Ability360 has long recognized the important intersection of disability with other minority identities to ensure that authentic voices are fully heard. Each winter for 13 years we’ve hosted the African American Conference on Disabilities and the American Indian Disability Summit for six years. In September, we will host our second Latino Disability Summit.

African-American Disabilities Conference Enlightens, Engages

By Floyd Alvin Galloway

LOGO: African American Conference on Disabilities

The sixth-annual African-American Conference on Disabilities, presented by United Healthcare and hosted by Ability360 and the Arizona Center for Disability Law, has steadily grown in size and relevancy. The conference brought subject-matter experts together with individuals seeking to improve their lives and communities.

“This year’s conference comes at a crucial time in the history of the disability rights movement,” JJ Rico, executive director of the Arizona Center for Disability Law, said. “We must take a stand against any proposed restrictions or limitations of those rights.”

The conference provided participants with an array of workshops that included: Preserving Voting Rights for People with Disabilities, Phoenix Police Department: Engagement and Outreach, The ABC’s : African American Blindness and Culture, In Our Own Voice: Living with Mental Illness, Disability Benefits 101:Employment, Economic Stability and Empowerment, and more.

Co-founders of the conference Renaldo Fowler, senior staff advocate for ACDL and David Carey, Ability360 advocacy specialist, noted that with knowledge there is power, and that they wanted to empower the Black community.

Scholarships were available due to the support of partners such as the Jean E. Fairfax and Betty H. Fairfax Memorial Fund, Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council, and the Phoenix Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.

American Indian Summit: Inspiring Youth

By Alexis Ramanjulu

LOGO: 13th Annual American Indian Disability Summit. Gathering Native Voices for Youth Empowerment

The 13th Annual American Indian Disabilities Summit was held at the Desert Willow Conference Center on March 23. The annual summit facilitates training, outreach and technical assistance for American Indians with disabilities in urban and rural areas. The summit also aims to spread awareness that support services are available and can improve lifestyles and provide empowerment to eliminate barriers.

The conference provided participants with an array of workshops that included: Youth Self Advocacy, Job Opportunities Build Success, Youth Prosthetics, Stick it to Stigma Panel, Bullying and Suicide Prevention in Native American Communities, Inappropriate Discipline’s Impact on Native American Children with Special Needs, and more.

Greggory Ohannessian was the summit’s keynote speaker. He spoke about his experience living with autism, how he pursued his goals and independence and why it is important to advocate for yourself and others.

The Marcus Harrison Jr. Leadership Award acknowledges one who advocates for American Indians with disabilities through leadership opportunities. This year’s recipient, Mateo TreeTop, is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in Ft. Yates, North Dakota. Treetop graduated from Westwood High School in Mesa, Ariz. and volunteers for the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. In 2016, TreeTop was a staff member for the Arizona Youth Leadership Forum and is currently on the Executive Committee.

The Arizona Department of Health Services, Office for Children with Special Health Care Needs provided support for multiple scholarships so youth and young adults with special health care needs could attend the summit.

Portrait: Alexis Ramanjulu

Alexis Ramanjulu


Alexis Ramanjulu is a student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism of Mass Communication. She is from a town where the mall is the focal point and makes traffic unbearable. She enjoys being with friends and Netflix after a long day.