WXXI AM News

disabilities

We talk with Rochester City School District Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small and Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski about the latest news from the district.

Myers-Small announced Thursday that RCSD students with disabilities who are in specialized programs will have the option of returning to the classroom in-person four days a week, beginning in January.

We discuss the plan, the surveys the district and the RTA sent to teachers, students, and families to help make the decision, and what they expect in the months ahead. Our guests:

Max Schulte / WXXI News

Until recently, Sherrodney Fulmore rode a bus to get to and from his job at Wegmans.

From his home in Rochester’s 19th Ward to the Holt Road Wegmans in Webster, the trip usually took about an hour, he said.

Fulmore rode on the Regional Transit Service’s Access buses -- the smaller shuttle-size buses that offer curb-to-curb service for people with disabilities.

But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the Rochester area, Fulmore stopped riding the bus.

“We wanted to cut the chance of him getting sick,” said his father, Frank Fulmore.

As we've explored in recent conversations, the pandemic has posed unique challenges for people with disabilities. For adults and children with autism, stay-at-home orders and the closure of schools and support programs has led to isolation and gaps in social support.

This hour, our guests explore how caregivers and parents can help bridge those gaps, especially with the uncertainty over whether schools will reopen in the fall. Our guests: 

  • Jacob Collier, self advocate
  • Rachel Rosner, director of education and support services for AutismUp
  • Alison Steixner, parent and educator

This story is part of Move to Include, an initiative that uses the power of public media to inform and transform attitudes and behaviors about inclusion. Move to Include was founded by WXXI and the Golisano Foundation and expanded with a grant by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

WXXI News covers Governor Cuomo’s press briefing from Albany. Following that, we have a discussion about issues affecting people with disabilities – especially those pertaining to the pandemic. This week, the WXXI News team has presented a series of pieces about disparities and inclusion. It’s part of the Move to Include project, a partnership between WXXI and the Golisano Foundation.

This hour, our colleagues highlight different issues affecting people with disabilities in our community. Our guests:

  • Erin McCormack, executive producer for WXXI Public Media
  • James Brown, reporter for WXXI News

Philipe Rivera is sitting in his powered wheelchair on the Monroe County Department of Human Services campus.
Max Schulte / WXXI News

Philipe Rivera goes by "Flip." He's 34 years old and has cerebral palsy. He has a tattoo on his arm, uses a wheelchair, and communicates through a device called a DynaVox. 

"I also use a head pointer for my personal PC," Rivera said. "I cannot use my hands. I rely on people to help me with getting dressed, feeding, bathing, etc."

He's been at Monroe Community Hospital since he was 20. Before that, he lived with his mom who was struggling with substance abuse. She couldn't care for him, so he was placed in the nursing facility owned by Monroe County. He said it's never felt like a home. For 10 years, he's been trying to get out. 

Here's something you may not know: People with disabilities are not guaranteed the right to live in the community.

New guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend specific autism screenings during well visits when children are 18 month and 24 months of age. Experts say doctors can gauge social milestones during those visits; those milestones could provide early signs of autism.

This hour, we discuss the new guidelines, and we talk about how to support children and young adults with developmental disabilities who are now at home and unable to access programs during the pandemic. Our guests:

  • Dr. Susan Hyman, M.D., professor of pediatrics, and division chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Golisano Children's Hospital at Strong
  • Sarah Milko, executive director of AutismUp
  • Rachel Rosner, director of education and support services for AutismUp

This story is reported from WXXI’s Inclusion Desk

Acclaimed Irish tenor and Paralympian Ronan Tynan is coming to Rochester to speak and sing at two events. (Update: These events have been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.) Tynan was born with phocomelia, a lower limb disability that caused both of his legs to be underdeveloped. At the age of 20, both of Tynan’s legs were amputated after a car accident. Since that time, he has used prosthetic legs and won Paralympic medals in track and field. He’s also a physician specializing in orthopedic sports injuries and has worked in the prosthetics industry.

This hour, Tynan joins us to discuss his life and work, his career with the Irish Tenors, and more. We also talk with locals being recognized for their work promoting inclusion. Our guests:

We wrap up our annual Dialogue on Disability Week with a conversation about sports, media, and inclusion. Special Olympics New York is celebrating 50 years. We’re joined by an athlete who has been part of the program for 40 years, as well as RIT photojournalism students who have covered athletes’ stories.

We discuss how sports can help people discover new abilities and strengths, and how effective media coverage can help create a more inclusive society. In studio:

  • Patty VanSavage, athlete and member of the Great Tigers Club
  • John VanSavage, Patty’s brother and coach with the Great Tigers Club
  • Stacey Hengsterman, president and CEO of Special Olympics New York
  • Jenn Poggi, assistant professor of photojournalism at RIT
  • Josh Meltzer, assistant professor of photojournalism at RIT
  • Jackie Diller, photojournalism major at RIT
  • Ashley Crichton, advertising photography major at RIT

This story is reported from WXXI's Inclusion Desk.

As part of Dialogue on Disability Week, we continue our series of conversations about inclusion and disability rights.

This hour, we discuss the value of respite programs for caregivers and people with disabilities. Respite programs provide a variety of short-term, temporary services that allow family members to take a break from the day-to-day schedule. Research shows respite programs can improve family stability, but many people who participate in them – or would like to – say the system is difficult to navigate.

Our guests discuss their experience with respite programs, and we talk about how to make them more easily accessible for families. In studio:

  • Stephanie Woodward, disability rights advocate with DisabilityDetails.com
  • Patsy, mother of a teenager who attends Epilepsy-Pralid’s after school respite and recreational respite programs
  • Joe Abbott, vice president of operations and COO at Epilepsy-Pralid
  • Dayna Wells, community services supervisor at Epilepsy-Pralid
  • Tia Guthrie, manager of waiver services at CP Rochester

This story is reported from WXXI’s Inclusion Desk

A local sixth grader is going viral in our community. At the age of 14 months, Oscar Merulla-Bonn was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy. He's been driving a power wheelchair for years. Oscar recently gave a presentation to his school faculty about disability rights. He joins us this hour to share his research and experience, and to discuss how to create more inclusive spaces.

In studio:

  • Oscar Merulla-Bonn, sixth grader at Twelve Corners Middle School
  • Sally Bittner Bonn, Oscar's mother
  • David Merulla, Oscar's father
  • Catherine Liebel, school counselor at Twelve Corners Middle School

This story is reported from WXXI’s Inclusion Desk

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