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article imageOp-Ed: 'Abilities Expo' is more than an ADA convention, it's a reunion Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Nov 15, 2012 in Technology
San Jose - It has been 20 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act was established. While there is debate whether or not the ADA legislation has made a significant impact,
for those who live with a disability the ADA was and still is a landmark in the history of American legislation. Since 1990 when the ADA was signed into law, the issue of access and inclusion for people with disabilities has become part of everyday life. Currently, there are over 54 million people in the USA with some type of disability. And, as the "Baby-Boomer" generation moves further along into retirement, no doubt they will benefit from the ADA.
From parking spaces and ramps to expanded doorways and restrooms, the ADA has promoted change in attitudes. One example of this major shift in the growing consciousness is the annual "Abilities Expo" held in several major cities across the country.
Two cities in California will host the Expo, one in Los Angeles and the other in San Jose. Thousands of people with disabilities, their families, caregivers, seniors, wounded veterans and health care professionals are expected to attend Abilities Expo on November 16-18, 2012 at San Jose Convention Center. Last year attendance was high as attendees and presenters filled the convention center.
This year, the annual San Jose Abilities Expo will feature an impressive line-up of exhibits, celebrities, workshops, events and activities to appeal to people of all ages with the full spectrum of disabilities—including physical, learning, developmental and sensory disabilities.
“It’s not just that we provide a forum that showcases essential technology to bridge the gap between ability and disability,” said David Korse, president and CEO of Abilities Expo. “The Expo is always new, exciting and fun with a host of all-inclusive, adaptive activities.”
Founded in 1979, a decade before the ADA, the Abilities Expo is an important gathering place. "It's a gathering of companies that provide products, such as vans, wheelchairs, and accessories," said author, public speaker and ADA consultant Gary Karp.
He has been to the Expo many times. "I've been featured often as a speaker, Karp said. "And, when my books were fresh off the presses, I manned a booth doing sales and signing," he added. Karp who has been actively promoting and raising awareness of disability and the ADA for many years, esteems the Expo as vital. "It's attended by service providers and disability associations," he explained. "There are lectures on a wide array of disability topics. And it's a chance to witness the fascinating motley microcosm of the disability population and its supporters," said Karp.
“The Expo provides the community of people with disabilities access to life-enhancing products, education, resources and fun,” said Korse. “Most of all, it’s a celebration of what you can do, not what you can’t," said Korse.
Attendees will experience cutting-edge products and services for people with a wide range of disabilities. They will find mobility products, devices for people with developmental disabilities, medical equipment, home accessories, essential services, low-cost daily living aids, products for people with sensory impairments and much more. The Assistive Technology Pavilion will feature the latest AT products for people to experience hands-on.
In some ways as this reporter observes, it is appropriate that San Jose which is at the heart of Silicon Valley would be the host of the Expo. The Expo is a witness to the potentials technology and innovation can provide to the community. Going beyond notebook computers, i-pads and smart phones, this Expo highlights the standards and achievements that can be reached when technology and innovation are used to enhance the quality of life.
A series of compelling workshops which address pressing disability issues will be offered for free. Sessions will focus on travel, home modifications, improving nutrition and wellness, sexuality, computer access, emergency preparedness, building relationships for unique children, finding the correct mobility device and that is just for starters.
Expo-goers will enjoy assistance dog demos, and see first-hand how horses help people with disabilities. Abilities Expo does not merely inform, it engages and it entertains. Attendees can learn some great dance moves from Team Hotwheelz and Changeling Dance Theatre, enjoy performance art and play a host of different adaptive sports. And, there will be a face painting and puppet show for kids.
Animals have become an intrinsic part of the disability community. Assistance dogs are welcome. Some like attendant dogs are essential to the healing process, while others like guide dogs help their human partners become more independent. Korse and Expo organizers are eager to welcome large crowds over the weekend.
"For those of us who've been connected to it, it's also a kind of family reunion," said Karp.
Admission is free and show hours will be Friday 11 am to 5 pm, Saturday 11 am to 5 pm and Sunday 11 am to 4 pm.
For more information, visit the Abilities Expo web site
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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