LA CROSSE Wis. (WXOW) – People with disabilities made their presence known with the Disabilities Pride Fest held Saturday in Copeland Park.
Organized by the Coulee Region Disability Action Network (DAN), the event was a celebration of disability culture that promotes inclusion and accessibility and highlights the value of people with disabilities.
AJ DePre, a local transgender advocate, said people with disabilities and transgender people often share the same painful experiences of being left out.
“All people from all walks of life deserve representation and a place to feel loved and accepted,” said DePre. “It’s important because disabled and transgender people are often left out of basic community events simply for accessibility reasons or simply because of discrimination and hate.”
Saturday’s free event was an opportunity for people with disabilities to enjoy the day, but also to get the information they need or find resources.
Jeff Nylander, chairman of the board of the City of La Crosse Committee on Disabled Citizens and a DAN member, said the event marked the anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Nylander said a smaller event was held last year and this year organizers worked to get many of the groups that serve people with disabilities involved as a way to improve service to the community.
“A lot of these groups and organizations have common goals and common bonds and actually probably serve the same people in different ways,” Nylander said. “They’re talking today and that’s probably the first time it’s happened in our county.”
By talking, Nylander said, the groups are sure to find ways to streamline services or coordinate better care for people served by different agencies.
The day included music and food, a wide variety of activities, special speakers, performances, and a wide range of information booths from various community organizations.
Nylander said many of these demonstrations were designed to give people with disabilities examples of things that could make their lives easier or ways they could remove barriers that might prevent them from being active.
One example was the North American Squirrel Association which exhibited devices that people with disabilities could use to experience hunting for the first time.
While the festival tackled some serious issues, there were also plenty of fun events, including an appearance by Brutus the Minipig, a service animal who could play basketball and play musical instruments.
The event was also the kickoff to La Crosse Area Limitless Ability Awareness Week.
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