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Inclusion Desk

The Inclusion Desk is a multi-platform reporting effort by WXXI News to inform and transform attitudes and behavior about inclusion. The Inclusion Desk grew from the Move to Include partnership between WXXI and the Golisano Foundation. 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.

A film called "The Limits of My World" tells the story of a nonverbal young man with autism as he transitions from high school to adulthood. It will be screened at The Little Theatre on Monday, November 12. 

We talk about the challenges young adults like him face, and how parents, caregivers, and community members can help ease that transition. Our panel includes experts and parents who share their personal experiences. Our guests:

  • Sarah Milko, executive director of AutismUp, and parent of a teenager with autism
  • Dr. Stephen Sulkes, M.D., professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center
  • Melissa Parrish, Golisano Autism Center Family Navigator at the Boys and Girls Club of Rochester, and parent of a teenager with autism
  • Heather Cassano, director of “The Limits of My World”

This story is reported from WXXI’s Inclusion Desk

Caitlin Whyte / WXXI News

As Artists Unlimited, a local theater group that integrates people with and without disabilities, gets ready for its latest production of the Little Mermaid, WXXI's Caitlin Whyte stopped by another rehearsal for a unique part of the play — the fly scenes. She has been following the group as they prepare for their 18th production.

When I walk into fly rehearsal, just a week before the show debuts, the crew is discussing how to rig Ariel up for her big reveal, turning from mermaid to woman, while in the air.

It takes a second, but they figure out the scene. The fly crew is a team of dads, most with kids in the play, pulling ropes and securing harnesses to make the underwater scenes more intricate and lifelike.

Center for Disability Rights

Rochester's Center for Disability Rights has started sorting through what the organization’s systems advocate Ericka Jones called a "bumpy" Election Day.

Jones spent the day tracking problems that people with disabilities encountered at polling sites. She said complaints around specially designed voting machines called “ballot-marking devices” came up often.

New York City Board of Elections

As candidates and political parties try to get out the vote on Election Day, another group is working to make sure that once people get to their polling place, they have the tools they need to cast a ballot.

Ericka Jones tracks complaints about polling places that aren’t equipped to help people with disabilities, and tries to find solutions. Jones is the systems advocate at Rochester’s Center for Disability Rights, and she called Election Day “one of the most stressful days” of her year.

Caitlin Whyte / WXXI News

A new institute at St. John Fisher College will focus on nursing that supports individuals with developmental disabilities.

Paychex founder and philanthropist Tom Golisano and the Golisano Foundation donated $5.8 million to the school to create the Golisano Institute for Developmental Disability Nursing. Tom Golisano donated $5 million and the foundation donated $800,000.

It is the first of its kind in the country, and will focus on training health care providers to support this population.

Caitlin Whyte / WXXI News

The parking lot off Hinchey Road is unassuming at dusk. I pull in and wonder if I’m in the right place. I do that thing where you follow other cars and just hope they’re going to the same location. When I drive past a glass door, pouring light into the dark parking lot, I assume this has to be the place.

Beth Adams/WXXI News

In celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, a local nonprofit is recognizing a long-time employee.

Young Kim is 37 years old. She's been working at Unistel Industries on Blossom Road in Rochester since 2002.

Unistel is a nonprofit that provides job training and placement for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Young and her colleagues work on assembly lines at the company, which is the country's number one supplier of spices for the U.S. military.

Veronica Volk / WXXI News

You may have seen pictures of two local men go viral: a barber giving a man a haircut on the sidewalk because the shop wasn’t accessible by wheelchair.

But since the story went national, it’s raised questions about how people with disabilities are covered in the media.

Devin Hamilton is 30 years old. He's an engineer working in Webster, and he has cerebral palsy. He says one day, he decided to get a haircut at Joe's Upscale Barbershop, a few blocks from where he works. But when he rode his wheelchair over there, he didn't see a ramp.

We're joined by former Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, who authored the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Research shows that among similarly sized cities, Rochester is the single worst in the country when it comes to employment and poverty for people with disabilities. 

Harkin is the keynote speaker for the upcoming ROC EmployABILITY conference, which is focused on increasing employment opportunities and reducing poverty among people with disabilities. We preview that conference. In studio:

INTELLIGENT LIVES

In Rochester, the graduation rate for students with disabilities is 22 percent* compared to 40 percent nationally.  The median individual earnings for those with disabilities is $14,450. This is $4,000 below the national median.  That means Rochester’s disabled community is the poorest in the nation when compared to the 75 largest metropolitan areas.

Despite the systemic challenges of educational segregation and stereotypes, adults with intellectual disabilities are challenging the perceptions of intelligence as they navigate high school, college, and the workforce.

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