Limb Loss Awareness Month (LLAM) marks its tenth anniversary this spring, and awareness of limb loss has grown by leaps and bounds during that decade. When the Amputee Coalition organized the first LLAM in April 2011, Oscar Pistorius hadn’t yet made the running blade an instantly recognizable piece of athletic gear. No amputee veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars had been elected to Congress. Social media, still in its infancy, hadn’t yet given amputees a platform to tell their own stories.
It was so long ago that the key messaging vehicle for the first LLAM was a 30-second public service announcement that ran on the Megatron in Times Square. That approach seems archaic today, but at the time it marked a bold change in strategy. It symbolized a newly assertive limb-difference community that took pride in its identity and insisted on being seen—and treated—on its own terms.
“Over the past ten years, we have worked to evolve the month of April beyond the notion of societal awareness and have given our community the opportunity to focus on action and advocacy,” says Jeff Cain, the Amputee Coalition’s current board president. “That we had an amputation care bill introduced in both the US House and Senate in 2020 is a really gratifying sign of progress and something that, when passed, will create real change.”
Amputees today are vastly better organized and more visible than they were in 2011, but there’s still lots of progress to be made. As we look ahead to Limb Loss Awareness Month 2021, let’s also look back at LLAM milestones of years past.
Limb Loss Awareness Month: A Look Back
2011: The core slogan was “507 a day,” referring to the number of Americans losing a limb every 24 hours. Numerous governors and legislatures approve official proclamations declaring April “Limb Loss Awareness Month” in their states.
2012: The second year brought a half-dozen promotional videos, plus a challenge to mail postcards about limb loss to one million Americans with diabetes.
2013: Show Your Mettle Day debuted, urging people to boldly exhibit their prosthetic hardware and post photos to Facebook.
2015: LLAM got a new logo and a new emphasis on advocacy with the addition of an Education Day in Washington DC.
2017: The Amplify initiative launched during LLAM, prompting tens of thousands of amputees to call, write, and email their Congresspeople over the next year.
2019: Lead Advocate trainings began, producing a cohort of trained spokespersons to promote limb-loss awareness year-round in their home states.
2020: LLAM events went virtual, capped by an online Advocacy Weekend to train new Lead Advocates.