About 5,000 people came out to Market Square on Sunday, October 27, for the 7th Annual AccessAbility Fest. They came in costume and in street clothes, seeking services for themselves, their loved ones and their students with all types of disabilities.
The businesses and organizations that welcomed these guests represent many industries vital to this community including things like legal affairs, medical equipment, housing and financial planning.
AccessAbility Fest is a unique opportunity for these specialized organizations to meet face to face with the people who most need their services.
Some of the groups that had tables and booths at AccessAbility Fest have been kind enough to share their thoughts and reflections of the event with Texas Public Radio. Their comments speak to the depth of meaning of the event for the people who serve as resources.
Eduardo González Machado, National University College – Online:
"I went to the AccessAbility Fest with the obvious thinking that many people with physical challenges could have an interest in online education. To my surprise, it was I who got an education from attending. I was mesmerized to see people in wheelchairs and with other physical challenges, doing things I never thought of doing in public, such as singing and dancing. I believe we all have some level of disability, to some it is physical, to others it is mental. I left the event uplifted and encouraged to doing more with my abilities; walking more, running, climbing steps, going places, meet new people, learn more – whatever, just do more of what I am able to do. AccessAbility Fest provided me with multiple and unexpected rewards."
Alan Inman, C. Ped., Active Prosthetics and Orthotics:
"We had a 13 year-old boy stop by our booth. He suffered a stroke and had hemiparesis on the left side of his body preventing him from raising his arm to his face, which further prevented him from doing daily activities most of us take for granted such as scratching his nose, brushing his teeth, carrying a gallon of milk. We happened to have a 'MyoPro' robotic elbow orthosis with us that we fit on him. This brace, thru sensors, picks up impulses of muscle movement via the tricep and bicep muscles. Within seconds of him having it on, he could now raise his arm to his face… smiles! To boot, the brace has a cool “Iron Man” look to it, which he highly approved of. This was our cool moment of the day."
Karen Perez, BA, Texas Foster Care and Adoption:
"Our company, Texas Foster Care and Adoption had a table set up at the Fest and I cannot express how much we enjoyed the day. Not only were we able to reach out to so many wonderful people with disabilities but we were able to present the need for foster families who are willing to care for our children with special needs. The response was tremendous and we are looking forward to our next training, which already includes four families that signed up at the Fest! We will definitely be there again next year."
Other organizations at AccessAbility Fest spoke to the coordination of the event and the volunteers.
"I was extremely impressed with how organized it was," said Siena Lindemann from the Bexar Area Agency on Aging/AACOG. "The committee did an outstanding job recruiting a good team of volunteers to assist, as well as coordinating drop-off and check in."
The heavy lifting at AccessAbility Fest was accomplished – sometimes literally – by the nearly 100 volunteers from organizations like Home Depot, Texas State University, Texas A&M University-San Antonio CEC, Fort Sam Houston, Broadway Bank Care Corps and ISA National Honor Society Students from NEISD.
Elisa Gonzales, volunteer and event coordinator for Texas Public Radio and a member of the AccessAbility Fest team, noted that the volunteers for the event are a vital part of the event’s success.
"Volunteers help create and implement this event because of their passion for drawing attention to special needs issues and the types of services that are available in our community," Gonzales said. "Whether they give of their time on the day of event or are involved in the planning of the event, their passion is evident in the quality and caliber of this event. This type of dedication is the heart of AccessAbility Fest."
Entertainment, education, support and camaraderie were the watchwords of the day. AccessAbility Fest brought the community of volunteers, organizers, resource providers and attendees together to celebrate diversity and to coordinate available resources.
Lynne Placide from West Corporation summed it up well:
"The AccessAbility Fest event on Sunday October 27, 2013, was fantastic and we look forward to attending again next year," she said.
It isn’t too early to start thinking about next year’s AccessAbility Fest. Volunteers, planning committee members, sponsors and exhibitors are all needed. Please contact Cindy@TPR.org if you are interested in supporting or participating in this life-changing event.