disabilities

A new federal law is allowing disabled Americans a chance to work and earn money without risking losing their government benefits.What's called the ABLE Act is already offering people with disabilities more independence and opportunities.

Michelle Wolfe, of Oneida, works at the Arc of Madison Cortland in Oneida. Before the ABLE Act passed last December, working extra hours and saving some money was a problem.

"I was told I could only have $2,000 in the bank, otherwise, I’d lose everything,” said Wolfe.

Sasha-Ann Simons / WXXI

Many people with disabilities are limited in their housing options -- not just because of a lack of availability in desirable neighborhoods, but because of outdated standards of accessibility. And that can leave people feeling isolated and segregated.

Maureen MacGregor / WXXI

Outside Michelle Fridley's apartment building, mounds of snow line the perimeter of the parking lot. At least the curb ramp on her sidewalk is clear today, though that’s not always the case.

"For a week I was having a really hard time being about to leave here. It wasn't even just the snow. It was -- someone parked in my curb cut."

In visuals: central New York's physically disabled

Feb 5, 2015

The physically disabled in central New York face daunting obstacles to finding accessible housing -- from poverty to a lack of housing, to the long wait times that causes.

You can find WRVO's reporting on the Syracuse area's inaccessible housing here. The graphics below demonstrate the numbers behind the story.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Syracuse’s homes are old. Virtually all of them, nearly 95 percent, were built before the Americans with Disabilities Act went into effect a quarter century ago. 

That law mandates accessible building standards for people with a disability. But since the ADA was passed, the city’s population has been declining. That means little demand to construct new housing. That’s also resulted in an acute shortage of housing options for people with a physical disability, according to advocates. 

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

It takes several tries for the medical transport van to back up the snow-covered driveway and onto the frozen front yard. The tires spin in the snow, which crunches in the cold air. The van has to get close enough for the ramp that slides out the back to bridge the gap from the van to the porch, rising over the three steps to the door.

Wooden porches like this don the front of many of Syracuse’s old homes, constructed during the city’s boom era.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Advocates for the disabled in central New York are calling for more housing and support for families with children who have disabilities. The focus is on help for families with adult children.

Barbara Resseguies' 28-year-old daughter has Down Syndrome and a dream to have her own apartment.

"Just a safe place she could get support and not be treated like a 10-year-old or 12-year-old," Resseguies said.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO/file photo

The Central New York Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, or CABVI, is one of many non-profits across the country losing revenues because the federal government is not fully complying with the law. The 1971 Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act requires the federal government to purchase certain products from non-profits that employ the blind and those with other disabilities.

Steve Gannon, the association’s director of development, says although the losses have an impact on some of the products the facility makes, there are large shortfalls nationwide.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is pushing for a new tax-advantaged savings account that will help families with disabilities. Schumer visited Syracuse to offer support to families that are looking for passage of the Achieving a Better Life Experience, or ABLE, Act.

Move Along Incorporated

Advocates for the disabled in central New York want to encourage more participation in inclusion sports.  

Greg Cullen, founder of the group Move Along Inc., said the idea is that people with physical limitations and able-bodied people can play sports together.

"You really get confidence," Cullen said. "You then are willing to engage or approach other individuals, that typically, maybe before you had an awkwardness or a fear of doing. And these types of activities can increase that confidence, so these people can continue to engage."  

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

A recent case involving a disabled man tased by Syracuse Police on a CENTRO bus in May has Syracuse lawmakers looking into the police department's policy on using the electronic devices. In a meeting this week, common councilors heard from advocates who would like to see that policy updated.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Advocates for the disabled in Syracuse are marking the 23rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but activists say there are still some areas where progress needs to be made.

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An estimated 15 percent of people around the world live with some form of disability. Upstate universities are tackling the challenges faced by this segment of the population and coming up with innovative technologies to increase access.

A walker for elderly people that also monitors vital signs, and a cane that uses vibrations to allow deaf and blind people to easily navigate their environment: these are just a couple of the access technologies created by researchers in western New York.

The state legislature is finished voting on a $141.3 billion state budget, with the Assembly completing it's work shortly before midnight on Thursday. The final passage occurred one week past lawmakers’ s self-imposed deadline, but three days before the spending plan was actually due to be finished. 

The state budget is on track to be finished on time, and before the March 31 deadline, now that all of the spending bills were finally printed shortly before midnight on Monday.

One of the areas of disagreement in the state budget centers on funding for services for New York’s developmentally disabled people. 

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Advocates for the disabled will be out in force in Syracuse Friday, rallying against Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed cuts to the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. The six percent across-the-board budget proposal would mean major cuts to the agencies across the state that provide support and services for the developmentally disabled. Many families are afraid of what will happen if those services go away.

Fifteen teams of students from the Rochester Institute of Technology, led by faculty, will develop technologies for assisting people with disabilities in the region.

The recent accusation against former Onondaga County Family Court Judge Brian Hedges, that he sexually molested his 5-year-old deaf niece 40 years ago,  has brought the issue of abuse against the disabled  into the open.

The disabled community in central New York this week celebrates the 22nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  While there have been so many successes in the fight for equal access for the disabled, there is still work to be done.

Governor Andrew Cuomo came to Syracuse today to promote his legislation for protecting people with special needs and disabilities.

The legislation creates a center which would have primary responsibility for investigating allegations of abuse and neglect of disabled people in state operated or licensed facilities. Last year there were 10,000 such allegations.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a major reform package aimed at ending the abuse and neglect of people with disabilities in state care.

The governor was joined by legislative leaders, district attorneys, and people with disabilities at the state Capitol on Monday.