The COVID-19 pandemic won’t stop the City of Fishers from conducting its annual Disability Awareness Month celebration in March. But the events will be virtual instead of live.
“We started recognizing March Disability Awareness Month back in 2016 very briefly, and in 2017, we started a monthlong celebration of events to bring awareness to what life is like for individuals with physical and intellectual disabilities,” said Cecilia Coble, co-chair of the Fishers Advisory Committee on Disability with Kelly Hartman. “The City of Fishers has been working on disability inclusion accessibility since 2014.”
Fishers has been working on the accessibility through the ADA Roundtable, which was later changed to the Fishers Advisory Committee on Disability.
“We bring in different stakeholders from the community to work collaboratively with city leaders and elected officials, the mayor, our direct support providers here in our community, educators, families, individuals with disabilities, to come together to really move the ball forward and build upon our inclusive community,” Coble said.
The theme for the celebration is “Building Our Inclusive Community.” Coble said the goal is to celebrate the achievements Fishers has made, such as expanding employment opportunities, creating social groups and adding affordable housing for people with disabilities.
The event kicks off March 1.
Coble said it can be difficult for individuals with disabilities to connect socially, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. That led to the creation of the Thrive Social Club, designed for adults with disabilities.
“The Thrive Social Club started (last) summer, and we had our first event where we volunteered for Keep Fishers Beautiful and we went over to one of the parks and we picked up trash, and then we ended in a picnic with some outdoor games,” Coble said. “It’s been tough this year, but we are meeting once a week for an hour on Friday nights through Zoom and doing dance parties, playing hangman, family feud and doing scavenger hunts.”
To enhance employment opportunities for people with disabilities, the Fishers Advisory Committee on Disabilities partnered with the OneZone Chamber of Commerce, Hamilton Southeastern Schools and other organizations to provide opportunities for meaningful work.
“People around the community are getting on board with this,” Coble said. “We partnered with (Hamilton East Public Library) to offer a number of different workshops and events within the library in the month of March, and Conner Prairie has really made an effort to make the Conner Prairie experience accessible for people who are blind or people who use wheelchairs, and they’re hiring people with disabilities.
“So many businesses have embraced accessibility and inclusion.”
Hartman said she’s excited to see the Fishers Advisory Committee on Disability continue its momentum, even during a pandemic.
“As a committee, we have been able to make the virtual pivot to sustain many of the events that have become the center of disability awareness for Fishers,” Hartman said. “The unique opportunity is that we can reach even more people, as we know there are some people who may never have come to an in-person event but will find the virtual awareness opportunities intriguing. We are excited to engage many people in our community in March as we strive to be a community that is inclusive of all people.”
For more, visit fishers.in.us/disabilityawareness.
Virtual event lineup for Disability Awareness Month
- Disability Awareness Month Kickoff: Building Our Inclusive Community: 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. March 1. A kickoff of the monthlong celebration with guest speaker and disability advocate Ben Trockman, diversity and inclusion outreach specialist for Old National Bank and First Ward city councilor for the City of Evansville. A video presentation will highlight the work of the Fishers Advisory Committee on Disability during the past six years to build an inclusive community in Fishers. Recipients of the 2021 Inclusion & Accessibility Awards will be recognized. The event is free, but registration is required. Visit fishers.in.us/DisabilityAwareness to register.
- Fishers Advisory Committee on Disability Quarterly Meeting: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. March 2. Hear more about the accomplishments of building a more inclusive community in Fishers. Help the committee identify priorities and goals for the disability community in Fishers and beyond. The event is free, but registration is required. Visit fishers.in.us/DisabilityAwareness to register.
- OneZone Luncheon: Expanding Your Applicant Pool: Exploring the Untapped Workforce: 11:30 a.m. March 10. Learn more about the benefits of employing individuals with physical and developmental disabilities from Kylee Hope, director of the Division of Disability and Rehabilitative Services. Check out a video presentation of successful employment opportunities from around Fishers and Hamilton County. Cost is $10 per person and registration is required. Visit fishers.in.us/DisabilityAwareness to register.
- Building Our Inclusive Community Through Art: 7 to 9 p.m. March 12. Celebrate the artwork of local artists with disabilities and view the virtual art gallery exhibition hosted by Conner Prairie. The event is co-hosted by the Fishers Arts Council. Join the virtual broadcast on the Fishers Arts Council Facebook page.
- Other events: The Hamilton East Public Library will host a series of virtual workshops as part of the celebration. Topics include caregiving, disability inclusion and American Sign Language, among others.