We reached out to attendees at AccessAbility Fest 2012 to get their take on what the event means to them. Mariah Kilbourne, who is this years Ms. Wheelchair America, sent us this note:
As Ms. Wheelchair America 2013, I have the unique opportunity to travel across the United States and serve as an advocate, spokesperson and role model for the 57+ million Americans living with (dis)abilities. It has been an amazing privilege and an honor. In this role, I was recently able to attend San Antonio's 6th Annual AccessAbility Fest, and it was incredible. I have attended several different resource fairs - such as Abilities Expo, different conferences and more. The AccessAbility Fest was so much bigger than I anticipated. I was able to learn so many great resources for independent living, employment opportunities, sports and recreation, and more. There were resources for a wide range of ages and disabilities.
Even more important than the resources that I gained, was the sense of community. I have lived in San Antonio for ten years. It is my home. I am blessed by the sense of respect and acceptance that I feel here. I know that I am a valued and loved member of my community. It is events such as AccessAbility Fest that reinforce that belief without question. At AccessAbility hundreds of community members came together - to learn, to grow, to celebrate. My favorite part was watching the entertainment performances. The musical group that brought together those with disabilities and the elderly, the Kinetic Kids cheerleading group, the steppers and more. Each group featured persons with special needs. They were given the chance to be accepted and to shine. The cheers and support from the crowd were infectious. There were smiles on every single face.
As people we all have an innate desire to belong, to be accepted, and to fit in. Each of us wants to know that we are not alone and that we truly matter. Growing up as a person with special needs can make achieving those goals more challenging. Others often incorrectly assume things about people with special needs and that can lead to exclusion. Opportunities such as the AccessAbility Fest truly change lives. It is about creating empowering moments, connection and community - and all that comes with it. Strength, self-confidence, joy and friendship.
For example, from the AccessAbility Fest I was able to participate in a 5K, sign up for an adaptive horseback riding experience and my favorite part - I met a truly special five year old named Bella. I connected with Bella’s parents while visiting one of the booths and a friendship was formed. Just recently, we were able to trick or treat together at Morgan’s Wonderland and are making plans for a sparkle nails, dancing, music-filled day! Resource fairs like the AccessAbility Fest make those life-changing connections and opportunities possible.