Seventh Annual African American Conference on Disabilities – Success! New Partnerships and Greater Reach

Arizona Center for Disability Law (ACDL)

DDNN Summer 2018


The 7th Annual African American Conference on Disabilities (AACD) was held on February 16, 2018 at the Desert Willow Conference Center in Phoenix, AZ with more than 300 individuals attending this year’s conference. The AACD is the only comprehensive conference that addresses the intersection between race and disabilities. African Americans with disabilities often face racial and disability discrimination in various aspects in their lives. The purpose of the conference is to provide an array of resources to persons with disabilities, their family members, the community, service providers and agencies.  


conference attendees at a workshopThe AACD is spearheaded by the Arizona Center for Disability Law (ACDL) and Ability360.  The Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing, along with the DD Network, have been longtime partners of the AACD, and continue to support the conference through in-kind services, co-sponsorship and presentation of workshops. This year, we partnered with the Arizona Center for African American Resources (AzCAAR). AzCAAR was founded in 2007 with the goal of improving the life challenges facing African Americans in Arizona. It acts as a resource for those serving the African American community and builds upon nine focus areas: Communication, Criminal Justice, Economics, Education, Environment, Health Care, Leadership, Political Engagement, and Race Relations.


Conference participants were able to select from 24 impactful workshops covering a wide range of topics that included employment rights, health care, personal finances, police engagement and outreach, special education, juvenile justice, mental health, autism, youth to adult transition, child welfare, and voting rights.


Institute for Human Development exhibitor table with attendeeAdrian Fontes, Maricopa County Recorder, provided the conference keynote address. His office administers elections and oversees the voting process for Maricopa County, the third most populated county in the United States. He discussed challenges he faced in his first year in office and the changes his office is making to improve the election process for all county residents. Mr. Fontes discussed his commitment to voters with disabilities, as well as improving poll worker training in the use of the accessible voting equipment.


Guest speaker, Arizona Representative Reginald Bolding (LD27), provided conference participants with an update on current and proposed state legislation that would affect persons with disabilities. Attending for the second year in a row, Commissioner Thomas Hicks, of the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) in Washington D.C., spoke on election issues occurring at the national level. President Barack H. Obama nominated Commissioner Hicks to serve on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and the U. S. Senate confirmed his nomination by unanimous vote on December 16, 2014.


front row - two male wheelchair users; back row - five males standingAACD was delighted to receive a delegation from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The delegation attended the conference to obtain information so that they may better serve the needs of persons with disabilities in their home country.  While the conference frequently welcomes attendees from other states, this delegation marks our first international attendees. (Pictured Right: Front row - Phil Pangrazio, President and CEO of Ability360; David Carey, Ability360; Back row - Renaldo Fowler, ACDL Senior Staff Advocate; delegation from Democratic Republic of the Congo; J.J. Rico, ACDL Executive Director)


Steven Freeman, Linkages Regional Director and immediate past President of the Southern Arizona Network for Down Syndrome (SANDS), closed out the conference sharing a heartfelt story of his family’s journey in the life of his daughter, Dominique.


Please join us for the 8th Annual African American Conference on Disabilities on February 15, 2019 at the Desert Willow Conference Center in Phoenix. In the meantime, stay connected by following us on Facebook @AfricanAmericanConferenceOnDisabilities.

African American Conference on Disabilities logo


The AACD was co-founded by Renaldo Fowler with the Arizona Center for Disability Law and David Carey with Ability360.  If you are interested in being a presenter or sponsor for next year’s conference, contact Renaldo Fowler at (602) 274-6287 or David Carey at (602) 443-0723.