BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)–Western New Yorkers served by the State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities got a peek at the OPWDD’s future Buffalo location Monday.
The agency’s regional office (DDRO) is located in West Seneca which is far removed from public transportation, and virtually impossible to reach in a wheelchair, so after years of nagging and protests by advocates, the OPWDD has decided to open a DDRO annex in Buffalo.
On October 1, the first day of Disability Awareness Month, disabilities advocates announced the new annex at the site of the planned satellite, a 5-story historical building at 1021 Broadway, next to the Broadway Market.
The announcement was hosted by the VOICE Buffalo Accessibility Task Force, the Developmental Disabilities Alliance of WNY, and others, including the Self-Advocacy Association of NYS.
Mike Rogers of VOICE Buffalo said the new satellite office will provide access to vital services that are out of reach now, “People with disabilities and developmental disabilities should have full access to everything in life. We should not be impeded in any way, and this is a step toward that.”
Western New Yorkers with developmental and intellectual challenges have been battling with state officials over access issues for years, including a “march and roll” protest last year to show the closest bus stop to the regional office in West Seneca is more than two miles away.
State Senator Patrick Gallivan (R-Elma) wrote a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo asking that the new annex be completed as soon as possible, and that the state investigate a more accessible OPWDD office than the location in West Seneca.
“It is really hard to believe that it has taken so long for something to happen but it is a good step and it is happening, and it shows that when people advocate and people work together we can accomplish things.”
By early next year, a collaboration of 8 human service agencies will have offices in the building at 1021 Broadway, a historic re-purposed lamp factory.
With those agencies located under one roof, Tara Burgess, the Executive Director for Every Person Influences Children (EPIC), said they can conveniently share resources and expertise.
“It is on a major bus line and the families that are served in that neighborhood are families who could benefit from the services and the jobs that are offered through this location.”
The Broadway location is about more than helping folks with special needs—the advocacy groups are also promoting economic development.
EPIC and the other human service agencies planned for 1021 Broadway would employ nearly 300 workers, and with the Broadway Market practically next door, they believe that would bring enough business to the Market to keep the shops humming year-round instead of just twice a year.