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Celebrating the Spirit of Resilience: 12th Annual American Indian Disability Summit

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A summit in Arizona in March promises to deliver an educational and memorable experience that will inspire and celebrate the power and spirit of resilience among American Indians with disabilities.

The American Indian Disability Summit is held annually in Phoenix, Arizona. Now in its 12th year, the 2016 summit will take place March 17, at Desert Willow Conference Center. The one-day event will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The summit's mission is to provide interaction, networking, education and support for American Indians with disabilities and their families, while bridging opportunities and resources in rural and urban tribal communities. Last year's event proved a success with roughly 150 people in attendance.

The 12th Annual American Indian Disability Summit will focus on: “Gathering Native Voices to Celebrate the Spirit of Resilience.” Last year's event capitalized on the theme: “Gathering Native Voices to Embrace Vitality.”

Phil Pangrazio, president & CEO of Ability360 (formerly called Arizona Bridge to Independent Living), shared his perspective at the 2015 conference: “Vitality is the power, capacity or ability of something – or someone, in your case – to continue to live, achieve, be successful or do any number of things that we would otherwise think of as moving us toward an enduring and better life. Now that is something we should all want whether we have a disability or not…don’t you think?”

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The summit's objective is to facilitate training, outreach and technical assistance to all people with disabilities. Attendees will gain awareness of support services and become empowered to improve their lifestyle by learning strategies to eliminate barriers to service delivery. The goal is to target consumers, families and service providers of Native Americans with disabilities.

The annual event also features the presentation of the prestigious Marcus Harrison, Jr. Leadership Award, which was established in his honor and to acknowledge others working to keep the voice of advocacy for American Indians with disabilities alive through his/her leadership and dedication. Marcus Harrison, Jr. (Comanche), a revered community leader and the former CEO of the Phoenix-based organization Native Health, was instrumental in arranging the community Talking Circles in 2004 that led to the first Urban American Indian Disability & Vocational Rehabilitation Summit the following year and continues successfully each year since, now known as the American Indian Disability Summit. 

Last year’s award recipient was Miss Veronica “Ronnie” James, a Second Mesa, Arizona resident and the parent of a daughter with VATER Syndrome, a diagnosis characterized by multiple disabilities affecting the limbs and internal organs. Ms. James channeled her knowledge of caregiving and advocacy to serve the Hopi Tribe and all Natives throughout Arizona by improving tribal members’ awareness of disability resources available and increasing state and private agencies’ outreach to those who need their services, reported Jon Meyers for The Arc of Arizona.

For summit registration information, accommodations and an application, please call: 602-443-0707 or 1-800-280-2245 x707 (Rosalie at ABILITY360.ORG), 602-495-7521 (Dorothy), or 602-290-1632 (Jon). The summit is a fragrance and tobacco free event. Attendees can earn continuing education units (CEUs).

For more information, visit the American Indian Disability Summit website and Facebook page: