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, 2019 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 2019, 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 2020.
The ADTF campaign to move the DDSO was an access issue and a human rights issue! In order to get to the DDSO, those 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 are able to change institutions like the West Seneca Developmental Center (or the infamous Willowbrook) by integrating into the community.
The agreement to relocate services from West Seneca to a shared space in Buffalo in 2020 was 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.
The New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities is setting up a second regional office in the City of Buffalo. It is expected to be open in early 2020.
For more information, or to get involved, please contact us or our Task Force Chairwoman, Marie Malinowski, at firstname.lastname@example.org.