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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.

Local disability rights activist Stephanie Woodward recently wrote an opinion piece for the Spina Bifida Association about why she loves her disability. Woodward was born with spina bifida and has been an outspoken advocate for disability rights and disability pride.

In her piece, she writes, "Because I love my disability identity, I have never seen my disability as a problem. And because I have never seen my disability as a problem, I have never supported curing spina bifida or even preventing it. In fact, when I hear someone say 'I think the world would be a better place if we could prevent babies from having your disability in the future,' what I hear is 'I think the world would be a better place without people like you.'"

Many people praised Woodward's comments, while others pushed back. Woodward joins us for the hour to discuss her perspective and disability pride. In studio:

This story is reported from WXXI’s Inclusion Desk

Max Schulte / WXXI News

Anthony Zastrow is a senior at Penfield High School. On Monday morning, though, he was hustling up and down a basketball court in the new Golisano Training Center at Nazareth College.

Zastrow was playing on an inclusive basketball team made up of high schoolers with and without disabilities. Still catching his breath after subbing out in the first quarter of his first game at the training center, Zastrow described his team.

Adaptive Play at The Strong Museum

Oct 21, 2019
The Strong - Museum of Play/Facebook

The non-profit group Endless Highway teamed up with The Strong National Museum of Play for its first Adaptive Day of Play for youth and families living with physical disabilities on Sunday.

The idea is to create more inclusive family experiences, and more than 90 people participated.

Endless Highway founder Bob Tortorella says that The Strong has always been a place of inclusivity for families with children with disabilities.

Max Schulte/WXXI News

The two gold medals wrapped around the neck of Amanda Vito are bouncing and clinking as she walks around the massive track at the new, 108,000-square-foot Golisano Training Center at Nazareth College.

Vito looks up at the big electronic scoreboard, and then turns her attention to a far corner of the track.

"Wow!" she said with a smile. "That's where the pole vault is."   

Amanda is a multi-sport athlete who competes in track, bowling, soccer, basketball, bocce, and swimming. But track and field is her passion.

Brett Dahlberg / WXXI News

The Eastman Institute for Oral Health at the University of Rochester has opened a new clinic designed to serve people with disabilities and complex health issues. 

Wayne Lipschitz, who recently started a new job as the clinic’s director, said typical dentists’ offices are not designed for people with disabilities, and dentists themselves often are not trained to treat them.

That results in people staying away from the dentist and postponing or avoiding an important part of their health care, Lipschitz said.

An effort to update facilities at Lifetime Assistance that are used to help people with developmental disabilities is getting a financial boost.

The Golisano Foundation is offering a $750,000  challenge grant, toward Lifetime’s capital campaign.  That means the foundation will match every dollar up to $750,000 contributed by the community.

James Branciforte is President & CEO of Lifetime Assistance. He says as the general population ages, it has also meant that Lifetime has been serving people with more serious disabilities.

specialolympics-ny.org

Special Olympics New York is preparing for its Winter Games in Rochester February 21-22, 2020. The games officially opened Wednesday, because there's a need for around 1,500 volunteers to help out.

Robyn Armando, Special Olympics New York vice president for marketing and communications, says it’s the third time Rochester will host Special Olympics.

“They're (Rochester) just completely open to embracing us, embracing our community and literally helping to do whatever needs to be done to make the games a success,” she said.

town of pittsford.org

The Town of Pittsford has expanded its ability to provide services to people who are on the autism spectrum.

A proclamation is expected to be adopted to that effect on Tuesday night.

That’s part of an established program that lets a municipality declare itself as being ‘Autism Friendly,’ and Lawana Jones, President and CEO of the Autism Council of Rochester says it includes training personnel in departments that deal with the public a lot.

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.

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