Latino disability event bridges cultural divides
2nd annual summit offers resources and fellowship
Roughly 200 members of the Latino disability community gathered Saturday for fellowship and support at the second annual Latino Disability Summit and Resource Fair.
The event was held at Ability360, a fully accessible facility in Phoenix that advocates for independence for individuals with disabilities.
The fair was designed last year to help bring people together, to show them that they are not alone and that disabilities are not something to be ashamed of.
Rebeca Cavazos, fair co-chair, explained that in the Latino community, it is a common belief that disabilities are a punishment from God for some big sin. Oftentimes, she said, people will take care of their loved ones with disabilities behind closed doors, which can be overwhelming.
“We want people to know that they are not alone,” Cavazos said. “We had over 70 organizations here today with resources to help people, and that’s not all of them.”
Cavazos said the event didn’t see quite as many people as expected, but she was happy with the overall turnout.
“There are a lot of different issues affecting the Latino community right now, so it’s hard to get too much attention focused on one thing,” Cavazos said. “This is something that will take time, but we’re happy.”
Juliana Huerena was at the event representing the Southwest Institute for Families and Children. She said she loved being able to help connect people with resources they never knew were available.
“A lot of people didn’t know that these resources existed,” Huerena said. “It’s great to be able to provide information to people who need it.”
Huerena said it breaks her heart to see how taxing it can be on a person to be fully responsible for a loved one with a disability. That’s why she thinks it is so important to have events like this one to raise awareness.
“Lots of families take care of their own and feel like they can never take a break, but we want them to know that they’re not alone and we’re here to help,” she said.
Marcos Castillo attended the event as a participant last year, voiced some concerns he had, and was invited to help plan this year’s fair.
He said he was thrilled with the opportunity to help bridge the gaps between the Latino and disability communities.
As important as he thinks it is to help connect people with disabilities to resources that can help them, Castillo said he thinks it is equally as important to work to change the way people without disabilities view the disability community.
“We’re not special. We’re not an inspiration. We’re normal,” Castillo said. “You’re born, you die, and if you’re lucky, you won’t get a disability in the middle. But the odds are, you probably will.”
Anyone with disabilities — as well as their loved ones without — is welcome at Ability360, located at 5025 E. Washington St. in Phoenix. It is open every day but Sunday.
Anyone with questions about Ability360 or other resources for people with disabilities can call 602-256-2245 or visit ability360.org.
“Lots of families take care of their own and feel like they can never take a break, but we want them to know that they’re not alone and we’re here to help.” JULIANA HUERENA REPRESENTED THE SOUTHWEST INSTITUTE FOR FAMILIES AND CHILDREN AT THE EVENT