Access Chicago a key event for the disabled

July 15, 2012 7:04:01 AM PDT
After a one-year hiatus, Access Chicago is back this week with a diversity of vendors, performers and activities.

Access Chicago is one of the Midwest's largest expo of products and services promoting independence and inclusion.

This one-day event caters to the whole family at no cost.

It will be held at Navy Pier on Thursday, July 19.

Access Chicago is a program of the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities. Karen Tamley is the commissioner.

"It's been around for many years and we're really able to get a great diversity of vendors from social service agencies to accessible transportation both private and public transportation, adaptive sports and recreation, performers with disabilities," Tamley said.

Tamley said there are a number of popular exhibits, including a climbing wall, accessible vehicles and wheelchair basketball.

In addition to fun exhibits, Access Chicago also has educational and informational forums.

"We are going to be working with folks on SSI and SSDI, talking about the benefits that are available to you, why you can go back to work," Tamley said. "One of the biggest reasons that people fear going back to work is losing disability benefits or health insurance and there's a lot of work incentives out there now that we really want to get that information to the disability community."

Chicago Lighthouse radio host Bill Jurek and his dog Abner have been going to Access Chicago for years. One year, they offered a forum on home buying.

"It was at that conference that I was actually put together with a gentleman from one of the major banks and they were able to work with me," Jurek said. "I had a real estate agency and I finally was able to buy a home. They worked with me with the financing and had I not gone to Access Chicago and participated in this particular program, I would have probably never had the condo that I own on the Northwest side right now."

The event is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Festival Hall A.

"It's just an opportunity to connect with old friends, colleagues other people in the disability community," Tamley said.

"We are extremely lucky in this city to have the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities," Jurek said. "What they allow people with disabilities to do is come to one central location and be able to find out whether they have a physical disability, whether they are hearing impaired, whether they are visually impaired, they're able to go to this one location find out the services that are available."

For more information at the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, write Tamley at karen.tamley@cityofchicago.org.


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