Photographers with disabilities will get an opportunity to showcase their work in downtown Phoenix this year in the ninth annual art competition as part of the city’s efforts to promote disability awareness.

“We decided to open it up to photographers this year,” said Mary Jane Trunzo, vice chair of the Phoenix Sister Cities Commission-Disability Awareness Committee.

The competition will take place on Nov. 7 at 6 p.m. in downtown Phoenix as a part of the Phoenix “First Friday” events. This year, the Phoenix Sister Cities Commission-Disability Awareness Committee will coordinate an art and photography competition that encourages people with disabilities to compete.

The committee is in its ninth year of the art competition that features artists from the local area and the 10 Sister Cities, Trunzo said.

The photography competition is part of the committee’s efforts to promote artists that have cognitive, emotional, sensory or physical disabilities, Trunzo said.

Getting more exposure for the competitions is crucial for the committee because they want a larger turnout than last year and would like to expand their network both locally and internationally, members of the committee said.

“More people are talking about our events,” Trunzo said, “In fact, last summer we were invited to go to the International Association of Special Education conference in Vancouver.” In this event, a deaf man spoke about his disability after he won the 2012 art competition.

At least 500 people show up to the events each year, Baethke said.

In the past, the committee has helped artists such as Chen Feng from Chengdu, China, a man who is deaf, and Yong Wo from Chengdu, China, a man who is physically handicapped and won the 2013 People’s Choice Award for the art competition.

Robin Baethke, member of the Phoenix Sister Cities Commission-Disability Awareness Committee, said the winner last year for the People’s Choice Award painted a picture using his mouth.

As an added bonus, Detour Company periodically performs at the art competitions. The committee partnered with the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and have put on three shows this year.

The theater company gives adults with cognitive and physical disabilities a chance to perform, said Michaela Safadi, member of Phoenix Sisters Cities-Disability Awareness Committee.

People from the local community appreciate the artwork that has been created and are amazed at the quality of their work, members of the committee said. These competitions really make a difference because they reduce the barrier between disabled people and the community.

“A woman who recently had a brain tumor removed won first place and moved the audience with her work,” Trunzo said.

This year, the committee is using social media to promote its two coming competitions and winners will receive a cash award totaling as much as $500 for the first prize winner. This is something the committee has never done before.

“I think that it is really going to expand our network,” Trunzo said.

• Angela Crusco is a junior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. She is interning this semester for the AFN.

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