Making Awareness Matter

I’ve been trying to post or share something every day for AAC awareness month. I’m just about managing but it’s really got me thinking.

I’ve noticed that October is a busy month for awareness campaigns. I’ve learned that this month alone the are numerous awareness campaigns, it’s Down Syndrome Awareness Month, International Stammering Awareness Day, Mental Health Day, Baby Loss Week, Lupus Awareness Month, Rett Syndrome Awareness Month, Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Black History Month to name just a few. With all of these campaigns on TV, Radio and social media it can feel overwhelming. There are many brave people sharing their lives and stories. Quotes, memes and photographs aplenty. Certainly we have the chance to learn things and to think about things we may not have thought about before.

As someone who has been involved in a number of awareness activities in both my professional and personal life it’s got me thinking…

How do we do something with our new found awareness?

There has always been a small part of me that is uncomfortable with awareness raising. I think it’s because along with the hope of improving understanding, raising funds and challenging misconceptions there are some risks when we talk about awareness.

There’s a risk that things don’t change. There’s a risk that with all the stories, videos, memes and images around we engage with only a passive ‘share’ or ‘like’. These things are great and for those of us with a story or message to share helps to get it out there and to feel that other people also think that this awareness is important.

I think though to really make the most of our new found awareness and to allow awareness campaigns to really change the world for the better we should make a commitment to what we will do to make change. It doesn’t have to be massive and it doesn’t have to be for every campaign you see but to make the wave of awareness across social media become a wave of change in society it needs to move from the virtual to the physical world.

So what do I mean? Here are some ideas…

If you’ve become aware that more people have suffered lost a baby than you could have imagined find a charity who support those families and donate.

If you learn to see stammering as just another way of talking then make a promise to yourself remember that next time you speak to someone who stammers.

If you read a post about how the language used to talk about Down Syndrome (like the great BBC item I’m going to share on Facebook soon) can be hurtful then identify a way you can change the way you talk about Down Syndrome and disability.

If you realise the history you learned in school only represented a limited white male view of history, learn about the history we didn’t learn in school.

Make a commitment to a small change or action that can make a massive difference. Remember… people who use AAC don’t only use it in October, Black History didn’t all happen in October and people don’t only have mental health difficulties in October. The campaigns are only the start of the story…

…Which chapter will you write?

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