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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.

One aspect of President Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus plan is focused on helping people with disabilities. If passed, the American Rescue Plan would end the subminimum wage for people with disabilities. The decades-old option allowed employers to pay workers with disabilities less than minimum wage; in some states, they were paid as little as $2.13 an hour. Biden’s plan would also provide stimulus payments for adults with disabilities who are considered dependents; those individuals were excluded from previous stimulus packages.

This hour, we discuss the plan with our guests, who weigh in on the impact it may have and what it may be missing. We also discuss their “to-do” list for the Biden/Harris administration when it comes to disability rights. Our guests: 

This conversation is part of Dialogue on Disability Week, a partnership between WXXI and Al Sigl Community of Agencies, in conjunction with the Herman and Margaret Schwartz Community Series.

Max Schulte/WXXI News

Sky Amish goes to school at a community classroom at the Genesee Valley Regional Market in Henrietta.

Since August, Amish, who is 18, and most of the other 100-plus students enrolled at Holy Childhood have been attending in-person classes just two days a week, many of them at the school's main campus on Groton Parkway in Henrietta.

The other three days, they were learning remotely. 

Amish is not a fan of getting virtual lessons on a laptop.

"Kinda tricky ... it's kinda crazy," he said.

Karen DeWitt/New York State Public Radio

Several state senators and Assembly members say they were surprised to learn that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration does not provide internet access to people living in state-run group homes and other congregant settings -- and they want that fixed immediately.

Zoom conference still

Over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, Tia Nelis of TASH, a national advocacy organization for disability inclusion, has been the facilitator of a weekly, sometimes international, video call among people with disabilities.

As part of this week's Dialogue on Disability, WXXI’s Noelle Evans talked to Nelis about the significance of those calls during a confusing and often fearful time. Below is a transcript of their conversation, edited for time and clarity. 

Tia Nelis, TASH self-advocate:

Joseph Fox

“I can imagine what things sound like even though I am deaf,” Robert Panara wrote in his poem, “On His Deafness.”

I can imagine the strumming of a guitar, I can imagine the rustle of a star.

On the morning of April 21, Sarah McSweeney woke up with a temperature of 103 degrees — and it kept rising. Staff at her group home worried that the woman with multiple disabilities — she couldn't walk or speak words — had contracted COVID-19. They got her into her bright pink wheelchair and hurried to the hospital, just a block down the street from the group home in Oregon City, Ore.

That afternoon, Heidi Barnett got a phone call from the doctor in the emergency room.

Accessible Adventures

The coronavirus pandemic has delayed plans for a partnership to provide recreational sports opportunities for people with disabilities in western New York.

In March, Rochester Accessible Adventures partnered with Greater Buffalo Adaptive Sports to form the Western New York Adaptive Inclusion Collaborative. The goal of the collaborative is to develop a regional adaptive and inclusive sports system.

provided by Christina Knauf and Allison Green

When most of Monroe County was designated a yellow zone on Monday over rising coronavirus cases, preschool classes for students with disabilities at CP Rochester switched to remote learning on a moment’s notice.

Allison Green’s 4-year-old daughter, Emma, was caught off guard this week when her school bus didn’t arrive.

“It led to tons of emotions this morning, lots of crying and just complete and utter meltdown over the fact of 'where's her bus?’ ” Green said Wednesday.

People living with developmental disabilities often have to overcome more challenges to cast their ballots than the average voter. As they navigate those hurdles, some Western New York advocates in the disability community are also tired of being an overlooked voting bloc.


An effort by the parents of a Gates Chili student with disabilities to allow their daughter to use a service dog has been settled eight years after that battle began.

Devyn Pereira needed the dog to help her get through the school day, but the district said her parents would need to provide a full-time dog handler.

Five years ago, the U.S. Justice Department sued on behalf of Devyn, and this week, the settlement was announced.

Devyn’s mother, Heather Burroughs, was pleased with the resolution of the long-pending case.

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