A young woman smiles brightly. She wears a floral shirt and stands with a brick wall on her left and landscaping on her right. Sun and shadows streak her smiling face. The image evokes a sense of brightness.

I want others with disabilities to have opportunities like I had

By Courtney Hineman, Community Outreach Advocate, Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities

March is Developmental Disabilities (DD) Awareness Month which makes it the perfect time to share how my community created opportunities for me and partly because of that, I’ve been able to flourish. As someone who lives with a developmental disability, I want others with disabilities to have similar opportunities for employment, leadership, and friendship.

When I was younger, I got to be a part of a summer work program through the Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities (BCBDD). My first job was cleaning toilets and tables at Barn N Bunk, and I cleaned at Camp Campbell Gard as well. Later, I worked at the East Butler YMCA at the customer service desk.

I really enjoyed getting to interact with people and learning new things. For many people with disabilities, building friendships or gaining leadership skills can be difficult. For me, these work experiences helped create opportunities for both leadership and friendship. I feel my past work experiences lead me to the job I have now because I was able to learn how to interact with customers and show others that I’m a hard worker.

Sometimes, it can be hard for people with disabilities to develop friendships. For me, Best Buddies helped bridge that gap. Best Buddies is an international organization that matches people with and without disabilities for friendship. Through Best Buddies I have learned how to grow in a relationship with a friend, I’ve been able to try new things, and I’ve learned leadership skills. One of my favorite experiences through Best Buddies was painting pumpkins with my new friend.

Through Best Buddies, I have attended leadership trainings which helped me in my role as Community Outreach Advocate at BCBDD. At those leadership trainings, we learned how to share our stories. We learned how to write a speech and how to present in front of others. This has given me confidence not only at work but also in my personal life. I now know that I can speak up for myself and that sharing my experience can help others with disabilities and their families.

These opportunities helped me tremendously. You can create that for someone in your community. I hope that you take the time this month and every month to give someone with a disability an opportunity to grow in their skills and help them live the best life they can live.

3 women standing outdoors in front of a bus that says, "Help Us Stuff the Bus, SpeakUP supporting Goodwill."

About Courtney Hineman

Courtney Hineman is a disability rights advocate. She is the Community Outreach Advocate at the Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities and was appointed by Governor DeWine to the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council for the second term. She is a member of Butler County’s self-advocacy group, SpeakUp, and has enjoyed participating in Best Buddies.

About the Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities

The Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities provides services and supports to over 3,700 Butler County residents so they can successfully live, work, and learn in the community. Supports and services are available life-long through partner agencies or directly provided by the Board. The Board’s primary source of funding is from property tax levies collected annually and the Board was last on the ballot in 2004.