The VOICE Buffalo A.R.I.S.E. or Acceptance, Respect, Inclusion, Support, and Equity, Committee was formed in 2015 in response to the need for greater access to jobs and services for people with disabilities. A.R.I.S.E is rooted in the understanding that people with disabilities who are most directly impacted, should have a voice in the services that are provided or not provided to us and that nothing about us without us is for us! The committee believes that every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and that they should have access to the same opportunities as everyone else.
The transportation system in Buffalo, New York is inaccessible for many individuals, particularly those with disabilities. Public transportation options, such as buses and trains, have limited routes and schedules, making it difficult for people to travel to certain areas of the city. The physical infrastructure of the transportation system itself is not accommodating to those with disabilities or mobility issues. Many stations and stops lack wheelchair accessibility, and the buses and trains often do not have adequate seating or space for passengers with disabilities. The lack of accessibility in Buffalo's transportation system creates significant barriers for people trying to access education, employment, healthcare, and other essential services.
The Buffalo Niagara region does have paratransit services available for eligible riders. The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) provides a paratransit service called Accessible Transportation Services (ATS) for individuals with disabilities who are unable to use the fixed-route bus and rail system. To use ATS, individuals must apply for eligibility and be certified by the NFTA. While the ATS paratransit service provided by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority does offer accessible transportation for eligible riders, the service only does so for people that are within three-fourths of a mile of a bus-metro route or station. This restriction, along with long wait times, create challenges for individuals in terms of service coverage.
A.R.I.S.E. Committee Members and local disabilities rights advocates have continued to organize and demand equitable and accessible transportation options for all individuals with disabilities by campaigning for the expansions of paratransit services and the passing of Stephanie's Bill (S4739/A4165). While leaders asked for a tangible commitment of funding for the state to expand the range of paratransit access, which the federal minimum is three miles, last year, the state committed $750,000 to study the NFTA's paratransit system. A.R.I.S.E. leaders ask that the funding be used to develop minimum standards and best practices in the expansion of paratransit.
Closure of OPWDD Office
The A.R.I.S.E Committee has been demanding for years that the Developmental Disabilities Regional Office(DDRO), which is located in West Seneca be closed and that it be completely relocated to an area that is fully accessible to the people that it serves. The buildings are inaccessible for the people who need it most, are asbestos-ridden and pose other hazards to those who work and use services there. On top of this, it is a former institution that holds traumatic memories for many people with disabilities.
After years of organizing, in 2019, the State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities(OPWDD), opened a DDRO annex in Buffalo located at 1021 Broadway. A collaboration of 8 human service agencies have offices in the building at 1021 Broadway, including Algonquin Sports For Kids, Buffalo Urban League, Center for Self-Advocacy, Every Person Influences Children, Jericho Road Community Health Center, Learning Disabilities Association of WNY, Mental Health Advocates of WNY, Office for People With Developmental Disabilities Regional Satellite Office, Parent Network of WNY, Self-Advocacy Association of New York State, and Spectrum Health and Human Services.
While this is a step in the right direction and the Broadway location provides some core services, the West Seneca campus still serves as Western New York’s Central Developmental Disabilities Services Office and is being used for administrative purposes and to provide services for people with disabilities. West Seneca is still a remote, time-consuming destination for someone with a disability who uses public transportation. The A.R.I.S.E. Committee is continuing to organize for a complete relocation of OPWDD to a more accessible location.
A.R.I.S.E invites you to attend our monthly meeting on the first Wednesday of the month at 10am.
Our monthly meetings are hybrid and can be attended in person at 1021 Broadway St. Buffalo, NY 14212 on the 4th floor or on zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/7164635035
Hand in Hand
Health Education Project
Western New York Independent Living
Self Advocacy Association-Nys INC(SANYS)
NY Caring Majority