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Another Voice: Move office for people with disabilities to a better site

By Max Donatelli

Did you know that July 26 marks the 28th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act?

Many of us who have a disability, have a loved one with one, or who serves as an advocate have a lot to celebrate. There have been many accommodations that have been made and greater sensitivity to individuals with disabilities over these many years.

Currently, there is greater community inclusion than ever before. However, several years ago we started a task force of individuals with developmental disabilities, parents, advocates and community leaders to call attention to a major barrier standing in the way of continued progress in this area. The New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, which is charged with overseeing services, developing policies and regulating funding, maintains its services offices on the campus of the former Developmental Center.

The task force sought to challenge OPWDD on its decision to continue to operate out of this site for two major reasons. First, these offices are 3 miles from the closest public transportation stop. Therefore, access to many services, training, jobs, opportunities for policy input, etc., are out of reach for many individuals and families that rely on public transportation.

Second, they are operating out of the same site that housed individuals with developmental disabilities in an institution that was intentionally located in an out-of-sight, out-of-mind location back in the day. Fortunately, all of the former residents have been moved into the community but the stigma of this institution remains.

Kudos to OPWDD for advancing community inclusion for services, job preparation, supports, respite for families, jobs, etc.; however, access to finding out about opportunities, services, providing input and so forth is inhibited by this remote location. Our task force has continued to challenge New York State on this major impediment to community inclusion.

It’s noteworthy that the administration of OPWDD has listened to these concerns and responded with some concessions such as providing a shuttle now four times per day, to and from the Southgate Plaza, and have agreed to work toward operating a drop-in satellite in Buffalo near the Broadway Market. However, these fall short of the need for full community access.

Therefore, our task force will be sponsoring a “Walk and Roll for Inclusion” at 10:30 a.m. on July 26, starting at the Southgate Plaza and trekking the 3 miles to the Developmental Disabilities Service Office to demonstrate this onerous barrier. Come join us as we celebrate the anniversary of the ADA and call attention to one of the challenges that lies ahead. We urge the state to respond to this call to action.

Max Donatelli, of Hamburg, is a family advocate for individuals with developmental disabilities and mental health challenges. 

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