While this year’s COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted business as usual for many businesses, it has also presented unexpected opportunities. Like many others, The Arc was forced to cancel and shift all in-person events starting in March.
When the time came to plan our annual convention—which draws people with disabilities, family members, The Arc’s chapter leaders, and allies together to learn, grow, and celebrate and advance disability rights—the choice was obvious: go virtual and give more people than ever before the ability to attend our flagship event. The best part? The event was free. In an era when time and money are short for many and screen fatigue is more prevalent than ever, it was important to The Arc to ensure this year’s programming was valuable, accessible, and affordable. A record nearly 3,000 people registered, surpassing previous in-person attendance almost threefold. The format also enabled more first-timers than ever before to participate.
The event featured speakers from a wide range of backgrounds: grassroots advocates, policymakers, The Arc’s chapter staff, and The Arc’s national office. Sessions covered everything from voting to police safety to community supports and organizational hardship in the time of COVID. Sessions were also carefully curated to be accessible through captioning, real-time American Sign Language interpretation, and accessibly designed slide decks and support materials. Between structured sessions, attendees had the opportunity to connect in more informal settings and share their knowledge and challenges with others facing similar circumstances. These new—and renewed—connections will provide networks of support as advocates, family members, and professionals prepare to dive into the coming year.
People with disabilities and those who support them are at a critical inflection point in our history. Existing budget crises, waiting lists, and other service delivery challenges have been exacerbated by the pandemic. As we navigate the challenges of today and work to build a better tomorrow, The Arc is proud to provide ongoing resources and support.
As a benefit of this year’s online format, you can watch archived sessions from the event on-demand for free.
And, save the date for next year’s event which we expect to hold from September 27 – 29, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana!