It’s called the Abilities Expo.
Imagine a place where all are seen as one. Age nor ethnicity nor physicality matter. Maybe this sounds like Utopia. However, it in fact exists, six times per year, no less.
Established in 1979 in Southern California, the Abilities Expo has evolved into the premier consumer and cultural event for those with disabilities across the U.S. Today, the Abilities Expo has six annual venues from coast to coast, each lasting three days. The upcoming expos for 2016 and 2017 include the San Francisco Bay Area, Washington D.C., Toronto, Los Angeles, New York Metro, Chicago, Houston, and Boston. It may be a bit of a drive, but throughout the year, there’s a good chance that an Abilities Expo will be near you. And, you should go! Why?
For starters, the Abilities Expo, which has free admission, has every latest-greatest disability-related product you can imagine – and many you never knew existed. Not only can you browse every type of product – from wheelchairs to home access to accessible vehicles to sports, and on and on – but you can try them, too. It’s truly interactive. Many consumers go to see a specific product in person, only to be mesmerized by countless others.
Next, the Abilities Expo is a fantastic opportunity to see and try emerging technologies.
For example, several years ago, among the first exoskeletons, enabling those with spinal cord injuries to walk, was shown at the Abilities Expos. It’s truly become a showcase for research projects and unreleased technologies that you won’t see anywhere else.
In keeping with a cutting-edge theme, the Abilities Expos also present workshops geared toward disability-related topics. They can range from advocacy to medical to sexuality, and so on. For those newly navigating the disability world, the one-hour workshops can prove extremely beneficial.
Lastly, and arguably most importantly, the Abilities Expos provide cultural unity and shared experience. At the Abilities Expo, disability – and, as odd as it sounds, ability – disappear.
Everyone is… well… one. For this writer with a disability, I’ve never encountered another event where 4,000 people can come together with such unity and acceptance. It doesn’t matter if you walk, roll, or scoot into an Abilities Expo. All social differentiation stops at the door and you are just you, accepted and embraced.
One might say, folks come for the products and stay for the people – and it’s true.
The Abilities Expos aren’t just an event, they’re an experience. If you’ve never attended an Abilities Expo, you might want to, and not just for the products, workshops, and culture. We bet you’ll find it may be among the most joyous, life-affirming weekends you’ve ever had!