WXXI AM News

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

Susan Hoffman

Lisa Hoffman lost her eyes to a rare form of cancer when she was 14 months old. That shaped her life in many ways, and for the better.

"She lived life to the fullest from the day she was born," said Susan Hoffman, Lisa's older sister. "She never let her blindness stop her at all."

It was cancer which ultimately ended Lisa's remarkable life on Monday. She was 54 years old.

WXXI-TV announced Friday that it will lead a pilot project to expand its Move to Include project to promote inclusion in five new communities across the country.

Funded by a $645,000 grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, this 16-month project will scale up the multimedia initiative, developed by WXXI and the Golisano Foundation, that combines content production, curation, and engagement to encourage dialogue about disability issues. 

A new center for people with autism and their families has opened in Rochester.

The Golisano Autism Center is a “one-stop hub” for services and support for people with autism, said Ann Costello, director of the Golisano Foundation.

We talk about adaptive sports for kids with disabilities. It's in advance of the Little League World Series Challenger Exhibition Game, which will air on WXXI-TV this weekend.

The Challenger division includes children with physical and intellectual disabilities, and we have a Challenger program here in Rochester.

We'll talk to an organizer and a player with the Webster Challenger program, and we'll talk to an organizer and camper at Camp Abilities -- a camp for kids with visual impairments. It's a conversation about inclusion and more. 

Guests are:

  • Ron Kampff, organizer of the Webster Challenger Baseball League
  • Anthony Vignare, member of the Webster Challenger Baseball Team
  • Matthew Farwell, Camp Abilities graduate assistant
  • Chris Smoker, camper at Camp Abilities   

This story was produced by WXXI’s Inclusion Desk, focusing on disabilities and inclusion.

www.wegmans.com

Wegmans is offering families who have young children with mobility restrictions a new way to help their kids shop with their parents or other adult relatives.

It’s a specially adapted shopping cart, called ‘Go to Shop,‘ that Wegmans is getting through a company called Firefly.

Linda Lovejoy is a community relations manager for Wegmans. She said this shopping cart is different from other carts that Wegmans already makes available for kids or adults with disabilities.

Noelle Evans

  

The American Council of the Blind, an advocacy group for the rights of visually impaired and blind people, elected new leadership at the organization’s 58th Annual Conference and Convention in Rochester.

Around 1,200 people attended, along with roughly 300 guide dogs at the Riverside Convention Center for the week-long event, which wrapped up Friday.

Beth Adams

Rocco Rodrigues was diagnosed with autism at age 2.  Now 9 years old, Rocco has spent the past four days at the "iCan Bike" camp at the Gordon Field House at RIT learning to ride a bike, something that AutismUp says over 80 percent of people with autism never learn to do.  

On Thursday morning, he was riding at a pretty good speed around the track with two volunteer spotters running alongside him.

"It's a little bit...I'm not gonna say scary, but startling," he said. "You want to know why? Because you feel like you're gonna fall over."

April Franklin

Nonprofit organization Rochester Accessible Adventures and charitable foundation Endless Highway are bringing wheelchair basketball to young people in Rochester.

Both organizations help provide more accessible activities for people with disabilities. The new team, called the Rochester Rockets, is the only youth wheelchair basketball team in the area, and it is bringing the game to athletes of all abilities.

Alex Crichton

The Strong Museum is partnering with several other organizations to offer working internships at the museum for 16 people on the autism spectrum.

Museum President and CEO Steve Dubnik said the program, called Strong Employment and Life Foundations, or SELF, gets to the core of the Strong’s educational mission.

“We are an educational institution, so we continue to educate these young adults … as they have gone beyond high school or into young adulthood,” Dubnik said.

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