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.

On this edition of Need to Know, the college and career conversation is a big deal for young people leaving high school but for individuals with intellectual disabilities, there was a point in time when such conversations didn’t happen. However, gains are being made in part because of the Higher Education Opportunity Act and because of parents and advocacy groups fighting for better access to postsecondary education.

What would change if you found out, overnight, that your life expectancy had doubled? Maybe a lot. Maybe nothing. But for Gabe Weil, it changed everything: he had muscular dystrophy, and understood what that meant. A film called Gabe tells his remarkable story -- a story of confronting actual life-and-death choices on a daily basis. For Gabe, that meant deciding whether to eat real food or get a G-tube. It meant travel and risks that could end his life.

Our Dialogue on Disability series continues with a preview of the film, which is showing this week at the Little Theatre, and a conversation with Jonathan Piacentino, who is navigating life with his own challenges and difficult decisions. Our guests:

  • Jonathan Piacentino, graduate of Nazareth College, and muscular dystrophy awareness advocate
  • Heidi Schuster, supervisor of the adult day habilitation program at CP Rochester

This program is presented as part of Dialogue on Disability Week – a partnership between WXXI and Al Sigl Community of Agencies – in conjunction with the Herman and Margaret Schwartz Community Series. Dialogue on Disability is supported in part by The Golisano Foundation with additional support from the Fred L. Emerson Foundation.

Transporting those with special needs

Jan 24, 2017

Medical Motor Service is marking over 90 years of meeting the transportation needs of seniors and people with special needs, and is on its way to logging another four million miles this year.

That's according to Executive Director Damon Mustaca, who says they play an important role in the everyday lives of many people in Monroe County.

"Fifteen thousand people used us and 4.4 million miles traveled last year, to provide almost 600 thousand one-way trips to the community," he said.

Mustaca says they provide access to vital services to the community.

We talk about creative therapies for children with autism. Research proves that art can directly impact brain development in people with autism. We talk about the benefits of activities that incorporate music, dance, film, visual arts, writing, and more. 

We also preview the documentary, Generation A: Portraits of Autism and the Arts, which airs Thursday, January 26 at 10 p.m. on WXXI-TV. Our guests:

This program is presented as part of Dialogue on Disability Week – a partnership between WXXI and Al Sigl Community of Agencies – in conjunction with the Herman and Margaret Schwartz Community Series. Dialogue on Disability is supported in part by The Golisano Foundation with additional support from the Fred L. Emerson Foundation.

SWBR Architects

A new mandate from New York State is bringing big changes to organizations serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

We recently visited one organization that has been part of the Rochester community for 70 years.

Holy Childhood is getting ready to not only greatly expand the opportunities of its clients, but launch a new business.


Governor Cuomo's budget does not include funding to help direct care workers achieve a living wage, and that could mean changes at organizations like the Arc of Monroe.

The coalition “bFair2DirectCare” has been pushing for $45 million dollars in funding to raise caregiver pay.

Barbara Wale is CEO and President Arc of Monroe.

She says his budget doesn't include funding for direct support professionals --they assist people with developmental disabilities with activities for daily living.


Music has a way of touching every one of us. Some of us may have a deep appreciation for the artistry in making music, others may appreciate its ability to convey emotion and transport us to a different place.

But, as shown at the Hochstein School of Music and Dance, music can also be used as a form of therapy. Expressive Arts sessions improve the quality of life for people who are well, and meets the needs of children and adults with disabilities, disorders, illnesses, or learning differences. 

Courtesy Aimee Levesque

At the Golden Globe Awards this year, Meryl Streep received an honorary award for outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment.

In her acceptance speech, she criticized President-elect Trump for mocking a reporter with a disability. Trump, who denies that, dismissed Streep’s comments on Twitter.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is due to release his budget on Tuesday, and agencies that work with those with intellectual disabilities are among those hoping for more funds. They say they need help to pay workers the new higher minimum wage.

New York’s minimum wage is going up over the next few years, to $15 eventually in New York City and lesser amounts upstate. Groups that provide services for the developmentally disabled rely on Medicaid reimbursements to pay their workers, and they say they’ll have a hard time meeting the higher wages without more money from the state.

At least one person in the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts did not agree Monday when Governor Cuomo's State of the State message included a full-throated pitch for ridesharing, like Uber and Lyft.  Todd Vaarwerk, director of advocacy and public policy for the Western New York Independent Living Center, does not agree with the pitch, saying ridesharing companies do not allow access for people like him, the state's disabled community.