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Caring for the environment (and each other) at the Aquarium of the Pacific

Paraplegic diver Cody Unser in the tropical reef habitat.
Every January, Long Beach, California’s Aquarium of the Pacific hosts the Festival of Human Abilities, celebrating the talent of disabled artists, performers and athletes. For two programming-packed days, visitors can wander a venue where the full spectrum of humanity is on display, doing things that are truly amazing — no matter who you are. On tonight’s PUSH GIRLS, you’ll get a little taste of the festival, and we’re betting it’ll make you want to see even more.

Colours ‘N’ Motion were there during the last festival, giving Chelsie, Mia and Auti a chance to strut their stuff onstage for a wowed audience who also got to see a full range of adaptive art, sports and performance. The Festival of Human Abilities can be a fascinating glimpse into the lives of disabled people and the ways they adapt their world to make it work for them; paraplegic diver Cody Unser, for example, demonstrated her SCUBA skills in the Tropical Reef Habitat.

Auti shows a student some moves at a dance demonstration
It’s not just a festival to showcase the skills of people with disabilities, though. The event also includes sign language interpretation, fully accessible venues, audio tours and, yes, a service-dog relief area, to ensure that people with disabilities are not just performers but members of the audience as well. It’s an event where people are supposed to mingle and interact, breaking down boundaries by talking with each other.

Which is part of the Aquarium’s larger mission: to educate people and make them more informed global citizens. Its programming gets people excited about ocean conservation but also celebrates the people who inhabit the world around us.

In an era with growing environmental concerns, it’s more important than ever for people to understand the natural world and the creatures that inhabit it. People with disabilities care about the environment too, and want a healthy world to pass on to their children. Some also have specific concerns that may differ from those of nondisabled people; for example, it can be more difficult to safely reduce resource usage while balancing the needs of a physical disability. Celebrating the talents of people with disabilities integrates us into the solutions for the world’s ecological problems.

The next Festival of Human Abilities will take place on January 26-27, 2013. Advance tickets are encouraged for groups of more than 10. Go if you can.

Photo credit: Courtesy Aquarium of the Pacific

If you can’t stand up, stand out! PUSH GIRLS airs on Mondays at 10P.