The second discussion in the College of Staten Island‘s Geraldo Rivera Fund lecture series took place on Wednesday, April 20th. This time the lecture focused on three issues:

> Parents expressing concern about their children with disabilities aging out of school-based programs
> How people who are deaf/hard-of-hearing approach the challenges of everyday life
> How service providers are adapting to an ever-changing financial and political landscape

The series is made possible by a grant from the Geraldo Rivera Fund for Social Work and Disability Studies, which was established in 2015 “to provide support for conferences, symposia, lectures, and publications with the intent to influence public policy and services for people with disabilities.” The talk was again moderated by Paul Costello, the Rivera Fund Coordinator.

A Parent Speaks

Parent and advocate Roseanna Incantalupo read five statements written by her and other concerned caregivers about what will happen to their children once they turn 21 and are no longer able to attend school-based programs. They expressed fears that many adult day program services, particularly on Staten Island, are not adequate for their children’s emotional, physical, and social needs. Most of these children have multiple handicaps and require “intensive and expensive” care. Paul Costello lamented that “there is a level of neglect after a certain age” for people with disabilities.

Life as a Person with Hearing Impairments

Next Katina White, an adjunct professor for CSI’s American Sign Language (ASL) program, described her life as a person with hearing impairments and how services have changed over the years for the deaf/hard-of-hearing community. Katina was diagnosed at age three with having progressive deafness; her family did not have any deaf members. She used hearing aids and an FM unit to assist her. Initially attending Catholic school, Katina struggled greatly and eventually moved to public schools where services were more accessible and inclusive.

Katina wanted to go Gallaudet University but her mother insisted that she attend a typical university; she chose CSI and has not looked back since. Through CSI she found out about the Staten Island Club of the Deaf and became immersed in other aspects of deaf culture. Technology has greatly improved her life but there is still much work to be done, especially in the area of employment for those with hearing impairments.

Changes in Our Field

Finally, Scott Salinardi, Chief Operating Officer for Lifestyles for the Disabled, explained how service providers in Staten Island and across New York State are evolving with the times. In particular Scott described how the move to managed care has presented both positive and negative changes to this field. He said that agencies have begun collaborating more in an effort to provide better services despite differing philosophies. He strongly advised parents to remain up-to-date on changes in OPWDD news and to use existing services as much as possible.