Convention provides family-like gathering for people with disabilities

The lobby at a Hyatt Regency in Orlando was crowded on a recent Saturday, filled with people with disabilities such as Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other limitations.

But this event was not about pointing out the disabilities, but rather to discuss how it unites them in a reunion-like setting.

The Family Café, an annual conference that gathers people with disabilities from all over Florida, attracted more than 6,000 people.

Several huge conference rooms and halls were reserved to host classes, exhibition space and even a dance floor. The mission behind the event, which began in 1998: to unite families raising children with different types of disabilities and help create a society.

Everyone who attends is linked to people with special needs, including Family Café founder Lori Fahey, whose son has cerebral palsy. He grew up in the pre-internet era and it was difficult for Fahey to find helpful information to make her child’s life better.

“What we are trying to do is create a world of people with all types of disabilities and of all ages,” said Jeremy Countryman, the convention’s program director. “We have people with cerebral palsy, spina bifida, autism, Down syndrome. We also have people representing the brain injury community and the physical disability community.”

The Family Café, an annual conference that gathers people…

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