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.

It's Dialogue on Disability Week and we kick off our series of conversations on Connections with a discussion about inclusive recreation activities.

The film “Perfectly Normal for Me” tells the story of three children with disabilities as they prepare for a spring recital as part of their after school dance program. We preview the film and talk with local parents, teachers, and education coordinators about finding a balance between independence and structure for children with special needs, and what inclusion really means. In studio:

Special Olympics NY

The Special Olympics Winter Games are taking place around Rochester again this year, Friday February 22nd and Saturday the 23rd.

1,000 athletes from across state will be in the area, competing in six winter sports spread out from Swain resort to the Riverside Convention Center; with sports including Alpine and cross country skiing, figure skating and snowboarding.

Stacey Hengsterman is the President and CEO of Special Olympics New York.

Lorenzo Destefano

When Rachel Flowers was born 15 weeks premature in 1993, she weighed just one and a half pounds. She lost her vision three months later due to a condition called retinopathy of prematurity. 

But when you talk to Rachel today, there's no sense of loss, disability, or limitations. The 25-year old music prodigy's world is vast and full of potential. By the time she was 4 years old, Rachel was playing Bach fugues on the piano seemingly with little effort. 

Now, with a flourishing music career, she composes her own songs and has befriended and sometimes performs with artists who have inspired her: Arturo Sandoval, Carl Palmer and Dweezil Zappa. 

WATCH: What is inclusive yoga?

Dec 24, 2018

The spiritual practice of yoga is said to have immense health benefits. A reduction in fatigue, anxiety, and inflammation, plus an improved mood, are just a few of the many upsides. But when you see common yoga poses like downward facing dog, tree pose, and half-moon, it would appear as though the healing benefits are only available for a certain percentage of our population….specifically those without mobility disabilities. But that is not the case in Rochester. On this edition of Need to Know, the impact of adaptive yoga on area residents.

What does a truly inclusive sports program look like? We sit down with members of the Unified Sports, an initiative whose teams include players with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their peers.

We hear from a Unified Sports athlete and from program organizers about how to create more inclusive schools and communities. In studio:

  • Nathan Johnson, senior director of the Unified Sports program for Special Olympics New York
  • Kyle Washburn, director of fitness for Special Olympics International
  • Jacob Booher-Babcock, Special Olympics New York athlete and a member of the Athlete Congress (Brockport)
  • Lesli Myers, superintendent of the Brockport Central School District

This story is reported from WXXI’s Inclusion Desk

City of Rochester / Office of Innovation


People with disabilities in Rochester face poverty at a level higher than any of the other 75 largest metropolitan areas in the country, according to a report recently released by the city.

Employment rates are almost three times lower among people with disabilities than they are for nondisabled people in Rochester, the report found. People with disabilities are also overrepresented in the city’s lowest-paying industries.


A Rochester area pediatric dentist was honored in New York City on Saturday with the 2018 Golisano Health Leadership Award for New York State.

That award, given to Dr. Abrahim Caroci, is the highest regional honor for Special Olympics health partners.

Ann Costello, the Executive Director for the Golisano Foundation, presented the award at the Jacob Javitz Center to Caroci at the Special Olympics New York Floor Hockey winter Classic.

Brett Dahlberg / WXXI News


Monroe County has averted running afoul of state and federal law -- at least temporarily -- by reshuffling employees in the public health department and staving off the creation of a waiting list for early childhood intervention services.

How much do you know about dyslexia? About 40 million American children and adults are affected by the disorder, but research shows that not all pediatricians ask parents about signs of possible learning issues in their children.

On Wednesday, Starbridge is holding a free workshop for families about understanding dyslexia. It will also hold a conference on Thursday. We preview those events as we discuss what dyslexia is, misconceptions surrounding the disorder, and how schools and families can support children who are struggling with this invisible disability. In studio:

  • Courtney Hathaway, school social worker
  • Kara Olds, family education specialist at Starbridge

This story is reported from WXXI’s Inclusion Desk

Pia Stampe is unsure how long she’ll be able to stay in business.

“If we don’t get referrals, then we can’t operate,” Stampe said. “We were better paid in 1995 than we are today.”

Stampe is the owner of Step By Step Pediatric Therapy Center in Rochester. Many of her referrals come through a state program requiring that children who show signs of developmental delays are evaluated and connected with appropriate therapists. The county has 45 days to make those connections.