The doors to Reliant Center that are closest to the parking lot aren’t automated. It’s a frequent, if annoying, obstacle to those with mobility impairment.
But once you’re inside the Abilities Expo it’s quite different from any trade show you’ve seen.
There’s a desk where you can request assistance in American Sign Language. People on scooters and in wheelchairs outnumber the people walking on their own.
“I was injured three years ago in a car accident here in Houston.”
Magui Dunn was in the passenger seat of a car that was hit by an 18-wheeler. She’s paralyzed from the chest down and has limited use of her arms and hands.
“I’m really interested in looking for a helper dog. I’m unable to bend down and reach things and sometimes they come with helper dogs and they show you what they do.”
She’s a little worried about getting a service animal, because she already has a pet dog at home.
She spots a vendor that’s selling wheelchair attachments and notices a robotic arm that might do the trick instead.
Before today, she didn’t know anything like that even existed.
Around the corner, Scott Wells is rolling down a vendor aisle. He’s here from Shreveport La.
Wells became a quadriplegic 14 years ago when he was hit by a drunk driver. He now works to help other disabled people and is here to look for new products and attend some workshops.
“Really enjoyed the different clinics and everything. I’m very active in the hand cycling and all of that as well. Love to go dancing, so looking forward to the dancing clinic and everything this afternoon.”
Wells says he came to the expo last year and was struck by how much new information he found.
He says people with disabilities come here and learn that they aren’t as limited in what they can do as they may have thought.
The Abilities Expo is at Reliant Center through the weekend. Admission is free.