Alaska health care officials aim to raise awareness for residents with disabilities during a statewide Disability Pride Celebration in July.
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Event organizers discussed Disability Pride Celebration details during a Department of Health and Social Services ECHO meeting on Wednesday.
Lanny Mommsen—Research Analyst for the Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education—said events will be held in Kenai, Anchorage, and Fairbanks. She said residents with disabilities will play a significant role in determining event agendas.
“The more self-advocates the better,” Mommsen said. “It’s a celebration for self-advocates. One cool change from our first celebration to now is the [planning] committee structure. About half of our committee is self-advocates letting us know what they want.”
This year’s event will mark the fifth anniversary of Alaska’s Disability Pride Celebration. The past two years have featured virtual activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And event organizer Caryn Brunello—Director of Community Programs for the Arc of Anchorage—said she was excited for in-person activities to resume this year.
“We’re getting back on our feet from being virtual,” Brunello said. “In what was going to be our third year COVID hit. We had to pump the brakes.”
Event organizers will also host a virtual event this year, however, to ensure that everyone who wants to participate without risking exposure to potential COVID infection can. Event details remain under consideration, but organizers plan to host the virtual event on July 26th beginning at noon. In-person celebrations will be held in Kenai on July 30th, and in Anchorage and Fairbanks on July 23rd. The Alaska Statewide Disability Pride Celebration Facebook page will provide updates on event details and entertainment options during the weeks leading up to the event.
Past events have featured celebrities like Portugal. The Man, “The Peanut Butter Falcon’s” Zack Gottsagen, and Laughing At My Nightmare’s Shane Burcaw. Laughing At My Nightmare works to improve the quality of life for people living with disabilities by providing free medical equipment to people in need. Brunello said event organizers worked hard to secure celebrity appearances.
“There was a lot of following them on Facebook until they got back to me,” Brunello said. “There’s pieces of each event I really enjoyed.”