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MOVE TO INCLUDE is a partnership between WXXI and the Golisano Foundation designed to promote inclusion for people with intellectual and physical disabilities. Through programming and special events, WXXI and the Golisano Foundation look to build a more inclusive community by inspiring and motivating people to embrace different abilities and include all people in every aspect of community life. Share your thoughts with us here
Updated: 32 min 7 sec ago

Irondequoit becomes an "Autism Friendly Community"

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 7:16pm
The town of Irondequoit is adopting a proclamation that will declare that it is an "Autism Friendly Community." Town Supervisor Dave Seeley says Irondequoit already has implemented training for the police department and other town operations to be more inclusive and supportive, and the formalizing of that policy comes during the annual recognition of April as National Autism Awareness Month. He said training for police officers helps them to be more supportive when they have interactions with someone who is on the autism spectrum. “The police officer has a card, when they are in the field, if they know the person they’re dealing with is someone on the autism spectrum, there’s verbal cues, communication, best practices that really ensure that that experience with the police officer is a good one," Seeley told WXXI News. Seeley said other town departments are getting similar training, and eventually, he hopes the town government can be a resource to businesses and other organizations in

Autism Council of Rochester holds fourth annual job and career fair

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 3:57pm
The Autism Council of Rochester’s fourth annual job and career fair took place Tuesday at the Memorial Art Gallery. Organizers said the event is important, given the nearly 80% rate of unemployment for individuals on the autism spectrum. Lawana Jones, founder and executive director of the Autism Council, said that’s a waste of talent. "We can’t make any assumptions just because someone has that diagnosis,” Jones said. “And so, if we are able to kind of connect individuals who want competitive employment or want to do volunteer opportunities with businesses that are here and anxious to hire people that are on the spectrum, we can do our part. That’s what we need to do." She shared a story she recently heard from a mother whose son was having trouble finding work. One potential issue: He doesn’t make eye contact. "Some employers could possibly be looking for that,” Jones said. “But I connect with employers one on one and say, ‘Listen, these people are very, very talented and gifted. Let

Wings hosting second annual Autism Awareness Day

Fri, 04/12/2019 - 11:24am
The Rochester Red Wings are hosting their second annual Autism Awareness Day at Frontier Field on Saturday. There will be some changes at the ballpark to create an environment that's more welcoming for people who have autism. Volume levels will be lowered throughout the entire stadium, and in-game production using sound effects and video board displays will be kept to a minimum. Fans will also be asked to use blue pom-poms instead of noisemakers. Jessica Joanis, senior coordinator of field development for Autism Speaks, said just a few changes can make a big difference for those on the spectrum. "It's a great way for families to come out and enjoy something that might be a little bit too sensory overload for somebody who's living with autism," she said. It's also a good way to educate the community at large, she said. "There's definitely a big awareness piece as well," Joanis explained, "to understand what it is that somebody living with autism goes through and what their challenges

Connections: Previewing NTID's production of "Fences"

Thu, 04/11/2019 - 2:34pm
We preview a historic production of the August Wilson play, “Fences,” in Rochester. Members of the cast and crew of NTID’s production join us to discuss the first ever Deaf, black performance of “Fences,” which will be accessible to both Deaf and hearing audiences. WXXI News streamed this conversation on Facebook Live with captions. To view the video, click here . In studio: Aceyon Owens, speaker for the role of Troy Marqwan Holmes, signer for the role of Troy Malik Paris, signer for the role of Lyons Giigii Gano, speaker for the role of Rose Luane Haggerty, director of “Fences” and interpreter Danica Zielinski, interpreter This story is reported from WXXI’s Inclusion Desk .

Monroe County approves pay hikes for preschool special education providers

Wed, 04/10/2019 - 5:33am
The Monroe County Legislature on Tuesday night approved legislation proposed by County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo to set new reimbursement rates for preschool special education providers. Under the new contracts, the reimbursement rate has increased 15%, which is the first local rate hike in a decade. Preschool special education is a state-mandated program that provides services to special needs children between the ages of 3 and 5 years of age. Dinolfo issued a statement saying that, “Now it’s time for Albany to follow our lead by working together to fairly-fund its Early Intervention program, just as we did here for Preschool Special Education.” As WXXI News reported in March when Dinolfo first proposed the new rates, while providers said they were pleased about the increase, advocates had also called for a larger increase, of 35 to 40 percent. Dinolfo proposed the 15 percent increase to help stave off an impending shortage of speech therapists, child psychologists, counselors for

Using boxing to help children of all abilities

Mon, 04/08/2019 - 5:47am
In honor of Autism Awareness Month, a local parent organization and a boxing gym teamed up on Sunday for an event called Knocking Out Autism. Parents United in Love is a subcommittee of Citizen Action of New York. The group is led by parents of special needs children to provide activities for children of all abilities. Parents United in Love member Vialma Ramos originally contacted Nasty Knuckles boxing gym to throw a private celebration to support her son, who is on the autism spectrum. “I celebrate Autism Awareness Month with my son and I do this as a private event, but when I contacted the gym to schedule a private party, he really liked the idea and wanted to make it a community-wide event. And so that’s how this came about,” Ramos explained. Owner Joseph Coney was happy to help with the cause. He offered his gym space free of charge and provided food and staff for participants. Ramos says children with special needs tend to gravitate toward electronics, and the gym was a great

Businesses sued over website accessibility; motive questioned

Wed, 04/03/2019 - 6:37pm
A few lawyers from New York City are suing businesses around the state because the companies’ websites are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. But leaders from the Center for Disability Rights, Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and local law firm Nixon Peabody question whether these lawyers care about accessibility -- or big settlements. Todd Shinaman is a lawyer with Nixon Peabody. He said the lawyers are using a clause in the American with Disabilities Act that was first applied to any business that people can physically visit, which generally means adding a ramp or elevators. Shinaman said federal judges have consistently ruled that those accommodations apply to websites. For example, a video on a site must have captions. Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce CEO Bob Duffy said the suits were sent without warning and are intimidating small businesses with settlement offers for $10,000 or more, plus legal fees. Duffy said wineries, art galleries and SUNY

WATCH: Finding justice for victims of filicide

Sun, 03/31/2019 - 12:00pm “If it bleeds, it leads” is a mantra that can describe the types of stories covered by media outlets. Murders, fires, and robberies, are generally top stories for some local news outlets. But not the unfathomable crime of filicide - particularly, in the disability community. Filicide refers to the murder of one’s own child or relative. In the past five years, it’s been documented that more than 650 people with disabilities in the US have been murdered by a family member, relative, or caregiver. The actual number of victims is believed to be much larger than that. We examine this issue and how local advocates are seeking justice for disabled victims of filicide.

UR & Golisano Foundation collaboration breaks ground on centers for youth mental health, autism

Fri, 03/29/2019 - 1:21pm
A groundbreaking ceremony was held Friday morning for the Golisano Autism Center and the University of Rochester’s Golisano Pediatric Behavioral Health and Wellness Building. The new buildings will serve as a one-stop shop for families of children with autism, allowing them to access all the services they need under one roof. It also will provide pediatric mental health services for outpatient care in the community. Ann Costello, executive director of the Golisano Foundation, said there was a desperate need for community-based outpatient care as well as support services consolidated into one space. "Oftentimes, families find themselves at many different offices, many different departments,” Costello said. "Funding, reimbursement is all different. So hopefully, through the help of family navigators and care coordinators, families will be better able to navigate very complex systems of care." People with autism also often need mental health services, which is why this pairing was created

WATCH: Filicide in the disability community; fixing inequities in the ROC arts scene

Thu, 03/28/2019 - 8:00pm Disability rights advocates say the justice system, the media, and the public are disregarding filicide in the disability community. On this edition of Need to Know we learn how the homicides of those with disabilities, at the hands of a relative, are going under the radar. Also on the show, creating a space for women of color in the arts to gain visibility and power. A look at the inequities that exist in the Rochester arts scene and how one group intends to change that.

Trump backs off proposal to cut Special Olympics funds

Thu, 03/28/2019 - 7:53pm
WASHINGTON (AP) President Donald Trump announced Thursday that he was backing off his budget request to eliminate funding for the Special Olympics, reversing course on a proposal that was unlikely to be approved by Congress after days of bipartisan criticism. Speaking to reporters as he left the White House for a rally in Michigan, Trump said he had authorized funding for the organization. "I heard about it this morning. I have overridden my people. We're funding the Special Olympics." Trump's announcement came after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos spent days defending the proposal, which drew widespread condemnation from lawmakers, as well as advocates and celebrities. The president's sudden reversal reflected a political desire to move away from a plan that was not expected to pass Congress, but also underscored Trump's comfort with undercutting top officials. Said Trump: "I've been to the Special Olympics. I think it's incredible." Walking back her defense of the proposal, DeVos

DeVos criticized over plan to cut Special Olympics funding

Wed, 03/27/2019 - 12:42pm
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is facing sharp pushback over a proposal to cut federal funding to the Special Olympics. Celebrities, politicians and activists have taken to social media to rebuke DeVos for her plan to cut funding for the group as part of $7 billion in reductions in 2020. The organization received $17.6 million from the Education Department this year, but DeVos says it should be supported through philanthropy. House Democrats grilled DeVos in a budget hearing Tuesday, with Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., calling the cut "appalling." Others calling on DeVos to rethink the decision include former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, and Julie Foudy, former captain of the U.S. women's soccer team. A department spokeswoman says DeVos supports the organization and has donated to it in the past. This story was produced by WXXI’s Inclusion Desk , focusing on disabilities and inclusion.

Task force report includes recommendations for making ride-hailing apps more accessible

Fri, 03/22/2019 - 1:29pm
A task force in New York has released a report recommending ways ride-hailing services could improve access for people with wheelchairs or other mobility devices. When legislation was authorized allowing Uber and Lyft to operate statewide, it included the Transportation Network Company (TNC) Accessibility Task Force to improve the services for people with disabilities. In their latest report , they cite incentives to include more accessible vehicles and driver education as ways to improve how the apps can serve these customers. Meghan Parker, Director of Advocacy with the New York Association on Independent Living, says a lot of their recommendations come from feedback they heard about during listening sessions late last year. "We heard from people of pretty much every kind of disability, from those who have been using the services, that they’ve just been having a lot of issues with drivers not really knowing how to handle people with various types of disabilities,” Parker said.

RIT, NTID focusing on STEM careers for the deaf and hard of hearing

Fri, 03/15/2019 - 3:35pm
Rochester Institute of Technology's National Technical Institute for the Deaf is receiving a $1.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation. It will use the grant to transform its DeafTEC Technical Education Center for deaf and hard-of-hearing students program into a resource center with a goal of placing deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in highly skilled jobs in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. The deaf and hard-of-hearing are underrepresented in those fields, according to NTID president Gerry Buckley. “All of us know that if you're in one of those STEM careers, the potential is for you to have as much as 30 to 35 percent more in earnings potential," he said. Buckley also noted that the grant will also be used to focus on veterans, who after their military service, may be dealing with hearing loss. “Through exposure to noise and environmental sounds lost a portion of their hearing, and now might have to make some adjustments in how they communicate and

How will changes to RTS affect riders with disabilities?

Wed, 03/13/2019 - 3:59pm
As the ReImagine RTS project moves forward, changing the way buses move through Rochester, different communities are worried how the changes will affect them. People with disabilities say many are concerned about fixed routes and paratransit. Fixed routes are the big buses you see out on the roads, following a single route. And under the Americans with Disabilities Act, paratransit has to exist as a supplement to this service. Within three-quarters of a mile around a fixed route, riders with disabilities can access door-to-door transportation. Rene Latorre, the director of advocacy and consumer affairs at ABVI Goodwill, said RTS proposals need to be tweaked more before they go to the final stages. She also said they are still willing to listen but also hope RTS hears their concerns. "So we all know if there’s no fixed route, then the threat would be, then there’s no paratransit,” Latorre said. “So there were lots of questions of, ‘Well, what would happen? What would happen to our

Honoring those who bring health care services to people with intellectual disabilities

Wed, 03/13/2019 - 2:55pm
The Golisano Foundation and Special Olympics on Wednesday honored seven health care organizations and professionals who are working to bring health care services to individuals with intellectual disabilities. The Golisano Global Health Leadership Award, named for philanthropist and Paychex founder Tom Golisano, was presented to the seven recipients by Golisano Foundation Executive Director Ann Costello at a ceremony in Abu Dhabi at the 2019 Special Olympics World Games. The award was established in 2016 to recognize the progress being made around the world to increase access to essential health care for people with intellectual disabilities. The awards went to: Kenya’s Lions Sight First Eye Hospital, India’s Dr. Ashok Dhoble, China’s Hua Dong Hospital, Belgian Dentists Collaboration, Paraguay’s Dr. Dorisel Ferreira, Jordan’s Professor Kamal Bani-Hani, and USA’s Dr. Peter Seidenberg, who is a family and sports medicine physician at Penn State Sports Medicine College. Costello says that

Pay hike proposed for preschool special education providers

Tue, 03/12/2019 - 6:32pm
Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo proposed an increase in pay Tuesday for special education providers who haven’t seen one in almost a decade. Dinolfo, a Republican, said the 15 percent increase is the right amount to stave off an impending shortage of speech therapists, child psychologists, counselors for parents, and other people who work in preschool special education. “The reason we’re being so proactive is we want to make sure that we don’t put ourselves, the county, our children, in a crisis situation,” Dinolfo said. But providers of those services said in some ways, the crisis has already arrived. In the Greece Central School District, Sue-Ellen Stacey chairs the committee in charge of connecting preschoolers who qualify for special education services with the people who can provide them. There’s a shortage of therapists and counselors now, Stacey said. That means on an average day, dozens of families are waiting to get help. “Every week I’m having meetings with new

Autism testing now available at Arc of Monroe

Mon, 03/11/2019 - 1:13pm
Autism testing is now available through the Arc of Monroe. The testing is required for those seeking eligibility for services through the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). Jennifer Parks is a clinical assessment specialist at the Arc and one of two staff members now available for the assessment. She said the testing helps families get started on the right foot as early as possible. "It has better outcomes for people to be able to start young and to be able to work with professionals. That can help families understand how to work best with their children," Parks said. Parks says testing is available locally but wait times are often long, so this is just another outlet. The activities used in the testing are standardized scenarios, which let children observe social behaviors and communication, in order to look for traits that are consistent with a diagnosis of autism. This includes games, puzzles and conversations. Parks says this testing is only seeking

Connections: "Spread the Word: Inclusion"

Wed, 03/06/2019 - 4:29pm
We get an update on the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign, which seeks to eliminate the use of the "r" word and end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities. The campaign has evolved to become "Spread the Word: Inclusion." Local organizers share their perspectives on the campaign's success, and discuss efforts to promote inclusion in our community. In studio: Lindsay Jewett, area director for Best Buddies Rochester Amy Cawley, sophomore at Webster Thomas High School and Best Buddies Chapter President Rebecca Ritter, Best Buddies Global Ambassador, and student at Hobart and William Smith Colleges Jaxon Smith, senior at Nazareth College and Best Buddies Chapter President This story is reported from WXXI’s Inclusion Desk .

Red Wings to celebrate Deaf Culture Day in April

Wed, 03/06/2019 - 2:49pm
The Rochester Red Wings are teaming up with Rochester Institute of Technology's National Technical Institute for the Deaf and the Rochester School for the Deaf to celebrate deaf culture in April. The Red Wings will wear specialty jerseys and caps to celebrate the day. The jerseys will feature "Red Wings" in American Sign Language across the chest, and the cap will have a hand signing an "R" on the front. Gerry Buckley, NTID president, said Rochester is one of the most accessible cities for the deaf community in the world, and he hopes celebrating that with the Red Wings becomes an annual tradition. "The Red Wings celebrating this with us is just another significant recognition of the importance of Rochester to the American and the world and the global deaf community that we’re very proud of," Buckley said. Students, faculty and staff at NTID and the School for the Deaf, as well as their families, can get $2 off tickets by using a special promo code. Buckley says interpreters will be on