WNYIL Winter 2020

Health Homes

Hans Schiffert, Director, Health Homes Administration

Western New York Independent Living Health Homes Care Coordination Department is WNYIL’s Care Coordination service that assists, facilitates, and advocates for its members to realize better health and social outcomes through developing and implementing individual care plans that improves one’s quality of life. WNYIL currently has undergone some staff changes and I’m pleased to announce the following addition to the Health Homes Care Coordination Team. Carling Barry will be providing services out of our Independent Living of Niagara County located in Niagara Falls, New York. Carling comes to WNYIL with knowledge and experience that will compliment current staff and department goals. Please join me in welcoming her to the WNYIL Family of Agencies.

key on a health keychain

Introducing the Youth Peer Advocacy Program

Alexis Kennedy, Credentialed Youth Peer Advocate

Youth with disabilities do not have to navigate the transition to adulthood on their own. We are very excited to announce that Western New York Independent Living, Inc. now has a Youth Peer Advocacy Program!! This program is available to youth between the ages of 14-28 who have a disability and is proud to be made possible by funding from J. Warren Perry and Charles Donald Perry Memorial Fund and The Mother Cabrini Health Foundation. A Youth Peer Advocate (YPA) is a young person between the ages of 18-30 who is trained to use their personal experience to support, advise and empower other youth with disabilities. YPAs are different from other service providers because they can understand and relate to youth on a more personal level since they know what it’s like to live with a disability and are still young people themselves. YPAs can be there to support, guide, and mentor young people who are navigating different systems and focusing on transitions into higher education, employment, and adulthood. A YPA helps their peers build skills like self-advocacy while making lasting connections and giving meaningful advice that comes from a peer who understands what they may be going through or struggling with. 

As a part of our program there are several ways consumers can get involved at different levels. One-on-one support offers a more personal setting to work directly with a peer learning new skills, bridging the gap when it comes to transitions, and focusing on your goals. A Youth Advisory Council will be created and compromised of youth peers who can use their lived experience to set the vision and direction of the youth peer program to ensure it is youth-led. Joining this Council gives youth the chance to get their foot in the door at WNYIL and advise on the development and expansion of youth services and WNYIL’s systems advocacy goals. There will also be an Online Youth Peer Community where young people can openly share their stories and feelings, blog, and receive peer support in a safe space without the fear of judgment or bullying. Once access is granted youth can use this network at any time or any place. Another way to get involved is to join peer support groups that are coming soon. These groups will be facilitated by a YPA and will be in a safe setting where youth can build skills and supports and meet and socialize with other youth peers. One group we will offer is the Introduction to Self-Advocacy Group. This group will be compromised of up to 5 youth ages 14-21 and will last a total of seven sessions on Tuesdays from 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. beginning April 7th. Topics include disability education, transition planning, and more! Youth will need a 124X voucher from Access-VR to attend this group.

As the youth peer program grows, we will be able to positively impact many young people at a greater level than WNYIL has ever supported youth before!! This new service will inspire hope and independence within our young consumers, and we are very excited to incorporate youth voice within our agency!!

For more information about the Youth Peer Advocate program you can contact Alexis Kennedy YPA-C at 716-836-0822 ext. 161 or akennedy@wnyil.org

Loan Closet

Rae Frank, Director of ILGR

Independent Living of the Genesee Region has been running a Loan Closet for the past ten years. The closet is equipped with durable medical equipment that saves people money on things like crutches, walkers, knee scooters, shower benches, wheelchairs, and more. The process for using our Loan Closet is very simple. People complete an application and are allowed to use the equipment for as long as they need it. We ask that folks give us a call after 90 days to let us know if they will be returning it soon. The Loan Closet is the way many people find out about Independent Living and our services in the community. The local hospital, physical therapists, and community agencies all make referrals to the closet. Even the local medical supply store will ask customers if they tried to find an item with us before making the purchase. Our closet accepts gently used donations of equipment and we periodically purchase new equipment. If we don’t have something in stock, we add the consumer to the wait list and call them the next time we have that item returned.

About two years ago Mark Fanara, the owner of High Voltage Tattoo and Piercing Shop in Batavia was diagnosed with cancer and benefited from the use of some of our equipment. Mark is now doing well and decided to give back. During the month of December Mark discounted his tattoos and let customers know that their purchase would directly benefit both our agency and Cross Roads House. His charity fundraiser ran for 18 days and offered the following discounts. “Every dollar you spend will be donated entirely. If you spend: $20 you get a $25 gift certificate; $40 you get a $50 gift certificate; $100 you get a $125 gift certificate; $200 you get a $260 gift certificate; and $300 you get a $400 gift certificate.” 

Mark’s generosity resulted in a big win for everyone. Holiday shoppers received discounted gifts and Independent Living received a donation of $1,406. to support our work in the community. We are grateful to Mark and his customers for supporting the work of Independent Living of the Genesee Region. Residents of Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming Counties are encouraged to contact us for their durable medical needs.  

Loan Closets are also located at our Center in Buffalo (716-836-0822) and Niagara Falls (716-284-4131).

Culture Matters with Mental Health

Maura Kelley, Director, CPRP

Mental Health Peer Connection’s (MHPC) cultural diversity reflects the people we serve and decreases the trauma that many feel because of their race. Decreasing trauma, of course improves the mental health of people labeled in the Mental Health System. As we know at MHPC, being one’s peer to another who has similar experience makes recovery a possibility and more often than not a Reality.

What does it feel like to be ostracized, stand out, made to be treated differently? Well, most often it feels like a mental patient. Then to be a mental patient in surroundings that are not culturally friendly, welcoming, or similar to your culture. That is a devastating, debilitating, and segregated feeling.

WE at MHPC understand this. WE who have been institutionalized, force-medicated, or court ordered into treatment know what it is like to be this Patient. It has been MHPC’s mission to stop this cruel delivery of services to people receiving mental health services. WE have the most culturally diverse peer run agency in the area. WE look like the people we serve because we are the people we serve. For someone Spanish speaking, to talk their own language to a fellow peer, for those with similar beliefs, religions and cultures to share on a more person-centered way truly breaks down barriers and promotes Empowerment, Education, and Equity over being a Mental Patient. Not only does MHPC promote Cultural Diversity because, of course, it’s the right thing to do, but also because cultural diversity improves people’s quality of life and recovery, and assists people in living in neighborhoods of their choosing and finding good jobs.

MHPC logo

Upcoming Events

Daniel Colpoys, Chief Community Engagement Officer

Planning has already started for our major events to be held in 2020. Information on them can be found at: https://wnyil.org/Events

  • Disability Pride: July 26, 2020 at Canalside. A parade and festival to celebrate the signing of the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act. 
  • Fishing Derby: August 2, 2020 at Fort Niagara. Fishing in the lower Niagara River and Lake Ontario followed by a barbecue lunch and basket raffle. 
  • Summit on Aging and Independence: September 30, 2020 at the Buffalo Niagara Marriott. A day-long conference on issues related to people who are aging, with or without disabilities. 

Use Your Facebook Account to Help WNYIL Raise Money for its Programs and Services

If you have a personal Facebook account you can set up a fundraising page with proceeds going to WNYIL. It’s an easy way to ask friends and family to give back to your favorite charity. To set it up, just follow these steps:

  1.  Log in to your personal Facebook and go to this link: https://www.facebook.com/fundraisers?source=search_shortcut OR you can do a Facebook search for “Facebook Fundraisers” and click on the link at the top of the page that says, “Fundraisers”
  1.  Click, “Select Nonprofit”
  1.  Enter “Western New York Independent Living”
  1.  Follow the next few easy steps to create your fundraiser – make sure to tell your story – include a short description on why you’re raising money for WNYIL
  1.  Tell your friends and family to help reach your goals by “inviting” them and share on your timeline. 

If you have any questions, email dcolpoys@wnyil.org or call 716-836-0822 ext. 166


Stand Up for Recovery 2020

Douglas Bisher, Certified Recovery Peer Advocate 
Addict 2 Addict Niagara, Independent Living of Niagara County

February 11, 2020 at the state capitol in Albany was the most inspirational day on my job as an advocate. I was moved by the number of peers in attendance and the many different agencies from across New York State. It was a very emotional day when certain speakers were talking about their role with the agencies they are with or their own personal stories. Going to the different legislators’ offices with our agenda of the things we need for recovery was a great experience, as well. The march to the capitol building from where the presentations and networking was going on, the large number of attendees chanting “We’re in recovery, AND WE VOTE!” amongst other advocating chants was very moving, as well. We advocated for more funding for recovery as far as housing, transportation and availability of treatment beds. It was great to be there alongside my peers not only from Western New York but from across the state. Talking to the different peers and seeing the emotions and smiles on people faces - being part of the changes taking place for people in recovery and those yet to come was AMAZING! 

Help Us Share Our Story

Western New York Independent Living, Inc. is always looking to get out in the community and present to groups or businesses about all the cool stuff we do for people with disabilities, and the community at large.

    - Need help looking for a job?

    - Want to know how your business can become fully ADA-compliant?

    - Do you know about Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service?

    - Would you like to participate in Disability Pride? Or our agency’s other events?

    - Do you, or a family member, need some extra support to stay out of an institutionalized setting?

    - Did you know WNY Independent Living saves New York State taxpayers tens of millions of dollars a year? Yes, I said tens of millions of dollars a year.

We can talk further about these and other issues that are important to you. If you are involved with a group or company and would like someone to come talk to them, please email Daniel Colpoys, Chief Community Engagement Officer, at dcolpoys@wnyil.org or call Daniel at 716-836-0822 ext. 166.

Facebook Journalism Project Awards Grant to the Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service

“Alexa, play Niagara Frontier Radio Reading.”
“Hey Google, what’s on Niagara Frontier Radio Reading at 9am?”

Facebook, through its Facebook Journalism Project, has awarded the Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service, a WNYIL affiliate, a grant of $24,996 to fund the agency’s new Podcasts & Streaming Initiative.

The Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service (NFRRS) - a full time radio station that was founded to serve people who are blind, have low vision, or have other print-related
disabilities - is expanding its service capacity by introducing podcasts and live streaming to its listeners.

By adding the Internet to its broadcast portfolio, listeners will be able to listen to the programs they want, wherever they are, when they want to, using virtually any Internetconnected device.

The Facebook Journalism Project is working with publishers around the world to help strengthen communities by connecting people with meaningful journalism. Working
with the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, the Community Network grants were awarded to organizations in support of projects aimed at building community and new paths to
sustainability in local news. In addition to the award, NFRRS will also be matched with industry leaders as well as former or current participants in the Facebook Journalism
Project’s Local News Accelerator to receive mentorship and guidance on specific program outcomes.

The Podcasts & Streaming Initiative received seed funding from the James F. Cummings Foundation and is also being supported by the East Hill Foundation, the Christos Foundation, Ingram Micro, and WNY Independent Living. The project is expected to launch within the next two months.

The Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service was founded to help people who are blind, have low vision, or have other print-related disabilities ‘read’ printed materials. Newspapers,
magazines, books and other print materials are read ‘live’ on-air or recorded for later broadcast by more than 100 active volunteers. The station’s radio signal covers Buffalo,
Western New York and Southern Ontario.

Among the station’s program schedule are live readings of the Buffalo News six days a week and USA Today five days a week. The station also airs the Wall Street Journal, the NY Times, Niagara Gazette, Jamestown Post Journal, Dunkirk Observer, weekly newspapers like the local Bee’s and Business First, a variety of magazines, and books curated from the NY Times Best Seller list.

The broadcast is carried over a subcarrier frequency leased for one dollar a year from WNED 94.5 FM. The radio station’s signal is not available to the general public but can be heard on special radio receivers which are loaned at no charge to NFRRS listeners. While radios will continue to be an important communication tool, the NFRRS expects to see a ten-fold increase in the number of listeners served with the addition of the new program.

The NFRRS is an affiliate of Western New York Independent Living, a community-based non-profit organization that serves more than 7,000 people with disabilities annually through peer counseling, support for independent living, transitional services, advocacy and information & referrals.

The NFRRS is funded primarily through philanthropic contributions and donations, grants, and special events.

For more information, visit:

Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service – www.nfradioreading.org
Facebook Journalism Project grant announcement – www.facebook.com/journalismproject/programs/community-network/grant-winners-january-2020
Lenfest Institute for Journalism - https://www.lenfestinstitute.org
Western New York Independent Living – www.wnyil.org


Amazon smile

When you shop at AmazonSmile, Amazon donates 0.5% of the purchase price to Western New York Independent Living, Inc.

Bookmark the link http://smile.amazon.com/ch/22-2316065 and support us every time you shop.

We at WNY Independent Living are providing you the following to assist you in maximizing your prevention of, and exposure to, the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

What is a novel coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that are common throughout the world. They cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more serious illnesses like pneumonia. A
novel coronavirus is a type of coronavirus that has not been previously seen in humans. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID19) has been detected in thousands of people worldwide.

How serious is this virus and what are the range of symptoms?
Most people with COVID-19 will have mild symptoms. Symptoms can include fever, cough or shortness of breath.

Who is at higher risk for severe illness?
People who are older or may have underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease, appear to have a higher risk of severe COVID-19.
Children and young adults appear to be less affected.

What steps can I take to avoid getting COVID-19?

  • Make sure you practice proper handwashing techniques: wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Regular usage of hand sanitizer is encouraged.
  • Cover coughs or sneezes with a tissue, then discard into the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Have at least a week of non-perishable food in your home at any given time; (if possible, have two-weeks’ supply).
  • Identify a way to make sure you can get your medications in a timely manner. This may mean having friends or family assist you or using a pharmacy that offers prescription delivery.
  • Plan for your pets. There may be difficulties in getting pet food or your pets may need someone to take care of them if you are hospitalized. If you have pets, make sure you have planned for their needs, too.
  • If you have access to a computer, the Center for Disease Control has additional information: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/
  • If you need assistance finding resources in your county:

In Erie County please contact an Independent Living Specialist with the Independent Living Center in Buffalo at (716) 836-0822.

In Niagara County call Brittany at Independent Living of Niagara County at (716) 284-4131, extension 214.

In Genesee, Orleans or Wyoming Counties call Cathy at Independent Living of the Genesee Region at (585) 815-8501, extension 400.

Disability Pride Parade & Festival

Disability Pride

Celebrate the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

SUNDAY,  JULY 26, 2020

WNY Independent Living's 5th Disability Pride Parade & Festival

Disability Pride Parade

Starting behind Buffalo City Hall at 10:30 a.m.

Disability Pride Festival

Canalside Buffalo, 44 Prime St,  Buffalo, NY 14202

11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.


Annually, community organizations from across Western New York come together in honor of the Anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and to celebrate the power of people with disabilities. Join over 1,000 people in demonstrating pride in human diversity. Admission is free and open to all persons with disabilities. Food, refreshments, and entertainment provided.

Get involved!

Individuals and community organizations can contribute to the planning and delivery of the Disability Pride festivities.

  • Volunteer at the Event
  • March in the Parade
  • Become a Sponsor  
  • Exhibit at the Festival

For more information visit https://wnyil.org/Events/Disability-Pride

To become a sponsor, vendor, parade participant, or volunteer contact Jillian Moss at 716-836-0822 ext. 146 or jmoss@wnyil.org

ADA 30