There Are None So Blind as
Those Who Will Not See

by Frank Pennisi

October 29 was the seventh anniversary of the passage of the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Among other things, this law promised that people with disabilities would, for the first time, be able to cast their ballots at their local polling places just like everyone else. HAVA requires that polling sites be accessible to people with disabilities, and that voting machines themselves be usable by people who are blind, or who have poor hand coordination or other disabilities that make it difficult or impossible for them to use the old lever machines. In New York State, however, compliance with HAVA is still more a dream than a reality.

Broome and Tioga Counties, to their great credit, have both achieved 100% polling place accessibility. This means that anyone with disability is able to enter each polling site without encountering obstacles. The situation is much different, however, in other parts of the state. A large number of polling places in other counties remain inaccessible, denying citizens with disabilities one of their most basic rights in a democracy.

New York State has long allowed county election boards to grant waivers to polling places, exempting them from providing disability access. Many of the waivered sites could easily be made accessible or moved to an accessible building in the same district. As long as a site had a waiver, however, usually nothing was done to provide access. Waivers were originally intended to buy time until a site could be modified or another accessible site located. What has ended up happening, however, is that the waivers have served as a free pass to a large number of polling places, many of which are also required to be accessible under other state and federal laws.

Since 2001, disability rights advocates statewide have been working for passage of a bill that would require all polling places in the state to be accessible, and would eliminate the waiver system. Although the bill has passed the state Assembly for the last eight years, this year was the first time it passed in the state Senate as well (A.584/S.1058). We were thrilled that we would finally have a state law allowing people with disabilities to fully exercise their right to vote.

In September we were stunned, however, when Governor Paterson, himself a person with a disability, vetoed this legislation, for a number of specious reasons. The bill called for sites to be in compliance six months after a study of all polling sites (in a county). The Governor claimed in his veto message that “the time frame that would be imposed by this bill is simply too onerous.”

The bill did call for compliance six months after a survey was conducted, but it did not give a deadline on when surveys must be done! Furthermore, a large number of polling sites have been required by federal law to provide barrier-free access since 1977! If they are still out of compliance, is it in the state’s best interest to enable them to continue ignoring the law?

Paterson went on to talk about the “financial straits in which the State and local governments presently find themselves” and that this legislation “would impose significant costs.” The state currently has millions of dollars of federal HAVA money in its coffers which is supposed to be used to modify polling sites for accessibility. Broome and Tioga both took advantage of this money to make their sites accessible; why can’t the rest of the state do the same? Another low-cost solution is to simply move to another accessible site in the district.

The Governor states in his veto message that he has “been in communication with the Mayor of New York City on this issue, and we have agreed that New York City and the State will establish a working group to ensure that full access for individuals with disabilities to New York City’s polling places will be implemented.”

This raises a multitude of questions. Why is the Governor conferring with the Mayor of New York City on a bill that would affect all of New York State? Why should the particular interests of NYC be allowed to influence statewide legislation?

Who will comprise this proposed working group—people with disabilities or expertise in accessibility from all over the state, or friends of the Governor and the Mayor from New York City? There have been a number of working groups over the past eight years and their access suggestions have been routinely ignored by the Legislature, state Board of Elections, and now the Governor. Do we really need another such group?

In 2006, STIC participated as a remote site in a “town hall meeting” when the Governor was running for Lieutenant Governor. We tape recorded the session. Below are Paterson’s exact words as transcribed from that recording:

Transcript Begins

This is the sixteenth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, something we fought for a number of years, and the framer of that Act revealed four basic understandings, all of which are being reversed by courts as we speak. It’s equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency. All are being whittled away by courts as we speak.

So it’s important, as a catalyst to our discussion, we remember the words of Senator Tom Harkin. As happy as he was that the ADA was passed, he coined a phrase: “The ADA is an unfinished agenda.” And one must look at the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which had to be extended in 1982, had to be extended again from 2007...why? Because we, as a country, are still not fully in compliance with the Act. And ADA is no exception to the long lugubrious journey it takes to try to get equal rights for so many citizens.

As long as 90% of Deaf people in this country are unemployed, 71% of blind people, 50% of the ambulatory disabled, 70% of disabled people in general unemployed in this can have an Act on a piece of paper, but it’s not trickling down to the streets, the neighborhoods all around this country. Our mission is to make the dream of the ADA come true.

Let me just say that the Attorney General hit what I think is the most offensive issue of all—the noncompliance of New York State with the Help America Vote Act, and the embarrassing way in which disabled people have been treated through the process of trying to get the most unique opportunity we have in this country—the right to vote. They’re getting it in Iraq now, but we don’t seem to be able to get it right here in New York City and the State...

[In response to a question from Chris Zachmeyer, Executive Director of the Catskill Center for Independence in Oneonta, regarding HAVA compliance and voting inaccessibility:]

What we don’t want to happen is for there to be any inaccessibility during the time an election is actually being held. By granting the waiver, the original intent of it wasn’t so bad—it’s been the application of it. The original intent was that if we granted a waiver, we’d be working around it because we know we have a problem. But what I think your question gets to, very aptly, is that granting a waiver gave the option of being responsible or irresponsible which is what too many Boards of Elections are practicing today.

Transcript Ends

On the seventh anniversary of HAVA, the law’s promise of voting nondiscrimination for people with disabilities remains just that—a promise. What will it take to make New York finally comply with the law? What will it take for the Governor to keep his promises to New Yorkers with disabilities?

Bad Weather?

If the weather is bad, call 724-2111 (voice/TTY) to make sure we’re open. The answering machine will explain why we’re closed. Listen to the entire message since we sometimes ask you to call back to check later in the day. If we’re going to be closed, the message will say so by 7:30 am. For Deaf consumers, there will be a generic TTY message saying we’re closed. This message is always the same no matter why we’re closed.
December 2009


AccessAbility is published seasonally (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter) by Southern Tier Independence Center. Letters, information, descriptions of disability experiences and ads are always welcome. Deadlines are February 15, May 15, August 15 and November 15.
Our address is:
Southern Tier Independence Center
135 East Frederick St.
Binghamton, NY 13904

Subscriptions are $10 per year (4 issues). Subscriptions are voluntary, but are greatly needed to help cover newsletter production costs. Use the form on the back to subscribe.

AccessAbility prints unclassified ads free for disabled consumers, unless they promote a for-profit business. For-profit businesses can advertise in AccessAbility, in Unclassifieds or a display ad, at our regular rates. Ask the editor for information.

Any non-copyrighted information originating in this newsletter may be reprinted without permission. If you want to reprint an article or opinion piece, please credit AccessAbility and the author.

All articles appearing in this newsletter are written by Ken Dibble except as noted.


Courts Watch

DAI v Paterson

On September 9, 2009 a federal District Court judge ruled that Governor Paterson, and New York State’s Office of Mental Health and Department of Health, are violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the US Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision, by refusing to move thousands of people out of adult “homes” and into individualized, integrated “supportive living” settings.

As we reported last spring, Disability Advocates, Inc. (DAI) initially sued the state in 2003. Despite claims by Paterson and his OMH Commissioner, Michael Hogan, that they believe in community integration for people with disabilities, they continued to fight the suit after they took office. DOH Commissioner Daines showed in a “town hall” meeting this summer that his focus is on acute care; he is unfamiliar with long-term care and disability issues. However, DOH, as the state’s Medicaid authority, has oversight responsibility for adult “homes” and was therefore included in the suit.

Although adult “homes” are very large facilities with 60 to 350 “beds”, the judge’s reasoning in declaring them to be segregated institutions was not dependent on their size. Rather, he cited the restricted character of life in them. That makes this case extremely important, not only for some 4300 people with mental health disabilities in a handful of facilities in New York City, but for all people with disabilities who live in segregated congregate settings. Consider these quotes from the judge’s decision:

“The Adult Homes and mental health programs take residents on organized trips, and the regulations require adult homes to arrange for ‘resident participation in community-based and community-sponsored activities.’ Such outings contribute little to residents’ integration into the community, however. The residents generally travel as a group, in a bus or van, and interact mainly with each other.”

“As Plaintiff’s and Defendants’ experts agree, and as Adult Home residents testified, Adult Homes limit the development of relationships with people who do not have disabilities, including social contacts. While Adult Home residents form friendships and romantic relationships with other Adult Home residents, many residents testified that they lack friends outside the Adult Home, and to the extent such friendships exist, they often predate their admission to the Adult Home.”

“Some Adult Home residents have visitors, although as noted above, Adult Homes place significant restrictions on receiving visitors, such as visiting hours and requirements that visitors sign in. For example, a former Adult Home resident testified that his stepfather visited him in the Adult Home, but that his stepfather and others visit him more frequently now that he lives in supported housing, because in the Adult Home there was nowhere to have a private conversation, the visiting areas were small, guests could not join in meals, guests had to sign in, guests were not allowed to stay overnight, and visiting hours ended at 8 pm.”

While Adult Home residents have the right to ‘leave and return to the facility and grounds at reasonable hours,’ in practice they are limited in the times that they can leave the Adult Homes, due to the rigid schedules for meals, medications, and distribution of personal needs allowances. For example, while residents are not precluded from eating outside of the Adult Home, they must be present at times when their medication is dispensed, usually at meal times and at nighttime, or they are penalized.”

“Residents spend most of their days in activities organized for them by the Adult Homes and/or mental health providers associated with the Adult Homes. Adult Homes are required to provide a program of activities in the facility as well as in the community, and DOH has cited Adult Homes for failing to provide a sufficient program of activities. Activities provided by Adult Homes include games, puzzles, and other child-appropriate leisure activities.”

These quotes, and more like them in the decision, also describe life in typical group homes operated by OMH, OMRDD, and their subcontractors.

The decision says the ADA requires states to make not just a minimal effort to place some people with disabilities in some sort of integrated setting, but to ensure that every person with a disability can receive essential services in the most integrated setting. The judge told the state to produce a plan by late October to get people out of the adult “homes” and into individualized integrated supported living situations.

This decision, if it stands, is a clear shot across the bow of supporters of segregated congregate residential programs of any size in New York and nationwide.

When the decision was announced, OMH and Governor Paterson were bombarded with messages from advocates, newspaper editorials, and letters from state legislators urging them not to appeal it.

As the state considered its options, the federal Department of Justice (DOJ) weighed in. DOJ said the decision was likely to establish important precedents for the future, and requested permission from the judge to intervene in the case and be involved in New York’s planning process.

The state requested and got an extension of the deadline for its plan. This raised expectations that NY would finally make a good-faith effort to end its institutional bias in residential services for people with disabilities. But when the plan was announced, advocates were highly critical.

Although the judge found that nearly all of the 4,300 people with mental illness living in the specific adult “homes” involved in the lawsuit are eligible for, can benefit from, and want to move to individualized supported living, the plan would only move 200 people a year over 5 years, starting next year. The plan has OMH second-guessing the judge by “evaluating” all of these people to decide who is really “eligible” and “clinically appropriate” for the move. And the entire plan is contingent on the state legislature appropriating additional funds for the project.

The state had argued that moving people from adult “homes” to supported living would be a “fundamental alteration” of its programs and services essentially because it would cost too much. However, the judge agreed with advocates that integrated individualized residential supports are cheaper than institutional settings. Furthermore, states must consider all of the financial resources available to them for providing residential services to people with disabilities, from all funding streams, and must reallocate money as needed, when making these plans. State legislatures are not at liberty to ignore these requirements or obstruct the process.

We have learned that OMH allegedly wanted a better plan but it was blocked by Paterson’s people, on grounds of cost. Obeying the judge’s decision not only will not “cost too much”, it will cost less. To achieve that, though, the state must stop propping up organizations that run segregated congregate programs even though almost nobody wants them anymore. It must create a plan with goals and timetables to transfer existing, already-appropriated funds away from those programs to providers of integrated services—and move the people along with them. The old programs cannot be “backfilled”; they must be closed, and no new segregated facilities can be built. By refusing to acknowledge these facts, and producing a plan that, after 6 years, will leave more than 75% of the affected people still in institutions, Governor Paterson is openly defying the judge’s order.

At press time the judge had not responded. Advocates assumed he would reject the plan and that state officials would then show their true anti-integration colors and appeal the decision to the federal Circuit Court of Appeals. At that point DOJ will likely step in to help argue the case.

Return of the Group Home

As we’ve reported, although Broome Developmental Services (BDS), the local division of the NY Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD), abruptly cancelled plans to build its 8-bed group “home” for minor children with autism in the Town of Union due to safety concerns at the proposed site, they did not give up on the project itself. BDS continues to insist that it will build this segregated congregate residential facility somewhere, even though it is no longer a part of the local service plan required by state “mental hygiene” law.

This fall BDS was trying to build the facility on Binghamton’s South Side. We did not learn this from a public announcement by BDS. Recognizing that the community does not want this facility for a multitude of reasons, BDS attempted to keep it a secret until it was too late to do anything about it. The project came to light when it did only because a resident of the neighborhood heard about it from the owner of the land that BDS wants to build on.

The neighbors in the Woodland Avenue area are extremely upset about this, but it’s not because they might get neighbors with disabilities. Some of them make their living by working with people with developmental or mental disabilities and they uniformly say they would love to have them in their midst. We’ve also heard remarks such as, “My sister lives right across the street from a house like that. Those kids are the best-behaved people on the street.” This is not a case of NIMBY-ism (“not in my backyard”). The residents are concerned about this project for three legitimate reasons.

First, the 8-acre wooded site is a steep hillside filled with many natural springs. The neighbors in the area all had major problems with wet basements and run-off flooding until the city spent a huge sum of money to build a large, deep drainage ditch and a catch-basin for the water on the property. This mostly, but not entirely, fixed the problem. Putting a house, driveway and parking lot on the property will change its run-off and drainage patterns and the residents will again have major flooding problems. Residents are also concerned about the safety of children living on a steep hillside with dangerously fast-moving water and a deep drainage basin. A BDS official responded by saying, “we’ll either build a fence around those areas or cover them.” A fence or cover would get clogged with debris every time water ran down the hill, exacerbating the flooding problem.

Given enough money, the property could be re-landscaped to address these problems. However, the location is still not ideal for a group of children whom, BDS insists, are supposed to have frequent interaction with the surrounding community in order to learn skills they can use to eventually live in more integrated settings. The area is not close to any bus routes, stores, or recreational facilities. There are no sidewalks on the surrounding streets, which are very steep. In icy winter weather many residents, as well as school buses, can’t drive up the street to their homes. It is unsafe for school buses to stop on the slippery street so they let kids off either at the bottom or top of the hill and they must walk home. Children with disabilities living in such an isolated and difficult-to-navigate location will not have any significant opportunities to interact with the community.

Many of the residents have lived there since the neighborhood was first developed. They were told by developers and builders that the proposed site is essentially uninhabitable at any reasonable cost. If it could have been developed it already would have been. OMRDD can certainly come up with the extra money—estimated at between $400,000 and $600,000—to handle the drainage issues. They’ve already shown their willingness to overspend on the project by offering the owner of the site more than he was asking for in order to get an option-to-buy guarantee. But why should they?

The neighbors pointed out that there is an existing house for sale in the neighborhood that is larger than the facility BDS is proposing, that could be acquired and renovated for approximately $1 million less than what BDS plans to spend. The neighbors would be happy to have the kids living there. The City of Binghamton gave BDS a list of about 100 vacant properties that would be better for this project than a steep flooded hillside in the middle of the woods, and said they would donate any of them to the state. Why won’t BDS take them up on these options?

We don’t know but there are some interesting clues. The site is similar to the original Town of Union site. Both are wooded and have steep hillsides. BDS sent one of its top officials door to door to talk to the neighbors about the project. Someone asked her this very question. She said, “I want trees. I want the kids to have a walk-out basement where they can go out among the trees.”

This seems like a frivolous reason to spend upwards of $1 million more than the project needs to cost. But it’s probably only the tip of the iceberg. Despite BDS’s claims that this facility will be “in the community”, they don’t want it to be anything of the sort. It is likely that they believe that 8 kids with autism and significant behavior issues need to be isolated in a quiet place behind a wall of woods and out of view of the community. It is also likely that the design of any existing private house will not be institutional enough to suit the “research” goals of the project.

STIC, of course, is opposed to this facility purely because it is a segregated congregate residential program. It is not the most integrated setting that would be appropriate for these children, and therefore it will violate their civil rights, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. And we agree with the Woodland Avenue residents that it is a case of overspending on a colossal scale.

BDS claims the project will create 28 jobs. This seems like a lot of people, but that number is probably exaggerated to give the impression that the project will help the local economy. 28 OMRDD employees probably will be associated with the project, but some of them will be people already working for the agency who will never, or rarely, visit the place but will have some aspect of the project added to their job duties. The rest will be aides who will be there across three shifts, 7 days a week. On any given day, during any given shift, one or more of them will be on vacation, out sick, not scheduled to work, or temporarily re-assigned to cover a staff shortage at some other facility. So the actual staff-to-client ratio isn’t nearly as generous as that number, 28, implies.

It costs OMRDD $150,000 a year to keep a person in a group home, and that doesn’t include an average additional $65,000 or so in Medicaid waiver services that the person will also get. For that kind of money, plus what BDS plans to spend to build the house, they could take four of the city’s free properties, put two kids in each with foster parents, and provide all of the support services they need—and they would have enough money left over to do the same thing for 8 more kids who are now on BDS’s alleged 20-kid waiting list. This would create twice the number of jobs. And those kids would not be crowded together in one facility where they would imitate and exacerbate each other’s problem behaviors. They would be in much more home-like environments, and the houses could be in real community locations close to opportunities to interact with the wider world.

We don’t expect BDS to buy that idea. Maybe it’s just because one of their people really believes trees and a walk-out basement are the most important aspects of the project. Maybe it’s because the only real skill that OMRDD administrators feel confident about is their ability to build and run segregated facilities, so they go with what they do best. Maybe it’s the public employee unions trying to hold on to institutional jobs. Maybe it’s purely because somebody high up in the OMRDD ivory tower in Albany got a federal grant for a pet project and nobody is willing to upset him or her by putting a stop to it. Maybe it’s a combination of all of these things. One thing we can be sure of though; whatever the reason for this project is, it isn’t rational.

What are the odds that we can stop it? Better than even, because BDS messed up. Under state law they were supposed to notify the City of Binghamton in writing of their intent to build this facility, to which the city would get 40 days to respond. BDS wrote a letter in mid-September, but for some reason they sent it to local Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo instead of to Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan. Ryan didn’t get it until November 2, well after the Woodland Ave. residents had begun to organize. Ryan argued that he had 40 days from November 2 to respond, not from the September date on the letter, and according to the regulations, he was right. The city must hold a public hearing on the zoning issue, and possibly on the drainage issue. The neighborhood residents can make a strong case at hearings that the project is foolhardy and that if they incur damage as a result of it, OMRDD and the city can be held liable. OMRDD must file an environmental impact statement, which, due to the drainage problems, is not likely to go smoothly. With a long delay, BDS will lose its option to buy the property, at which point some of the neighbors might buy it themselves.

Meanwhile, the state is in a fiscal crisis, and it is under a court order to get 4300 people with mental disabilities out of adult “homes” as soon as possible. Some state legislators must realize that we can’t afford to spend nearly $2 million initially, and $1.2 million every year thereafter, to house eight kids when we could meet the residential support needs of 2 to 4 times as many kids with similar issues, by spending the same money on integrated individual services in their own homes. As a neighborhood resident put it, “It’s really about not wasting money so we can help more kids.”

MISCC Plans to Plan

NY’s Most Integrated Setting Coordinating Council (MISCC) concluded its 7th. year of existence by finally releasing the plan that it was required by law to produce by December 31, 2003. Sort of.

The MISCC’s job is to produce a comprehensive plan to ensure that New Yorkers with disabilities can get essential services and supports in the most integrated settings appropriate to their needs. All of the state agencies that provide services to people with disabilities are involved in the planning process.

Over the years the MISCC has issued lengthy “reports” but nothing that resembled a “plan”. This year, following a much-ballyhooed “makeover” that was unveiled at the MISCC’s October meeting, things are different. For one thing, the annual document is much shorter—only 11 pages. For another, it’s actually called a “plan”. That’s about it.

No, seriously. The plan’s preface says that actual plans with timetables and action steps will be produced next year. This year’s document identifies some things that will be worked on. Some items are very specific, some very general. Most have measurable outcomes—though some of the targets are extremely modest, affecting no more than a handful of people.

The devil, as we never tire of saying, is in the details. Some of the proposed items could be good, but there just isn’t enough information to be sure. We can point out some pitfalls though.

OMRDD says that in 2011, it will “decrease the number of people with developmental disabilities living in Developmental Centers and stop the acceptance of new admissions.” However, OMRDD has redefined the term “developmental center”. It no longer refers to a brick-and-mortar institutional facility; it is now a programmatic designation. The huge congregate institutions that are still called “developmental centers” are being divided up into different programs. The number of people living in those buildings whom OMRDD considers to be in the “developmental center” program is indeed dwindling. However, the number of other people living in those buildings under designations such as “Local Intensive Treatment” (LIT) is constant or, in some locations, growing. OMRDD can achieve its goal of reducing the number of people in “developmental centers” while the count of people in its large institutional facilities increases.

OMRDD also says it will “increase the number of people with developmental disabilities who live in a home or apartment of their own.” This might only refer to the narrowly-focused “Home of Your Own” program. But if it does really mean that more people will get individualized integrated services whether or not they own their homes, then to reach that goal OMRDD only needs to put one more person into an apartment by December 31, 2011. To achieve meaningful results, OMRDD will have to massively redirect its funds. The MISCC says “specific goals, timetables, and key performance data” will be coming next year. We therefore expect to see a plan that indicates increasing specific dollar amounts and percentages of total funding that will be moved out of segregated programs and into individual integrated supports, accompanied by specific numbers of people who will be moved, with dates by which their moves will be completed, and dates for when the facilities they move out of will be closed. The numbers (both money and people) for segregated congregate programs, have to get smaller, and those for integrated individualized services have to get bigger, each year. Nah—we’re kidding. We don’t expect to see any such plan. But until we do see one, we won’t regard OMRDD’s promises in this area as credible. It’s interesting to note that the “vision” section of the Employment part of the plan calls for resources to be “redirected” as necessary to achieve the goals. There is no such commitment in the Housing section.

The plan shows that some other MISCC-member agencies still aren’t with the program. Although school-to-work transition is mentioned, as was the case last year there is no mention of VESID’s role in primary education and the impact that the continued reliance on segregated programs, and increasing incidence of physical and psychological abuse of students with disabilities, in New York’s public schools, has on the ability of adults with disabilities to successfully integrate into the community. The Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped (CBVH)’s sole contributions are a pledge to increase services in part of New York City, and to train its staff in “cultural competency”. There is no plan to stop CBVH’s positive promotion of sheltered workshops and other segregated congregate “employment” and day-activity programs. The Commission on Quality of Care and Office of Advocate for People with Disabilities (CQC) says “The vigorous advocacy activities of the Protection and Advocacy Programs in representing the interests of persons with disabilities seeking least restrictive placements pursuant to their rights under Olmstead and the ADA will continue to be supported,” even though CQC recently disavowed the actions of one of those programs when it sued OMRDD for refusing to provide information to investigators looking into allegations of abuse and neglect in two developmental centers.

DOH says it will increase the number of Nursing Facility Transition and Diversion Waiver participants who use that program’s housing subsidy. This is welcome news. Over the last two years DOH administrators have hamstrung the housing subsidy program for both the NFTD and TBI waivers, causing major delays and lower utilization; several kind-hearted landlords who held apartments open for months while waiting for subsidies finally gave up and rented to other people.

Notably absent from the plan is any mention of the dual-diagnosis problem. Two years ago the state agency commissioners flitted around the state, held hearings, and announced that they were all going to work together to ensure that just because a person has two or more disabilities that cross agency lines, they won’t be denied services by all of those agencies. Virtually nothing actually changed, and in some localities (like ours), the regional agency representatives are still at each others’ throats, but this whole issue has sunk out of sight at the MISCC.

There are several very modest proposals in the plan, the excuse being lack of funding. There is still no recognition that greater integration must be achieved by transferring existing funds from more expensive segregated congregate programs to integrated individualized ones.

Although at a MISCC meeting earlier this year MISCC Chairperson (and OMRDD Commissioner) Diana Jones-Ritter announced that the MISCC would form a committee to look into getting rid of counterproductive and conflicting regulations among the state agencies, no mention of that crucial activity appears anywhere in the plan.

Every document the MISCC has produced has indicated that various state agencies are primarily focused on pursuing their pet projects without a unified policy direction to guide them. This year’s plan format forces these projects to be described in relationship to common goals. However, there is still no unified policy, and therefore no effort to set cross-agency priorities that respond to the most urgent needs or can make the most immediate impact on people’s lives. In a truly comprehensive planning process during financial hard times, some things must be dropped and money reallocated to activities that have more direct and immediate relevance to the goal of maximizing real community integration. Also, New York has now been found guilty by a federal judge of violating Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act for failing to move over 4000 people with mental illness from segregated institutions to integrated community living in a timely manner. This should have had the effect of concentrating the minds of state bureaucrats, but that hasn’t happened.

We don’t know when in 2010 more plan details will be available. We’ll report them as we get them.

OMRDD Backpedals
on Developmental Center Closures

Soon after taking over as Commissioner of NY’s Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD), Diana Jones-Ritter announced that she planned to close all of the state’s developmental centers over several years. Initially, the Western New York Developmental Center was slated for closure. As we reported last time, Broome Developmental Services (BDS) Director Carl Letson told service providers in August that plans were under way to close Broome Developmental Center in about two years.

But then it became apparent once again that OMRDD speaks a different language than most of us.

We’ve seen this before. Most people define “community-based” as being a full-fledged member of the community at large. OMRDD, though, defines “community-based” as “anything that doesn’t happen inside the walls of a developmental center”, even if the people affected have few or no meaningful relationships, interactions, or interdependency with nondisabled people in the community who are not paid to serve them.

This time the problem is with the definition of the term “developmental center”. Sometime over the past few years, in the minds of OMRDD officials, “developmental center” stopped meaning “a big building where hundreds of people live and spend most of their time”. Instead, it now refers to a specific program. There’s still a big building up on the hill, but only some of the people who live inside it are actually in a “developmental center”. Other people who live in that building are in some other place, apparently. Letson didn’t really mean they were going to close the entire building, only the part that is the “developmental center”—or something. Other people who are locked up in there will continue to stay there for an indefinite period. We know, it’s very confusing. At any rate, Ritter apparently didn’t mean it when she said she was going to eventually close all of these facilities.

Nonetheless, in 2007 OMRDD did order all developmental centers (whatever those are) to have a locally-defined process to ensure that the people living in them have pro-active plans in place to move into the community. After about a year of repeated requests to see BDS’s plan, shortly after our last issue went to press we received a copy. As we suspected, the plan envisions only one route for people leaving the developmental center—group homes. The plan is not extremely detailed. It basically says that if anyone wants to leave the developmental center, BDS will first check for vacancies in existing group homes. If there are none, efforts will be made to develop new ones.

Ever since the Pataki Administration created the NYS CARES program to expand residential services for people with developmental disabilities, OMRDD has said people have a choice about whether to get those services in group homes or individualized integrated settings. That choice was indeed offered in some areas of the state, and there hasn’t been a new group home built in those areas for upwards of a decade. There isn’t anything special about people around here that makes them want group homes more than people in Syracuse, Utica, or the Hudson Valley. BDS never embraced or promoted individualized integrated supports, and while they claim they offer the choice, we have seen that they also tell families that such services aren’t reliable, and the only way to really protect their relatives is to put them in group homes. In other words, they use scare tactics.

OMRDD’s 2007 order requires developmental centers to train inmates who are deemed “not ready” to leave so they will become ready. BDS claims they do so but we have directly observed that they do not. Most BDS inmates spend their days in pointless repetitive “pre-vocational” activities like sorting colored golf tees, along with non-age-appropriate “recreational” activities like coloring pictures with crayons. They don’t get much exposure to real-life community activities or regular, effective training in things like how to manage money, shop, or use public transportation. If they object to the activities or surroundings, they get labeled with “behavior problems”, and what little freedoms and access to people in the outside world they have are restricted as punishment. When they ask to leave, or their families advocate for them to move out, they are told they “aren’t ready”.

Broome Developmental Center is not a pleasant place to live. Some people are in there on a “voluntary” basis, and they can leave with 72 hours’ notice. They have a legal right to be told this, and when they are, some of them give notice immediately. The staff tell them, “You’re not ready, but if you stay we’ll help you get ready, and after some months or years, you can go to a group home.” If the person agrees to this, the BDS process to find a vacancy in an existing facility or build a new one kicks in. Meanwhile the person continues their pointless golf-tee sorting and picture-coloring. If the person doesn’t agree to this process, BDS might rent a room for them in an SRO, but they don’t arrange any ongoing support at all. If the person’s advocate convinces them to wait a few weeks and then pleads with BDS to arrange more comprehensive supports, the staff stonewall the advocate and use the extra time to try to get the person to change their mind. Not everybody at BDS behaves that way; but those who try to do the right thing are overridden.

When a person who has spent their entire life in institutions without receiving serious training for community life gets out into the world, and there’s no ongoing advice and assistance, they can make mistakes. When that happens, BDS accuses them, and the people who advocate for them, of “failure”. In fact, these situations are entirely due to BDS’s failure to take real community integration, and their legal responsibility to assist people to achieve it, seriously. If BDS regarded individualized integrated supports as the norm and segregated congregate facilities the rare exception, things would go a lot differently for these folks.Other DDSOs in New York went that way long ago. BDS has no one but themselves to blame for not doing the same thing.

Once again at OMRDD, reality belies rhetoric. Nobody in the disability rights community is particularly surprised. Instead, they are continuing to organize and pursue enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which will eventually get these institutions closed regardless of what language OMRDD officials speak or whom they try to blame for their failures.

NYS State Budget:
What Price Demagoguery?

The estimated current-fiscal-year state budget deficit at press time was $3.2 billion, though some state Senate leaders were disputing this number. Governor Paterson claimed the state would actually run out of money in December if a deficit-reduction bill wasn’t passed. But his proposed cuts to projected spending couldn’t take effect in time refill empty coffers, so that claim could not be true.

However, NYS government depends heavily on Wall Street and associated tax revenues, and Wall Street, though doing better, is still not producing anything like the kind of income it used to. So it is quite credible that we have a deficit in the current year, and will face a bigger one next year. It’s certain that we will have a whopping one the year after that if the federal “stimulus” money goes away as planned, so we do have a problem here.

That means that some things are going to be cut, and/or somebody’s taxes are going to be raised. As we went to press Paterson, Assembly Speaker Silver, and Senate Majority Leader Espada were negotiating, and each of them had a different take on how thing were going.

As usual, Paterson started the war by targeting Medicaid long-term care and other services to the tune of $1 billion or so. The dirty truth is that, under federal law, states have to ensure that nursing home services are available, but all forms of ongoing home care are optional. Nursing homes can’t stay open if their funding goes below a minimum level. Homecare agencies have no physical overhead beyond the offices where they process the money and paperwork, so their existence isn’t threatened if the number of people they serve gets cut. Even if it was, states wouldn’t be violating the law by letting them die. Therefore it’s easier to cut homecare than it is to cut nursing homes. Until the federal government reverses the institutional bias and makes homecare mandatory and nursing homes optional, governors will hit homecare harder every time they need to cut spending.

However, after advocates showed that Paterson’s proposed homecare cuts would cause the state to lose more of its federal share of Medicaid funds than the cuts would save, he said he was willing to drop at least some of those cuts.

But as things got uglier in Albany, Paterson started echoing minority Republicans who said that homecare is “free maid service” and that it and all other optional Medicaid services should be dropped. This deeply offended advocates, who know that bathing, toileting, cooking, and cleaning assistance for people who can’t do those things themselves is hardly “maid service”. He also resurrected his plan to cut state supplemental SSI payments to very low-income people with disabilities—a measure that won’t save a lot of money but makes advocates furious. All of this was nothing more than demagoguery and brinksmanship—an attempt by Paterson to intimidate the Assembly and Senate leaders with his rugged John-Wayne-like toughness. Even the most-right wing Republican in New York knows it would be political as well as financial suicide to carry out threats to end all optional Medicaid State Plan services. They are “optional” in a regulatory sense, but eliminating them would force tens of thousands of people into nursing facilities and other institutions, thereby boosting Medicaid spending for those people by 300% to 500%. Republicans never made proposals like that when they controlled the Senate or the governor’s office, and they won’t if they ever get those positions back, and they know it.

Paterson also had already achieved some cuts on his own by mandating further spending freezes and across-the-board reductions in some state agencies. Some advocates were upset about the effects this would have on OMRDD. It’s safe to say that it won’t have the effect of forcing OMRDD to save serious money by shifting resources from segregated congregate facilities to integrated individualized services in a massive way, more’s the pity.

At press time many of the worst of Paterson’s proposed Medicaid cuts, both real and feigned, were reported to be “off the table”. Overall, the situation was too unsettled and fast-moving to make it worthwhile to report more detail here. We’ll let you know what happened when it’s time to pick up the pieces.

First Choice Better than Worst Choice

Disability advocates have not made much progress over the past year in getting federal health care reformers interested in long-term care issues or the need to put an end to institutional bias. As we’ve reported, President Obama, who campaigned in the disability community on his support of the Community Choice Act (CCA), suddenly dropped that support as the health care debate heated up, and Congressional leaders told disability advocates that this was not the time to address their issues.

The CCA would require every person seeking long-term care services who is eligible to receive them in a nursing facility, Intermediate Care Facility, or mental hospital to be offered the option of getting them in his/her own home and places in the community instead. The bill is the successor to bills promoted by disability rights activists since the mid-1990s.

Advocates were very angry about this turn of events, but even though a couple hundred of them were arrested in protests in Washington, the Obama Administration and its allies in Congress wouldn’t budge.

So they were pleasantly surprised when New York Senator Charles Schumer (D) succeeded in getting an amendment added to the health care reform bill being promoted by Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) that would create the “Community First Choice” program.

At press time we hadn’t seen actual bill language on this. However, the Finance Committee’s “mark-up” memo indicated that Community First Choice (CFC) would be a Medicaid State Plan option for states. It would let states establish a “broadly-defined” “community based attendant supports and services” program for people with disabilities who are eligible for Medicaid and an “institutional level of care”. States that opt into the program would get an additional 6 points tacked onto the federal share of Medicaid funding for the program, which would “sunset” after 5 years.

Many disability activists are excited about this amendment. We must point out, however, that states have been able to add home and community based supports and services for people with disabilities to their Medicaid State Plans since 2005. As far as we know, no state has chosen to do so. The increased federal match in the CFC amendment may create an incentive for some states to take the leap, but NY is not likely to be one of them. The Paterson Administration briefly engaged in demagogic threats to terminate the optional Medicaid Personal Care program this fall (see NYS Budget: What Price Demagoguery?). Paterson and his disability agency heads have refused to acknowledge that integrated individual community-based services are cheaper than institutions, and due to pressure from state employee unions and lobbyists for segregated facility operators, are not likely to do anything that would make it easier for people with disabilities to get those services. Paterson’s DOH, meanwhile, is continuing to mismanage the two Medicaid Home and Community Based Services waiver programs it administers, which provide the same kinds of services that CFC would offer, and after two years of fiddling still has not gotten its “Money Follows the Person” demonstration program off the ground. And whatever shape federal health care reform finally takes, it appears that it will require states to increase their own spending to cover uninsured people, leaving less money available to provide new services to people with disabilities.

CFC is a very far cry from CCA. CCA is a mandatory program that states could not opt out of or obstruct. It would have the practical effect of forcing states to reallocate money from segregated congregate programs to integrated individualized services. CFC is not an adequate substitute for this at all. But it is probably the best we can get at this stage.

While the struggle over long-term care reform was going on, we heard that in the Baucus bill, some special Medicaid “income disregards” would be phased out. The Medicaid Buy-In depends on those disregards. None of the reform bills would change the fact that the only way to get ongoing personal assistance services and some types of assistive technology is through Medicaid. That makes the Buy-In, which lets working people with disabilities pay sliding scale fees to keep their Medicaid coverage if their income exceeds the eligibility limits, an essential tool to enable people with significant disabilities to have good-paying jobs and contribute to the economy. This issue would also affect people who are dually-eligible for Medicaid and Medicare, forcing some of them to lose Medicaid subsidies for their Medicare Part-D prescription plans.

At press time the Senate had combined its three different health care bills into one and had beaten back a filibuster to allow floor debate to begin. We didn’t know if CFC was in that bill, though it seemed likely. We had no information on whether the income-disregard phase-out is included. Senate Republicans were promising to try to block every step of the bill’s progress, and some Democrats were opposing some of its provisions. Meanwhile the House of Representatives had passed its health care reform bill without CFC, but later passed a “sense of Congress” resolution calling for CFC to be included in the final bill negotiated by a joint House-Senate conference committee.

We Shall Not Be Moved

by Sue Ruff

“We shall, we shall, we shall not be moved,
We shall, we shall, we shall not be moved.
Just like a tree standing by the water,
We shall not be moved”

Pete Seeger, Johnny Cash, and Elvis all sang it. So, it seems, do the legislators in Madison County. On September 23, 2009, a group of thirty people (and a service dog) from Madison, Onondaga, and Broome Counties met at the bottom of the sixteen steps leading to the door of the last inaccessible county courthouse in New York State, to add another verse to that song:

“We’re fighting for our access, we shall not be moved,
We’re fighting for our access, we shall not be moved,
Just like a tree standing by the water,
We shall not be moved!”

Madison County judges Biagio DiStefano and Dennis McDermott, along with State Court of Claims Judge Don Cerio, came out to talk with the demonstrators to tell us they would move their Centennial Celebrations that day from the second floor of the courthouse to the steps above us. The judges told the demonstrators they’d like to make their courthouse accessible, but it was such an old building and architects couldn’t figure it out and it would cost so much money, etc., etc. Two newer buildings connect into the old courthouse, but their connections lead into stairwells. By the way, the basement of the Madison County Courthouse has beautiful, accessible bathrooms, but one can only get to them if you can walk down and up stairs. One of the demonstrators said the bathroom renovations cost about $20,000. An article by Alana Potrikis in a Syracuse paper said, “Madison County officials spent $120,000 making sure the outside of the courthouse in Wampsville would be ready for this week’s centennial anniversary.” They fixed the statue of Lady Justice atop the newly gold-painted dome of the building and repaired three broken clocks in the rotunda as part of the work to get the building ready for its 100th. year party. One of the demonstrator’s signs depicted the Lady Justice statue with crutches.

Madison County Clerk, Ken Kunkel, who spoke at the Centennial Celebration, was quoted in another local paper the next day: “A courthouse is more than just bricks, mortar, lumber and glass. It is a place where every citizen, whatever his or her station in life, can come and expect to find justice. As such, a courthouse should project an atmosphere of dignity and decorum that befits its high purpose.” One wonders if the “justice” he was talking about includes compliance with the 1973 Rehabilitation Act and the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act; or perhaps he was just referring to the statue on top of the dome.

John Voninski, a lawyer and a former aide to state Supreme Court Justice James Tormey, has been trying, for years, to convince the Madison County Board of Supervisors that they have to fix this courthouse. He now represents Vincent Rogowski of Verona and Paul Brown of Chittenango in a lawsuit against Madison County. If a person uses a wheelchair and has to go to court, the proceedings are usually moved to the Board of Supervisor’s room (in a newer and accessible building next door). However, potential jurors who use wheelchairs are “excused” from jury duty, whether they want to be or not. Want to do family research at the clerk’s office? Can you crawl up steps? Potrikas’ article stated, “. the law also requires local officials to follow accessibility standards when renovating facilities or building new ones. In his lawsuit, Voninski estimates that the county has spent more than $600,000 in the past four years to renovate the building without addressing accessibility.”

Access experts from STIC participated in the demonstration. Upon examining the building, they pointed out areas where a ramp or exterior elevator could have been installed.

Again, from Potrikas’ article, “Oneida resident Phil Hubbard said he never understood the difficulties faced by the disabled community until his daughter Jamie was in a car accident in January 2008. The 25-year-old spent four months in a coma and eight months in a rehabilitation center for traumatic brain injuries. Earlier this summer, the Hubbards were in Wampsville to appear before a judge and couldn’t get into the courthouse with Jamie’s wheelchair. Phil Hubbard said he’s experienced the same frustration at restaurants, stores and even doctors’ offices. ‘Until you’re in that situation, you don’t realize what it’s like,’ Hubbard said.”

Tioga County fixed their courthouse. It’s thirty years older than the Madison County Courthouse. A very lovely addition outside the west wall, a lift, and an elevator made it accessible. The Tioga County Courthouse is on the National Register of Historic Buildings. They did not change the historic entrances and were fortunate to find an area inside that would accommodate an elevator shaft. An architectural firm from Rochester (LaBella Associates) worked with Tioga County on the modifications.

The Broome County Courthouse was built in 1898. Broome’s Deputy Court Clerk said it has been accessible as long as she can remember.

HIV and Medicaid Managed Care

by Rebecca Antar Novick, Staff Attorney, Legal Aid Society

We have learned that a new mandatory enrollment letter for Medicaid managed care is causing confusion for people living with HIV and AIDS. This letter states that Medicaid managed care is now mandatory for most individuals and does not mention the HIV exemption. The letter also refers specifically to the option for people living with HIV/AIDS to either join a “special needs plan” (SNP) or a regular managed care plan. Since the letter refers to people living with HIV/AIDS and does not mention the exemption, some HIV+ individuals receiving the letter have been understandably confused and believe they no longer are eligible for an exemption.

I want to clarify that as of now, HIV+ individuals are still exempt from Medicaid managed care. If an individual is HIV+ and received a mandatory enrollment notice, and does not want to enroll in a managed care plan, that person can call NY Medicaid CHOICE at (800) 505-5678 and request an exemption form.


Bridges to Health

by Jennifer Watson

We are pleased to announce that STIC has recently become a provider under the Bridges to Health Waiver for children with disabilities receiving foster care.

The Bridges to Health (B2H) Waiver was designed to serve Medicaid-eligible children with serious emotional disturbances, developmental disabilities, and/or medical fragility, as well as their families and foster care providers. The B2H Waiver program recognizes that children in foster care can have many caregivers involved in their lives, all of whom can receive services simultaneously when appropriate, including foster parents, biological parents, and pre-adoptive parents.

In the B2H program, children are served in the least restrictive, most home-like setting possible. These services can be provided in the community or in any residence of 12 beds or less.

B2H Waiver services are available to children from birth to age 21. A child’s local Department of Social Services must make a formal referral for B2H Waiver enrollment. Children may enter the B2H Waiver program only while in foster care or Division of Juvenile Justice and Opportunities for Youth community services supervision. However, once in the waiver, the participant can generally retain the services until age 21, as long as they continue to meet waiver eligibility. The services can follow the participant home, into adoption, to lower levels of foster care and to adulthood in order to enhance the opportunities for successful reunifications and placements.

Several services are provided under the B2H Waiver including support services, accessibility modifications and crisis intervention services. The same services are available to all enrolled children, regardless of the qualifying disability, creating new opportunities for serving children with cross-system needs.

STIC has been approved to provide the following services under the B2H Waiver:

Family/Caregiver Supports and Services

Family/caregiver supports and services enhance a child’s ability to function as part of a family/caregiver unit and interact and engage in appropriate developmental or community activities, as well as educate and train the caregiver on resource availability.

Skill Building

Skill building services support, guide, mentor, coach and/or train the child and/or caregiver in successful functioning in the home and community.

Day Habilitation

Day habilitation services assist individuals with developmental disabilities with the self-help, socialization, and adaptive skills necessary for successful functioning in the home and community when other types of skill-building services are not appropriate.

Special Needs Community Advocacy and Support

Special needs community advocacy and support assists the child, caregiver, and community/school staff to understand and address the child’s needs related to their disability(ies) to minimize interruption in education. Special needs community advocacy and support also provide family, caregivers, and community/school personnel with techniques and information so that they can better respond to the needs of the child.

Supported Employment

Supported employment services are individually designed to prepare children age 14 or older to engage in paid work. Supported employment services can include supervision and training, intensive ongoing support, and working with employers regarding the child’s disability(ies) and needs related to health care.

Prevocational Services

Prevocational services are individually designed to prepare a youth aged 14 or older to engage in paid work. Services are not job-specific but are geared toward facilitating success in any work environment for children whose disabilities do not permit them access to other prevocational services.

Adaptive and Assistive Equipment

This service provides technological aids and devices that can be added to the home, vehicle, or other waiver-eligible residence of the enrolled child to enable him/her to accomplish daily living tasks that are necessary to support the health, welfare, and safety of the child.

Accessibility Modifications

The accessibility modifications service provides internal and external physical adaptations to the home or other waiver-eligible residences of the enrolled child that are necessary to support the health, welfare, and safety of the child.

Some of the above information was taken from the New York State Office of Children and Family Services website:

Please contact Jennifer Watson at STIC if you would like further information about the Bridges to Health Waiver at (607) 724-2111 (voice/TTY).

Make Staying Fit a Necessity!

by Marina Gonik

I believe that exercise classes and nutrition classes should be accessible for everyone regardless of race, income, ethnicity and disability. The fact that gyms with group workout classes are still not accessible for everyone is ridiculous!

In this upcoming year, I hope to change all of that as the new Health and Wellness Access Associate. I was hired by AmeriCorps with others as part of a Health Initiative aimed at fighting obesity in the US. Obesity is one of the leading causes of heart disease and as we all know, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US.

I will research current exercise classes at gyms in the area that are accessible for everyone. I will also research nutrition classes in Broome County and investigate their accessibility. If I do not find such classes, then I will organize as well as create fitness/exercise and nutrition classes that everyone can attend. Once I find teachers/trainers willing to lead these classes, I will market them to the people who receive services from STIC and anyone else who would be interested in attending. I will also evaluate the impact that these classes might have on the diet and health of the person.

Thanks to Cornell Cooperative Extension, I was able to find a nutritionist right away who is willing to teach a course from five to six weeks, right here at STIC, that would be open for everyone. Hopefully, I will be able to get some consumers from STIC interested in this class because I believe it would greatly benefit them.

Unfortunately it has been very difficult to find a fitness trainer who is willing to lead a group exercise class that is accessible for everyone. Many gyms that I have contacted have exercise classes that only nondisabled individuals can participate in. These gyms are not willing to change their classes unless they receive financial incentives. Currently I am in contact with several gyms that would be willing to help me find fitness trainers who could lead group exercise classes at STIC that would be accessible for everyone. I hope that these classes will improve the diet and health of people with disabilities by motivating them to make the changes necessary in their habits in order to be fit and strong.

New Faces

Marina Gonik

Hi! I am the new Health and Wellness Access Associate. I recently graduated from Binghamton University with a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics and Law. I grew up in Brooklyn, NY and am originally from Russia. I studied abroad in Spain and know conversational Spanish. I also am fluent in Russian. I have had previous experience working with/for a not-for-profit organization. During my junior and senior years of college, I had an internship with NYPIRG and was a member of their Board of Directors for a year. My position as a NYPIRG project leader for higher education taught me a lot. I advocated with the state Senate for an increase in financial aid and a decrease in textbook prices for students. While I was advocating for financial aid, I was also recruiting more student volunteers for my project, leading lobbying workshops and organizing a music concert in order to collect canned food for the homeless in Binghamton. Working for NYPIRG was a great learning experience. I joined STIC through AmeriCorps and am very excited to work with all of you! I believe that all exercise/nutrition classes should be accessible for everyone and I hope that I can contribute to the attainment of this goal this upcoming year.

Jamie Haywood

Hello everyone. I’m the new Administrative Assistant with the Syracuse NHTD RRDC. I am happy to find myself working alongside so many bright and talented people.
I am originally from the area and have just returned following 16 years as a resident of the great state of Texas. While in Texas I was employed doing administrative work for the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
My time is spent with my two beautiful daughters, Mykaela and Bailee. I also enjoy being outdoors and like to spend time boating, fishing and camping. I have enjoyed my time here at STIC thus far and hope that there is much more to come.

Dacia Legge

I am one of the new service coordinators here at STIC. As a former high school teacher, I am eager to bring some experience with the public school setting and have worked frequently with IEPs and CSE meetings. I have worked in the past as a teacher’s aide for autistic children at the Anderson School in Staatsburg, NY and as a direct care worker with Ulster County ARC.
I am both honored and excited to work in an advocacy role as an MSC. I have a BS in education and am slowly completing my masters in business administration. I am the mother of three children (two who are in college) and currently am the proprietor of a small, local dayspa, Zen Garden Healing Arts. I am also interested in researching and implementing ways of bringing alternative health care, and a directory of providers, to the people we advocate for. Some things I like to do when I have a few moments of free time are kayaking, camping, giving massages, drumming (African djembe), yoga and traveling across the country to visit national parks.

John Roy

I’m a new Regional Resource Development Specialist with the TBI Waiver RRDC, hired in August of this year. Before this I had been employed as a Service Coordinator in the TBI Waiver for approximately the past 5-6 years.
I earned my AAS in Criminal Justice in 1992 and my BS in Criminal Justice Administration in August of 2008. I currently reside in Elmira, NY with my wife, 14-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son. My wife is currently working in the TBI Waiver as well as an HCSS.

VESID Holds Meetings

VESID and the State Rehab Council are developing the State Plan for Vocational Rehabilitation and Supported Employment Services for 2010-11. Three public hearings are being held to gather recommendations from people with disabilities, families, advocates and services providers on how VESID can improve services. The current State Plan is at:

VESID is cutting back on supported employment and has very long waiting lists, so your input is extremely important.

Hearing Schedule
January 13, 2010, 2:00 to 4:00 pm
Albany Public Library Main Branch
161 Washington Ave., Albany, NY 12205
New York City
January 27, 2010, 2:00 to 4:00 pm
Hunter College
695 Park Ave. Rm. E1203, NY, NY 10065
February 26, 2010, 10:00 am to 12:00 pm
Parent Network of Western New York
1000 Main St., Buffalo, NY 14202
Written comments can be submitted to:
VR Policy and Partnerships Unit
Room 1603 (OCP)
NYS Education Department
Albany, NY 12234
or to:
The public comment period is January 13, 2010 through March 1, 2010.

STIC’s Office Will Be CLOSED

December 24, 2009
January 3, 2010

Only the office will be closed. Ongoing scheduled services such as Consumer Directed Personal Assistance, Day Habilitation, Supported Employment Job Coaching, Sign Language Interpreters, and others, will continue to be provided as scheduled.

We’ll see you back here on January 4, 2010.

Happy Holidays!

Keep it Rolling!

STIC’s 19th. Annual Campaign letters began reaching you this fall.

We know that times are hard and that the holidays can be expensive. We’d just like to remind you, if you received a letter and haven’t responded yet, to put a little something in the return envelope we provided, along with the donation form, and send it along if you can. STIC has had budget cuts and is facing more soon. We’re all in the same boat here, and every little bit counts.

Despite the recession, we have a long list of people to thank for digging deep and being generous to STIC. If you’d like to see your name here, please let us know when you send your contribution.

Dee & Ed Arnold
Friends of Lou Augostini
Joseph Betkavsky
in memory of Janet Betkavsky
Bob & Mary Beth Bidlack
in name of Bidlack family and Christine Delany
Lillian Boesch
Douglas & Agnes Boughton
Diane Button
in memory of Dale Button
Walter Courtenay
in memory of Martha Courtenay
Dee Davis
in memory of Dr. Fred Arnold
Gerald L. Day
Jay & Ellen Decatur
in memory of Ken and Bernice Elander
Bernard and Doris DeHaas
Ken & Maria Dibble
Heather Dunbar
Elinor Esserman
Linda Giese
Dave & Debbie Gouldin
Steven & Sharon Hermanovitch
Kathleen Hutcheson
Joyce Hyde
Suzanne Legge
Maria M. Lenga
in memory of Bill Lenga
Sam J. Liberto, Jr.
in memory of Saverio Liberto
Joseph Lomonaco
Robert & Dorothy Martens
Dennis Martino
in memory of Maria Martino
Rita Mattucci
in name of John
Joyce McLarney-Bradley
in memory of Charles Bradley
Walter & Valerie McWain
Juanita Mendez
in name of Jo Anne Novicky
Lori Morton
Sara Murray
in name of Eric Vhugan
Ann Noble
Marjorie Norcross
Jo Anne Novicky
in memory of Nick Ross
James and Barbara O’Donnell
in name of Joshua Hyde
Lois O’Halloran
Mark & Sue Odell
Robin Oggins
Janet Ottman
Beverly Rainforth
Donald Rauschmeier Sr.
Robert L. Reid
Jeff Rogers
Patricia J. Rotundo
Ruff Family
in memory of Jesse Ruff
Matthew & Mary Ellen Salanger
Matthew Schadt
in memory of Dick Schadt
Andy Sedor
Robert & Lynne Shutt
Ray & Bonnie Slocum
in memory of Inez Mittan
Diane Stento
in name of Danielle Stento
David & Marci Tripicco
in memory of Sheila Evans
Marilyn & Lee Wilhelm
in name of Laura Wilhelm
Gabby Xlander
Victoria Xlander
Linda Yahner
in memory of Thomas Yahner

New Year’s Resolutions
for Your Computer

by Ken the Computer Dude

Although most of you know me only as the editor of this newsletter, most of my time at STIC actually involves maintaining and programming computers, and training people on how to use them.

As the old year winds down, it’s time for us to foreswear bad computer habits and resolve to do better for the new year. Here are some resolutions you can adopt to help keep your computer, and the computers of the people you communicate with, safer, and to make your communications more accessible to people with disabilities.

1. I promise to stop using PDF files.

PDF files, though universal, are not universally accessible. Unless you know what you’re doing when you create them, the resulting file cannot be read by people with visual disabilities who use screen-reading software. Also, unless you know what you’re doing, when you create a PDF file from, say, a Word document, you are likely to inflate the size of the file anywhere from 2 to 10 times. When you send that file out in email, people will say nasty things about you as the file takes ten minutes to download. (That goes for photos too; the typical digital camera produces image files that are 1 megabyte or more in size. Learn to use photo editing software to get those file sizes down to a tenth of a megabyte or so before you email them.) Remember, not everybody has super-fast cable internet service.

2. I will learn how to use the “Save as Type" feature in my word processing program.

Most of you probably use some version of Microsoft Office, which includes the Word program. With Office 2007, Microsoft changed the default formats for office documents. The old formats were: .doc (Word); .xls (Excel), .ppt (PowerPoint). The new formats are .docx, .xlsx, .pptx. (If you don’t see the dot and letters after it in your file names, you need to turn on the “Details” option in your file browser, either Windows Explorer or “My Computer”.) The new format won’t work with older versions of Office, which is what most people still use, especially low-income people and small not-for-profit agencies.

If you have Office 2007, don’t just hit “OK” after you choose the “Save” menu option when creating a document. Use the “Save as Type” drop-down window to make sure you’re using an earlier Word or Excel format.

And while you’re doing this, consider using the open-source .rtf option for saving documents. RTF preserves nearly all kinds of document formatting and it can handle pictures and tables too. Just about any word processing program can open RTF files, and it’s the most accessible way to create formatted documents.

3. I resolve to install and maintain anti-virus software on my computer.

Viruses, trojans, worms, spyware, and other garbage programs are everywhere. They can get installed when you visit an infected website or open an infected email attachment. Is your new computer running really slowly? Chances are, it’s infected.

You don’t have to spend money to have good virus protection. Visit to download the free AVG anti-virus program, or go to to get the free Avast! software. Make sure the program is set to download updates daily after you install it.

Once you’ve installed such a program, KNOW what it’s called. That way you won’t be fooled if some malware purporting to be your anti-virus software pops up a message saying you’re infected. There is no such thing as a legitimate program that you didn’t knowingly and deliberately install.

4. I will stop clicking through error messages without reading them.

Yes, lots of little messages pop up that we don’t understand, and they’re annoying, and it’s faster just to click “OK” on whatever it is. However, many of them contain important information, and some of them are really attempts to get you to allow viruses to install themselves on your computer.

5. I promise to create a restricted user account on my computer and use it all the time except when I need to install something.

If you run as a restricted user, most anti-virus software can’t install itself on your computer. The inconvenience of having to create a new account and switch accounts when you need to install something is much less than the pain you’ll suffer if your machine gets infested and you have to pay a hundred bucks and wait a week while it’s in the shop getting cleaned up.

6. I resolve to stop using Internet Explorer to surf the web.

Internet Explorer is very insecure. Even though the new versions pop up all kinds of warnings about every little thing, it can still automatically and silently install nasty software on your computer when you visit a bad website.

It’s not just the websites with dicey content that are bad. Any small organization or person that runs a website without knowing how to protect it can get their site infested with garbage that will then migrate to your computer when you visit it.

Download the free Firefox browser at and use it instead. It works great and it can’t install software on your computer without your explicit permission.

There are twelve days of Christmas, but you only need to make six resolutions to keep your computer safe and your documents accessible. So take your time, do one every other day!


For Sale: 1999 Dodge Grand Caravan lowered floor, wheelchair accessible minivan; powered ramp, kneeling suspension, runs well, 150k mi., $2,000, call (607) 973 - 2883.

9th Annual
Hometown Holiday
Light Festival

Otsiningo Park

Celebrate the Season
November 27 - December 27, 2009

5 pm - 9 pm
$8.00 Per Vehicle

Proceeds Benefit

Southern Tier Independence Center For Information Call
(607) 724-2111 (voice/TTY)

Winter 2009
Issue No. 97

There Are None So Blind as Those Who Will Not See
AccessAbility Masthead
Courts Watch
First Choice Better than Worst Choice
HIV and Medicaid Managed Care
MISCC Plans to Plan
NYS State Budget: What Price Demagoguery?
OMRDD Backpedals on Developmental Center Closures
Return of the Group Home
VESID Holds Meetings
We Shall Not be Moved
Bridges to Health
Closed for the Holidays
Hometown Holiday Light Festival
Keep It Rolling
Make Staying Fit a Necessity!
New Faces
New Year's Resolutions for Your Computer