The VOICE-Buffalo Accessibility Task Force formed in 2015 in response to the need for greater access to jobs and services for people with disabilities. Our core value is that we, the people, should have a voice in the services provided to us!
Leaders from the VOICE-Buffalo Accessibility-Disability Task Force demonstrated their strength at the October 25 Public Meeting, which was shared with BILT. Leaders, including Diane Jordan, BJ Stasio and Gwen Squire spoke to the urgency for making disability services accessible for people with disabilities. In July, the ADTF raised public attention about the inaccessibility of the state-run regional Developmental Disabilities Services Office, located in West Seneca through a dramatic “Walk and Roll”. The Public Meeting speakers directed their lenses on the governor’s office, represented by regional Deputy Director, Kevin Penberthy. In his response to ADTF co-chair Mike Rogers’s questions, Penberthy signaled agreement by the governor’s office to relocate services from West Seneca to a shared space in Buffalo in the coming year.
The ADTF campaign to move the DDSO is an access issue and a human rights issue! In order to get to the DDSO, those of us who rely on public transit have to take two buses and a shuttle that only runs twice a day. If we miss the shuttle, we must walk/roll 3 miles from the nearest bus stop down a two lane highway with inadequate sidewalks. Once we get there, the building itself is not in compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act regulations, and bringing it up to code would be costly. The regional service center for people with disabilities should be accessible to the people it is supposed to serve.
People with disabilities have a voice and are using it to change systems. When people with disabilities are included in developing solutions for the needs of people with disabilities, we will change institutions like the West Seneca Developmental Center (or the infamous Willowbrook) by integrating into the community. It is more important than ever that the voices of people with disabilities are not left out, now or in the future. Yet, the location of the regional OPWDD is a barrier to our full participation, and that is discriminatory.
The agreement to relocate services from West Seneca to a shared space in Buffalo in the coming year is a vital step in the right direction for those that are employed at and seek services from the the DDSO. ADTF leaders see this move as one powerful step in a three-part strategy that demonstrates the power of people with disabilities.
Please TAKE ACTION today! Sign our petition to tell Governor Cuomo and Acting OPWDD Commissioner Kerry Delaney to end this discrimination and move our OPWDD regional office to an accessible location in Buffalo.
For more information, or to get involved, please contact our organizer, Brian Zralek, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or our Task Force Chairwoman, Marie Malinowski, at email@example.com.