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A Critical Look at New York's "Look Beyond My Developmental Disability" Campaign

By Jensen Caraballo

In a recent unveiling, New York State's Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) launched the "Look Beyond My Developmental Disability" campaign. This initiative, aimed at reducing stigma and discrimination, marks a significant effort in advocacy for disability rights. However, it raises some critical questions and concerns, especially regarding its narrative and execution.

Was the Campaign Led by Those it Represents?

A fundamental aspect of any advocacy campaign, particularly in the realm of disability rights, is whether it is organized and led by the people it represents. Authentic representation matters. It's unclear if individuals with developmental disabilities were at the forefront of this campaign. Their involvement, or lack thereof, can significantly impact the authenticity and effectiveness of the message.

The Problematic Narrative of "Looking Beyond"

The campaign's central message, "Look Beyond My Developmental Disability," though well-intentioned, inadvertently treads into problematic territory. The phrase 'look beyond' could imply that there's something undesirable about disability that needs to be overlooked to see the person's worth.

Disability is not a blemish to be ignored but an integral part of an individual's identity. It shapes experiences, perspectives, and contributions to society. By suggesting that we look beyond disability, are we inadvertently perpetuating the notion that disability is a negative attribute?

Embracing Disability as Part of Our Identity

As a disability rights advocate, I firmly believe that we should not feel ashamed of our disabilities. Instead, we should celebrate them as a normal and natural part of human diversity. Disability adds to the rich tapestry of our community and should be embraced, not overlooked.

Advocating for Disability Without Ignoring It

True advocacy for disability means recognizing and embracing disability as part of our identity. It involves fighting for rights, accessibility, and inclusion, acknowledging the unique challenges and experiences that come with being disabled. By focusing on 'looking beyond,' there's a risk of sidelining the very issues we need to address head-on.

Engaging in a Constructive Conversation

These thoughts are not meant to diminish the efforts of OPWDD or the importance of tackling stigma. Instead, they are an invitation to engage in a deeper, more nuanced conversation about disability advocacy. It's crucial to explore how we can advocate effectively while fully embracing the identity of being disabled.

Your Thoughts Matter

How do you feel about the "Look Beyond My Developmental Disability" campaign? Do you agree that the narrative might be problematic, or do you see it differently? Your perspectives are valuable, and I encourage you to share them. Let's engage in a conversation that moves us towards a more inclusive and accepting society, where disability is not just something to be 'looked beyond' but a part of who we are, celebrated and respected.


Jensen Caraballo is a disability rights advocate based in Rochester, New York. His passion for disability rights, justice, and advocacy is evident in his work and daily life. Jensen's insights stem from his personal experiences and his commitment to creating a more accessible and inclusive world.

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