The Abilities Expo: Los Angeles

On March 16th, 2024, I had the privilege of attending one of the most eye-opening events I’ve ever visited with VOSAP: The Abilities Expo. This expo, held in Downtown Los Angeles, served as a platform for different brands and businesses from the area to come and showcase their products or ideas. The week before the expo provided me with time to create a narrative of the expo myself from online resources. Leading up to the expo, I anticipated meeting a few businesses, brands, companies, etc. but upon reaching the venue, I was immediately struck with the sheer magnitude of the event. Each booth, clearly labeled with posters, banners, and logos, conveyed the dedication to championing the cause of disability rights and empowerment. With my VOSAP info cards in hand, I began to walk around, looking at booths and even talking to people, hoping to find connections between their brand and VOSAP’s cause. Fortunately for me, the intention behind every single booth present was under the umbrella of 3 main causes, something VOSAP has also been working towards: reducing stigma, creating accessibility, and spreading awareness. 

The night before the expo, I stopped at Pranav Desai’s house, the founder of the VOSAP. This moment with Pranav Desai, or as I call him, Pranav Uncle, was something that changed my perception about VOSAP entirely. On this night, Pranav Uncle discussed with me the causes VOSAP is working towards and has been working towards for so many years. To list a few topics, Pranav Uncle talked to me about spreading awareness, assistive technologies, reducing stigma, advocacy, etc. etc. This information only pushed me to represent VOSAP in the most meaningful way possible, and with this new information, I found confidence in talking to other people about our organization. I walked into the expo, ready to create a network of like minded people from my own city. As I’d hoped, many people were open to discussing VOSAP, especially considering my appearance.

As a student volunteer, many people were ready, and even excited to hear from a young perspective, which only made my job easier. I made sure to thoroughly understand what each organization or company was about, and most representatives were happy to explain their respective brands to me as well. Upon hearing their brief descriptions, I made sure to find connections between their brand and VOSAP, using that to bridge the gap and introduce our organization to them or their team. This worked extremely well at almost every booth, allowing me in understanding the various perspectives on the matter of disability. Through this exchange, I was able to lay the foundation for future collaborations and partnerships, fostering a spirit of diplomacy and cooperation among like minded people. My greatest and favorite insight from this experience was the realization that VOSAP is not alone by any means in making a difference in the world of disability. Seeing the myriad of booths and businesses only further empowered me to be a part of the change, seeing so many people had the courage to do so themselves. I was even able to connect some of the inventions and innovations I saw to my personal life, thinking about how beneficial these types of assistive technologies could be for my own grandparents. 

Amidst the buzz and excitement of the expo, two companies, in particular, stood out to me, each offering unique insights and innovations that resonated deeply with the mission of VOSAP. While both companies were based on assistive technology, I personally don’t believe that such innovations are the only key in making a difference. However, both of these innovations were extremely interesting and thought provoking for me, which is why I’ve chosen those two companies to add to my article.

The first company, CaptionCall®, showcased an assistive technology designed to facilitate landline conversations for individuals with hearing loss. What struck me most about this innovation was its cost-effectiveness, as the product is government-funded in the US. This not only addresses the accessibility barrier but also provides a tangible solution for the deaf and hearing-impaired community.

Continuing my exploration of innovative solutions at the Abilities Expo, another standout was IndeeLift®. This unique invention offers a safe and efficient solution for fall recovery, capable of lifting individuals from the floor to a full standing position without the need for emergency assistance. The simplicity and effectiveness of this device amazed me, and even helped me connect the effectiveness to my own grandparents. The ability of IndeeLift® to provide independence and peace of mind resonated deeply with me, underscoring the importance of empowering individuals to maintain their autonomy and dignity. 

Beyond the impressive array of organizations and companies present at the expo, what truly struck me was the tangible impact of the inventions and innovations showcased. From assistive technologies to adaptive equipment, each offering held the potential to transform lives and enhance independence for individuals with disabilities. The ingenuity and creativity on display served as a reminder of the power of innovation to break down barriers and create a more inclusive society, whether that be worldwide or in our own backyard. In total, I was able to observe maybe 100-120 booths in the time I was there, in turn speaking to over 100 people and exchanging 100+ business cards and information.

With my fellow VOSAP ignite members, and cohort leader, Monica Patel, I was able to create many meaningful connections and market myself and VOSAP to countless organizations, but more importantly people, who are working towards the same goal as myself and my teammates. As of now, we have exchanged contact information and data with many people, hopeful of the future these possible collaborations will contribute to. With VOSAP’s mission, we aim to bring accessibility and awareness worldwide, and with this expo, we were able to move one step closer to that exact goal.