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.

WXXI and the Golisano Foundation are joining forces to launch MOVE TO INCLUDE (@MovetoInclude), an initiative designed to promote inclusion for people with intellectual and physical disabilities.

Through programming and special events, the partners 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.

"MOVE TO INCLUDE will help people better understand what it means to be someone who lives with an intellectual or other disability," said Ann Costello, Director of the Golisano Foundation, which will provide $280,000 to WXXI for the initiative over the next two years.  The Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in the United States devoted exclusively to supporting programs for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

"We want to build a community that leads the way in valuing abilities and fostering inclusion," said Costello. "We want to move beyond discussion and into action, encouraging people and showing people how they can put their good intentions to work, and lead the charge to leave no one out in our community. By working with WXXI we look forward to reaching out to people through TV, radio, films and online, building the momentum for this movement throughout the year."

The initiative kicks off Monday, April 14th at 7 p.m. with a free screening of Ken Burns' new documentary The Address at the Little Theatre. The film tells the story of Greenwood School, where each year the students are encouraged to memorize, practice, and recite the Gettysburg Address. The students, boys ages 11-17, all face a range of complex learning differences that make their personal, academic, and social progress challenging. The Address will also air on WXXI-TV Tuesday, April 15 at 9 p.m.

"WXXI and the Golisano Foundation hope these films, television programs and news stories will motivate individuals to take action and to include more people with disabilities in the workplace, in schools, neighborhoods and in all aspects of society," said Norm Silverstein, WXXI President. "People with disabilities have many extraordinary talents and, given the chance, can make important contributions to the quality of life in our community," he added. 

WXXI's programming about "the abilities of people with disabilities" began more than a decade ago, through a partnership with the Al Sigl Community of Agencies  called "Dialogue On Disability." The project Dialogue on Disability  was a week-long initiative designed to encourage community dialogue about the lives and abilities of people with physical and intellectual disabilities. It  will continue to take place in January each year as part of the year-long MOVE TO INCLUDE initiative.

In addition to primetime programming, WXXI-TV will present children's programs that spotlight kids with disabilities. April programming includes an episode of Arthur, airing Sunday, April 27 at 9 a.m., which deals with a newly made friend who has Asperger's Syndrome. A complete list of programs can be found at WXXI.org/include. The web page is updated monthly with upcoming programs.

You can also follow MOVE TO INCLUDE and see how you can get involved on Twitter (@movetoinclude) and Facebook.com /movetoinclude.


  New grant funding will go to provide bikes for Rochesterians with physical and developmental disabilities. 

R Community Bikes has given away 20-thousand bikes to area residents in need over the past 10 years.

Now, a $5,000 grant from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield will help them modify bikes to help people with disabilities.

Dan Lill, director of R Community Bikes, explains the modifications will provide more balance and stability.


A national speaker who has spent his career trying to create a "cultural shift" spoke at a seminar in Batavia today.

Al Condeluci is the CEO of United Cerebral Palsy of Pittsburgh. He says his cousin, Carrie, first inspired his wish to transform people's thinking about how to include citizens with disabilities so they are not just out in the community but part of the community.

You can hear our interview with Condeluci by clicking on the audio link above.

Wednesday is the seventh annual World Autism Awareness Day, and a number of activities are being held locally including the lighting up of the outside of the Rundel Library in downtown Rochester with blue lights.  Blue is the color being used worldwide to promote better understanding and treatment of autism, and locally, the advocacy organization 'AutismUp'  is out in the community providing information.

Ending the R-Word in the ROC

Mar 5, 2014

Rochester rallied to stop the use of the R-Word - specifically" retard" or "retarded" - on Wednesday. It's part of the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign.

"I used to be somebody who used that word,” says Sarah Defendorf, who works with kids with intellectual disabilities. She is one of more than a hundred people supporting the movement to not use the r-word.

"I didn't realize how derogatory it can be until I could see how people feel when they're called those words. I think it's a word that doesn't need to be used."

Defendorf signed the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign pledge, which was on a large poster in the cafe at the URMC. Participants also sign-in electronically on a tablet.

"Signing the pledge shows how many people in Rochester actually support the movement,” says Stephanie Straka, a development pediatrician at the Golisano Children's Hospital. “Then nationally, we can use those pledges as numbers to help things that change in Congress, things that change within the media - to really help others and the media understand that there's a population out there when you use the r-word they are really hurt.”

The effort asks people to choose other words when talking about people with intellectual disabilities.

The director of the Golisano Foundation, Ann Costello, says the offensive word is increasingly creeping into everyday language.  

"And often time’s people who use it don't mean to be hurtful. It’s just a common word. But we need to education others and raise awareness that this does hurt people with intellectual disabilities. It perpetuates the stigma and the negative perceptions."

This is the foundation’s fourth year spearheading the campaign pledge.

Spread the Word the End the Word was started by youth and is an ongoing effort of Special Olympics International, Best Buddies and other supporters.

Costello says she's hoping the campaign helps people to stop and think before using the r-word. And then replacing it with this one: respect.


As Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers work to come to terms on a new state budget, a number of groups have been looking to Albany for more help. Among them, two organizations that serve those with developmental disabilities, NYSARC  and the Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State.

Ben Golden is Government Affairs Director for NYSARC.  He says they are urging legislators to include a three percent wage increase for direct support workers who care for those with developmental disabilities.