What We Learned about JDAIM from a Kugel Cookoff – Part 1

March 02, 2022

What We Learned about JDAIM from a Kugel Cookoff – Part 1

The 3rd JF&CS Kugel Cookoff is complete! This annual event at Jewish Family & Career Services (JF&CS) celebrates and educates the staff about Jewish Disabilities Awareness & Inclusion Month, or JDAIM for short. The competition was delicious, and the “blue ribbon” went to a plate of sparkly strawberry cheesecake kugel cups by Rebekah Peltz – crowned our new Kugel Queen.

But kugel cups weren’t the only enriching offering at the event. Abby Frantz, Community Access Program Manager at Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Services, and her co-host, Max, IndependenceWORKS client and host of The Weekly Wow (who is also an avid skier), dropped some delicious and important knowledge about disability awareness and inclusion for the attendees. This blog will expand upon what it means to be an adult with a disability. Later, we’ll talk about what inclusion looks like and how we, the community, can be more inclusive.

What is IDD?

According to Abby, an Intellectual/Developmental Disability is defined when a person has an IQ of 70 or under and needs assistance in two or more areas of daily living like socializing, talking, or moving around. Despite popular assumptions, IDD is a spectrum, and it comes in more forms than just Down Syndrome or autism, which are highlighted most in the media.

IDD is not a bad word, and it isn’t something to pity.

Abby says that when she first came to the South, she heard a lot of people say “Oh, bless their heart” when they hear of her work at JF&CS and the clients she serves. She states that IDD is not something to pity, but something the clients at JF&CS wear loudly and proudly.

“Our clients suffer from disabilities like Michael Phelps suffers from gold medals,” she quips!

Abby mentions that it’s popular to see posters that say things like “It’s not a disability, it’s a different ability.” She says that while these posters are well-intentioned, they miss the mark. The phrases are not mutually exclusive since someone can have a disability and different abilities at the same time. Her co-host Max is a perfect example; he is an avid skier – an ability many do not have – and is also disabled.

“We want to be able to recognize disabilities in order to help support people’s needs,” Abby says. “The idea is that we are referring to a specific state of being, right? So change the terms all we want, and it still is describing the same thing. Disability is simply a descriptor for that person, an adjective. It of course does not define them, it does not make them less than anyone else. Their differences can and should be celebrated.”

She goes on to say, “Additionally, being aware of someone’s disability (to the extent that they are comfortable sharing) can help define what steps are needed to be inclusive toward them. We should not be afraid of the word disability as it is simply an adjective to describe someone.”

Be a microphone for people with IDD, not a voice.

Abby says it’s not the place of those without IDD to dictate language or speak for those who have a disability. She encourages those with disabilities to choose their own labels and language they are comfortable with.

“Many disability professionals will preach the use of person first language, such as ‘The man with Autism,'" Abby says. "This is intended to put the focus on the person before the disability. However, in recent years, many self-advocates have been shifting their preference to be identity first language, such as ‘The Autistic man.’ This is intended to take pride in their disability."

She concludes by saying: "Be sure not to label others without consulting them first. Do not get caught up in your activism. Be a microphone, not their voice.”

As part of our mission at JF&CS to be an inclusive and supportive environment where everybody is welcome, we wanted to share these top takeaways with you. For more information about IDD, visit here.