relatively common disability - one out of every 800 babies born in the US has it. Why do people look at parents of kids with it and say how sorry they are, or just walk away out of a desire to pretend the disability doesn't exist?
Everything in the picture above, with the exception of the third and fourth autocompletes, is just sickening. Even the second link, which the blurb paints as potentially redeeming, continues this way:
"...I see no harm & only good in aborting a fetus that will result in a deformed or retarded individual. Most persons are not capable of the kind of special abilities necessary to raise such a child, and frankly the ones I've known have indeed been a drain on both their families and the increasingly scarce resources of society..."
"A drain"? Really? There are a lot of people who don't have special needs and can still be a "drain" at some point. I mean, really, do you feel energetic after dealing with a tantruming two-year-old or an argumentative teenager?
Society is aware of disabilities. We know they are there. What we need is for people to ACCEPT those who are different from us. To not only be aware of the disabilities out there but to accept the affected individuals with open arms.
The truth is that we can sit here and write about how people with special needs make the world better and feel like we've done our good deed for the day, but unless we practice what we preach, it's all useless.
If you are raising awareness for people with disabilities (and heck, even if you aren't!), treat them like everybody else unless you are told otherwise either by that person or (if they are unable to speak for themselves) by someone close to them. Explaining why we should care about people with autism is pointless if you make snide remarks when a child at the supermarket is flapping their hands. Explaining why we should provide services for people with mental illness is pointless if you insist that someone who's depressed can "snap out of it" if they try hard enough. And so on for every disability out there.
Society will not stop stigmatizing those with disabilities until we pair awareness with acceptance. When we treat EVERYONE with respect, then and only then will things change.
And we are well past the point where things should have changed for the better.
(*If reproducing this post, please reproduce in full.*)