Move to Include

Racquel Stephen / WXXI News

As a line of golf carts wound their way around the Sunshine Camp in Rush on Monday, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul stopped and got out so she could take in the view from the camp's new treehouse.

"This is incredible," Hochul said after walking up a ramp and making her way to the treehouse's large deck.

She was visiting the camp for children with disabilities on the Americans with Disabilities Act's 31st anniversary.


A statewide group that provides services to people with developmental disabilities is calling on lawmakers to take action to address what they say is a severe staffing shortage and pay inequities.

“We're at a crisis point, really, we're unable to hire and retain people into these positions,” said Wendy McCarthy, executive director of the Developmental Disabilities Alliance of Western New York, or DDAWNY.

She said the developmental disabilities service system is in an emergency because of the inability to recruit and retain direct support professionals.

Emma Benz




Like so many students around the world, Owen Penniston had a tough school year during the COVID-19 pandemic.


"I felt really isolated,” the 12-year-old said.


Remote instruction just wasn't a good fit for Owen, who is on the autism spectrum.


“I don’t have my teachers here and it sometimes gets really hard to learn," he said. "Especially with the computer often giving you the answers.”


State Senate OKs bills to help people with disabilities

May 28, 2021
New York State Senate

The state Senate this week passed a package of bills to boost individuals with disabilities.

Sen. John Mannion, who chairs the Senate Disabilities Committee, introduced legislation that would create an ombudsman program within the state Office of People With Developmental Disabilities to ensure that individuals with developmental or intellectual disabilities receive coverage from managed care organizations.

He also sponsored bills that would reestablish OPWDD's care demonstration program and remove insensitive words from state law.

Heritage Christian Services

Six people, surrounded by their families, celebrated the completion of their new home on Jackson Road in Penfield on Wednesday.

The six-bedroom home, built to be fully accessible and customized to the people living there, will be staffed 24 hours a day by Heritage Christian Services, an organization that has built residential homes for people with disabilities for over three decades. The last home the organization built was in 2013.



After three decades of service, WXXI has announced that it will be ending its radio reading service, Reachout Radio, as of May 30.

Station officials said that the closed-circuit radio broadcast that provides access to daily newspapers and magazines for people who are unable to read standard print due to vision loss or physical disability, has become obsolete.

Carlene Knight would love to do things that most people take for granted, such as read books, drive a car, ride a bike, gaze at animals in a zoo and watch movies. She also longs to see expressions on people's faces.

"To be able to see my granddaughter especially — my granddaughter's face," said Knight, 54, who lives outside Portland, Ore. "It would be huge."


Laura Tobia held up a photo of her two brothers, John and Billy, during a Zoom press conference Friday.

“I want to put a face with their names because they're real people,”  Tobia said.

Both of her brothers live in a group home, and are fully vaccinated.  Billy, however,  has a severe case of cerebral palsy and cognitive impairment, along with a very complex seizure disorder. 

Tobia said, due to the state’s delay on updating group home COVID-19 guidelines, Billy still isn't able to attend his day-hab program.

GiGi's Playhouse

GiGi’s Playhouse Rochester has received a $74,000 grant from the Golisano Foundation to expand its Amina Grace speech and language program. The program helps young people and adults with Down syndrome refine their language skills by providing free one-on-one speech pathology services. 

Vice President Kim Guerrieri credits the foundation for the program’s success. She said a $50,000 grant from the Golisano Foundation helped launch the program in 2019. 

A Rochester organization that provides programs and services for individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities is raising its base wage for front-line workers.

Heritage Christian Services is raising the pay scale for those employees to $15 an hour for all positions, effective May 9. Heritage officials said that their residential staff, which is the majority of jobs at the organization, will now start at $15.75, with more money for certain shifts.

Heritage Christian said that is a 20% increase for all frontline positions since the start of the year.