Disabilities

NYC F.A.I.R. supports Disability Community

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Advocates in the disabilities community came together to discuss the employment crisis for organizations that service people with developmental disabilities. NYC FAIR (Family Advocacy Information Resources) organized the program to discuss how they could support the employment of caring, competent and resourceful direct support professionals in the face of state cutbacks. You can find out how to get involved at NYC FAIR Online.

Find out what parents think in Laurence Oliveri’s coverage of the November 2, 2016 meeting at the IAC in Manhattan.

‘Off the Rails,’ Story of A One-Track Mind

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From the time he was a young boy, Darius McCollum was fascinated by trains.  The trains were his hiding spot to get away from his troubles.  But when he took it upon himself to steal trains, he became infamous.

Off the Rails, a film by Adam Irving that tells Darius’ story, gets its United States theatrical run this November, qualifying it for Oscar consideration. It can be seen in Los Angeles at the Laemmie Music Hall, November 4 through 10, and in New York City at the Metrograph Theater, November 18 through 24.

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Darius McCollum, Off the Rails publicity photo.

McCollum, who is said to have Asperger’s Syndrome, has been in jail more than 30 times for taking trains and buses for joy rides (often with passengers unaware), trespassing, and impersonating various mass transit personnel. A panel of individuals with disabilities reviewed the film, making their own observations.

“I never saw someone who took so much pride in his job,” said reviewer Joseph Padalino. “He doesn’t hurt the passengers.  He calls out the stops with more enthusiasm than the real drivers. I wouldn’t even care about his disability. I would ride with him.”

“It makes you wonder how safe the train system is,” according to Anthony DiFato. “You have him in jail and there is no counseling. The criminal justice system is not fair.  It’s not like he killed someone.”

McCollum’s story is also being considered for a feature film, starring Julia Roberts as McCollum’s attorney, Sally Butler.  Meanwhile, Darius sits in jail since November 2015 for his latest escapade and is facing a possible 15-year sentence behind bars. A $15 million lawsuit has been filed by Butler on McCollum’s behave, citing the lack of mental health services that he has received thus far in prison.

-Written as a group, including Dolores Palermo, Joseph Jones, Anthony DiFato, Joseph Padalino, Anthony Kefalinos, Anthony Buscarello, Jonathan Chernock, Andre Fitzgerald, and others, edited by Edward Gregory and Kathryn Carse.

And Access for All – Trailblazing at Mt. Loretto

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The trails at Mount Loretto Unique Area are now open for all people. Staten Island Deputy BP Edward Burke and the NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation’s Universal Access Coordinator, Carole Fraser chat with Life-Wire’s Joseph Padalino and Anthony Pabon about the park and and the newly accessible trails in the following video from the September 22 ribbon cutting ceremony. (Photo: Meredith Arout for Life-Wire News).

Click here to follow our full coverage of the September 22 Mt. Lorretto Ribbon Cutting with the full story and photogrpahy.

Willowbrook Mile Opening Day

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The memory of the infamous Willowbrook State School will not be forgotten with the opening of the Willowbrook Mile on the grounds of what is today the College of Staten Island and various agencies that still serve people with developmental disabilities.  Our crew was on-hand to cover the opening of this memorial self-guided walk with Geraldo Rivera, who was preeminent among the reporters who broke the story, and others who made this day possible.

See our full coverage, including photographs at: Willowbrook Mile Ribbon Cutting.

Mount Loretto Trails Open to All

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Ribbon cutting. Photo: Michael Cilmi for Life-Wire News Service.

On a clear and warm first day of Autumn, Joseph Padalino cut the ribbon to new accessible

trails at Mount Loretto Unique Area. Flanked by the politicians and officials who made it all possible, Padalino let out a whoop of delight.  

“I think it’s a very good park for people with disabilities like me,” observed Padalino, who uses a wheelchair. “It’s a very tranquil place to meditate. People feel at peace in that park.”

Padalino attended with a contingent of participants and staff from Lifestyles for the Disabled, one of a number of organizations represented, including Protectors of Pine Oak Woods and the Independent Living Center.

“When we build a trail to be accessible, it’s for everyone,” Carole Fraser, Universal Access Coordinator for the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), told Padalino. “It isn’t only for people with disabilities, it’s for people with small children in strollers. It’s for older adults and everyone to come and enjoy these spaces together.  Everyone can come and be more accepting of each other.”

Steve Zahn, Regional Director for the DEC, thanked State Assemblymen Ron Castorina, Jr. and Michael Cusick; Ed Burke, Staten Island Deputy Borough President; and NYC Parks officials for their efforts to improve the Pleasant Plains park.

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Ed Burke, Deputy Borough President. Photo: Meredith Arout for Life-Wire News Service.

The festivities took place on a long, wide gravel path flanked by mowed grass and goldenrod.  The program was followed by a walk down the path to a deck on a bucolic pond where everyone can enjoy the ducks and, when there is more water, some fishing.

“Did you know that Staten Island has 12,000 acres of parks and natural areas,” Burke told reporter Anthony Pabon. “That’s a third of Staten Island.  So we’ve done a great job of protecting parkland and natural areas like this.”

In addition to the trail at Mount Loretto, improvements in access at New York State parks in the area also include amenities at Butler Manor Woods, North Mt Loretto State Forest and Lemon Creek.

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Rachel Chernock, Lifestyles for the Disabled. Photo: Joseph Padalino for Life-Wire News Service.

”We have everything here, deer, raccoon, woodchuck, skunk,” Ray Matarazzo of the Protectors of the Pine Oak Woods told reporter Rachel Chernock. “The big thrill of the day was the bald eagle.  They’re always soaring overhead.”

Mount Loretto Unique Area is at 6450 Hylan Blvd. on Staten Island.  Call 718.482.4942 for information.

  • Rachel Chernock, Anthony DiCostanzo, Anthony DiFato, Kareem Ellison, Steven Filoramo, Anthony Kefalinos, Andrew Moszenberg, Anthony Pabon, Joseph Padalino, Dolores Palermo, and Gregory Perosi with Kathryn Carse and Edward Gregory.

Read “A facelift for state lands: More accessible trails, walkways, parking” at SILive.com.

Watch “Department of Environmental Conservation Improves Access to Parks on Staten Island” on NY1.com.

 

Tall Ships Regatta, Spain

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Rafa Nuca, NWN Photography

Rafa dreams of going to sea like his father.  When the tall ships race came to his hometown of A Coruña, Spain, he saw a great opportunity.

“My father works at sea, and I enjoy taking photographs,” said Rafa Nuca of NWN Photography, a Spanish photo agency featuring the work of people with disabilities. [Rafa spoke via Skype in Spanish, translated by Felipe Alsonso of NWN Photography.]

The tall ships race is an annual regatta that ends this year in A Coruña. The ships sailed on July 7 from Antwerp, Belgium for Lisbon, Portugal.  Then they raced to Cadiz, Spain and finished in A Coruña on August 14.  The regatta is estimated to attract a million visitors.

Rafa joined the throngs of people visiting the ships.  The Lord Nelson (UK) was one of his favorites because it is a ship for people with and without disabilities to sail together. It would be ideal for crossing the Atlantic, something he hopes to do one day. He admired the woodwork on the Stratsraad Lehmkuhl (Norway) the schooner Atyla (Spain). Rafa was also impressed by the crowds visiting the Simon Bolivar (Venezuela).

The race sponsor, Sail Training International, teaches sailing skills to young people of various backgrounds.  They work closely with the world’s sail training tall ships, training organizations and host ports to help young people benefit from the sail training experience.

The Lord Nelson is operated by the Jubilee Sailing Trust (UK), provides differently-abled people the opportunity to work together to sail specially designed tall ships. The experience helps to break down barriers and foster a more inclusive world.

– This article was written by the Life-Wire News Service staff, with specific contributions by Meredith Arout, Anthony DiFato, Steven Filoramo, Joseph Jones, Andrew Moszenberg, Dolores Palermo, Joseph Padalino, Gregory Perosi, Harry Rodriguez and with Kathryn Carse and Edward Gregory.

Photos: Rafa Nuca, NWN Photography for Life-Wire News Service.

Willowbrook Mile Ribbon Cutting

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Geraldo Rivera helped cut the ribbon to Willowbrook Walk, a mile-long path to honor people who suffered at Willowbrook State School, today, September 14.

The reporter who exposed the horror of Willowbrook was joined by William Fritz and Michael Kress of the College of Staten Island (CSI); Diane Buglioli, Co-Chair of the event and Deputy Executive Director of A Very Special Place; NYS Assemblyman Michael Cusick; and many others, including Bernard Carabello, a former resident of Willowbrook State School who now works a patient advocate for the NYS Office of People With Developmental Disabilities.  

“I came to this place as a local reporter for Channel 7, Eyewitness News,”  Rivera told

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Photo: Meredith Arout for Life-Wire News Service.

reporter Joseph Padalino. “I had some doctors who told me I had to come and see how bad conditions were here.  They got me a key so I could get in and film the conditions, which I did.”

“The problem wasn’t that people didn’t care.” Rivera continued. “The problem was that the whole notion that you could mass-produce care for the developmentally disabled the way you mass produce cars was very deeply flawed.  It was doomed to fail.  It was very archaic and it was primitive and thank God it’s now part of distant history.”

“I’d been at Willowbrook for 18 years!” Carabello told reporter Dolores Palermo. He said it was “bad, bad.  The worst place I ever lived. Geraldo came and asked for me at Willowbrook. And that’s how I got out.  He got me out. Now I work for OPWDD. I’m an advocate. I advocate for people who can’t talk for themselves.”

“I’m just so proud to be a part of this,” Cusick told reporter Gregory Perosi. “…because this will show the history of Willowbrook and what it has become.”

Mr. Padalino observed that if not for people like  Rivera, “I would have been in Willowbrook, but I wasn’t. Thank you very much, Mr. Rivera.”

The Willowbrook MIle is a self-guided tour of the former campus of the State School.  It spans the campus of the College of Staten Island and New York State properties that still house services for people with disabilities.  Stations on the walk include a commemorative Memorial Garden Plaque, Building 29 which housed more than 100 residents, The Willowbrook Archives and Special Collections at CSI, the Institute for Basic Research, and the Elizabeth Connelly Center.

For more information on the Willowbrook Mile and to download their brochure, visit there website at http://willowbrookmile.csi.cuny.edu/about-willowbrook-mile.

– This article was written by the Life-Wire News Service staff, with specific contributions by Anthony DiFato, Anthony Buscarello, Jonathan Chernok, Anthony Kefalinos, Joseph Jones, Dolores Palermo, Joseph Padalino, and Gregory Perosi with Kathryn Carse and Edward Gregory.