By Bridgett Hernandez
The ninth annual Disabilities Expo will take place 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, May 12, at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. Individuals living with disabilities, family members, friends, caregivers and professionals are welcome to enjoy this free event.
Hosted by the AWS Foundation, the expo has expanded each year, said CEO Patti Hays. This year, the expo will feature more than 110 exhibitors offering a wide variety of services and products for people with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities.
The expo will also feature a variety of entertainment and activities for all ages and abilities. Performances throughout the day will include One Hearts Bells &Voices Choir, Friends in Focus A Capella Singers, Jesters, Musical Buddies, Joyful Songsters, Soul Brothers &Soul Sisters, Whitley County Dazzlers and Fort Wayne Dance Collective.
Turnstone will offer adaptive tennis clinics to demonstrate how individuals with physical disabilities can get involved in the sport. Participants will have the opportunity to see demonstrations and take mini lessons.
All day activities will include an art exhibit and sale, story tent, sensory calming room and photo booth. New this year, the expo will offer a virtual reality activity in which individuals who have a physical disability can experience riding a roller coaster or being the lead singer of a rock band.
Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation will also have a presence at the expo to provide information about the accessibility of the city’s parks and riverfront development.
“The parks have done a lot for accessible recreation in the community and we’re excited that they’re going to come and profile some of that,” Hays said.
This year, Family Voices Indiana will host a Heart to Heart Conference in conjunction with the expo with sessions on Friday and Saturday. The organization provides information, training, and support to families of children and youth with special health care needs and the professionals who serve them.
Gathering these families in the same setting can make them feel less alone because they’re going through similar challenges like navigating waiver services or adapting to changes in their school system’s special education program, Hays said.
“One of the great things that comes out of Family Voices is that networking between families,” she said. “So often, a family of a child with a disability feels isolated, that they’re the only ones going through this.”
For more information on the Heart to Heart Conference, visit fvindiana.org.
Admission to the Disabilities Expo is free and parking is $5. For a complete list of programming, visit //disabilitiesexpoindiana.org/.