The 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will be the theme of Asians and Pacific Islanders with Disabilities of California’s (APIDC) second annual gala on Saturday, Nov. 21, at 5 p.m. at the Cicada Restaurant, 617 S. Olive St. in Los Angeles.
This year, APIDC will honor pioneers in diversity and inclusion: JPMorgan & Chase, LA Metro, the California Association for Post-Secondary Education and Disability (CAPED), NBCUniversal, and renowned singer and community advocate Jennifer Kumiyama.
The event will also highlight the 2015 graduates of APIDC’s Youth Leadership Institute. Danny Vang (CSU Fresno), Philbert Tjong (Pasadena City College), Brian McGrath (Pasadena City College), Jai Lei Yee (UC Berkeley), and Tangikina Moimoi (Long Beach City College) are all college students with disabilities who participated in this unique program to prepare them with essential skills as future leaders in their community.
APIDC is expected to welcome almost 350 guests at the 2015 gala. Community leaders, elected dignitaries, and esteemed judges are expected, as well as community organizations benefiting people with disabilities and the Asians and Pacific Islander community.
The gala is presented by JPMorgan & Chase, with major support from AT&T, NBCUniversal, Mr. Jeff and Mrs. Namy Folick, and Kaiser Permanente.
APIDC is a 501(c)(3), grassroots non-profit organization whose mission is to give a voice and face to Asians and Pacific Islanders with disabilities. It provides culturally sensitive outreach, education, and advocacy to raise visibility and quality of life of community members with disabilities. For more information, visit apidisabilities.net.
About Jennifer Kumiyama
Kumiyama was born with arthrogryposis and uses a wheelchair daily. She is the daughter of a U.S. Air Force retiree and the oldest of six children.
Kumiyama received voice lessons at Long Beach City College and CSU Long Beach. In 2000, she earned a spot on the Warner Bros. reality TV show “Popstars 2” and earned national accolades from many publications, including Variety Magazine and TV Guide – referring to her as “the girl in the wheelchair whose voice blew everyone out of the water.”
Shortly after that in 2002, Kumiyama was cast in Disney’s “Aladdin; a Musical Spectacular” at Disney California Adventure Theme Park, becoming the first performer in a wheelchair to ever be on any Disney stage in the world. She performs four times a day for some 8,000 who visit from every corner of the world. It was at Disney that she took on her real role as an advocate for people living with disabilities – showing the entire world that talent sees no boundaries.
This motivated her to become a speaker – sharing her story with schools, social groups, and major businesses. Her new passion, in addition to singing, is being a voice for people living with disabilities by breaking attitudinal and architectural barriers.
In 2010, Kumiyama was crowned Ms. Wheelchair California in 2010. During her reign she spread the message of hope through her platform, “Empowering Children with Disabilities to Make Their Own Dreams Come True.” She was awarded the Jerry Stein Independent Living Award from the Disabled Resource Center in Long Beach, and was keynote speaker for the Arthrogryposis Convention in Florida, Boeing’s Diversity Awareness Celebration in Huntington Beach, and CSU San Bernardino’s Disability Awareness Week – all while still performing full-time at Disney.
The end of her reign as Ms. Wheelchair California 2010 only brought on more exciting projects. That spring she was cast in a major role as Carmen in the Sundance Film Festival hit and Academy Award-nominated film “The Sessions,” appeared in MTV’s teen sensation “Awkward,” and became the founder and owner of The Ms. Wheelchair California Foundation, which has sent three titleholders to compete for the national title and crowned three aspiring young advocates as Little Miss Wheelchair California.
In August 2014, Kumiyama brought the Ms. Wheelchair America 2015 Leadership Forum and Pageant to California for the first time in the program’s 43-year history. “My ultimate goal is to change the world for people living with disabilities, by continuing to fulfill the mission of Ms. Wheelchair America (to provide an opportunity of achievement for women who happen to be wheelchair users to successfully educate and advocate for the more than 54 million Americans living with disabilities) and breed strong advocates to do so,” she said.