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Disabilities Day offers resources, activities for marginalized individuals
Goshen News - 7/25/2022
Jul. 25—GOSHEN — The Midway opened up for a few hours for specialty rides for a special group of people.
"The rides don't spin as fast, they don't have music, they don't have lights, so it's more for individuals that have extra sensory needs," Cindy Hostetler, a board member and volunteer of the fair, explained.
Games, activities and prizes supplied by the fair board allowed people with disabilities a unique opportunity at the fair to participate in a cultural activity they might usually not have been able to enjoy.
"It allows them to still have fun but also meet their sensory needs," Sabrina Rivera, an employee of the ADEC Summer Camp program, explained. "We have a lot of kids with autism that need motion, that need the twirling or sometimes high-intensity pressure and some of these rides provide that, but if it's too much they can get overstimulated pretty easily so having them slow it down helps."
The day wasn't aimed only at children with disabilities, though.
"This is my children's favorite day of the fair every year," Vicki Witmer said. "They are able to come and they have activities that are appropriate for them. There are geared for all the sensory issues my kids may have and they can ride rides that are a little slower that they enjoy and there's not the huge crowd that might escalate them or cause them to have a meltdown. Everything here is geared specifically for individuals with special needs and it's huge for my kids. It allows them an opportunity at the fair they wouldn't have otherwise."
Witmer has three adult children with disabilities and volunteers every year, and passes out donated hats to the disabled guests of the fair.
"Elkhart County, the fair, just does an amazing job at providing the perfect opportunity for all individuals with special needs to be included."
"The Spoon Man" Jim Cruise performed his family-friendly interactive musical comedy on spoons.
One of the major benefits to Disabilities Day at the fairgrounds is that because the Midway is open so early for the special groups attending, the generally large crowds simply aren't there.
Sue Troyer's husband is on the fair board. With a disabled son, Matthew, they come out to the fair's Disabilities Day every year.
"It's a lot of independence," she explained. "He can do things that normally he wouldn't do. It gives him self-worth. It's awesome. I just appreciate it so much."
The day is put together entirely by volunteers.
"It's fun to see the interaction of a typically functioning sibling with other individuals that have disabilities whether it be physical or (mental), it's fun to see the interaction and inclusion."
Jennifer Noffsinger, who runs the Advocacy Links booth at the fairgrounds, is also a parent of a child with disabilities.
"We've been coming to this for quite some time," Noffsinger said. "We've always been a part of this day and it's a very special day for us. This day is kind of like a family reunion. I get to see everybody. I get to help connect parents who are also lost to resources. It's just our day at the fair that we get to spend and hang out and have fun."
Advocacy Links is a resource center aimed at helping connect people with resources for those with local disabilities resources.
"It is a challenge to try to find resources if you don't know the system and you don't know how to navigate the system," Noffsinger explained.
Dani Messick is the education and entertainment reporter for The Goshen News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 574-538-2065.
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