First Annual African American Conference on Disabilities a Huge Success

Renaldo Fowler, Senior Staff Advocate
Arizona Center for Disability Law
DDNN Summer 2012

Opening remarks at the conferenceThe Arizona Center for Disability Law (ACDL), in collaboration with the Arizona Bridge to Independent Living (ABIL), sponsored the first African American Conference on Disabilities to address the unique cultural needs of African Americans with disabilities.  Major funding for the conference was provided by the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council.  The conference was held on February 28, 2012 at the Disability Empowerment Center (DEC) in Phoenix and was attended by more than 150 participants, including a variety of governmental and private sector vendors. Conference workshops covered topics such as employment, culture, finances, advocacy, special education, ADA Amendments Act changes, mental health, wellness, work incentives, legal guardianship options, and restoring rights.  Conference participants had the opportunity to meet with representatives from the various agencies in the Disability Empowerment Center (DEC).  In addition to ABIL and ACDL, the DEC has ten other agencies that assist people with disabilities including Arizona Autism United, Arizona Brain Injury Association, Arizona Spinal Cord Injury Association, Joni and Friends, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Arizona, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Raising Special Kids, Statewide Independent Living Council, Symbius Medical, and Valley Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Some comments from conference participants:
“I have attended many trainings and this training was the most interesting and informative training that I have ever attended. I received information that assisted me with being able to contact my legislators, understand the legal system treatment for people with serious mental illness, credit, budgeting, etc.”

“I am a special educator; therefore, I have used the handouts to consult with parents and to refresh my own knowledge in regard to special education services/matters.”

“I enjoyed the conference and all of the information was relatable to my job and my life.”

“Helpful – explaining the culture to non-African Americans in the room so we can serve people better.  Please do that again next time too.”

“The fact that we actually had a conference for African Americans with disabilities was very positive and motivating.”

Additional sponsors and supporters of the conference included the Arizona Statewide Independent Living Center, Northern Arizona University Institute for Human Development and its Arizona Technology Access Program, Arizona Spinal Cord Injury Association, and University of Arizona Sonoran UCEDD.

A brief video highlighting the 2012 African American Conference on Disability is available at

Planning has begun for next year’s African American Conference on Disabilities.  ACDL and ABIL look forward to seeing you there. 

If you have any suggestions for workshops for next year’s conference or you would like to be a presenter, please contact David Carey at ABIL at or Renaldo Fowler at ACDL at

David Carey, State Senator Leah Landrum Taylor, and Renaldo Fowler

From left to right: David Carey, State Senator Leah Landrum Taylor, and Renaldo Fowler