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July 13, 2021 - 2:51pm
posted by Press Release in WNYIL, Disability Pride Week, ADA 30th anniversary.

Western New York Independent Living Inc. (WNYIL), and several other disability services providers, are inviting all our friends to join us for our annual Disability Pride Celebration, a weeklong virtual series of activities from July 26th to 30th.

It celebrates the 31st anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990. It was signed into law by then President George Herbert Walker Bush and discrimination against people with disabilities became illegal.

Highlights of the week will include: the history of the disability rights movement; features on disability rights today; youth with disabilities-focused content; as well as entertainment throughout the week.

Activities will be featured on the Disability Pride Facebook page, as well as WNYIL’s YouTube page.

Sponsors of the event include: The Independent Consumer Advocate Network (ICAN), National Grid, Independent Health, and People Inc.

Other community partners assisting in the week’s events include: the Erie County Office for People with Disabilities, Deaf Access Services, People Inc., theCantalician Center for Learning, and WNY Adaptive Water Sports.

The Western New York Independent Living Inc. Family of Agencies offer an expanding array of services to aid individuals with disabilities to take control of their own lives.

May 18, 2021 - 4:30am

Submitted photo and press release:

Western New York Independent Living Inc. (WNYIL) is celebrating its decades of service to the community and citizens with disabilities with its virtual 41st Annual Membership Meeting to be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, June 8.

The WNYIL Board of Directors invites everyone to join in the celebration by registering in advance by May 28, emailing Jillian Moss-Smith at [email protected], or calling (716) 836-0822, ext. 146. Once one’s RSVP is received, information will be sent enabling one to attend via Zoom.

The Guest Speaker is Christina Mills (inset photo right), the nationally renowned executive director of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers, which works to increase access and equal opportunity for people with disabilities by building the capacity of Independent Living Centers.

As executive director of CFILC she is responsible for seamlessly implementing six statewide programs while also building the capacity of her Independent Living Center membership. In 2020, Mills launched California’s first statewide cross-disability Disability Disaster Access & Resources program. The program works to ensure that disabled individuals are provided services and resources to maintain their wellness and independence during an emergency or disaster. 

Other activities at the annual Membership Meeting will include: recognizing the WNYIL Employee and Volunteer of the Year; the Elayne G. Wels Community Support Award for a person’s contribution to our broader work; Corporate Support Award to a business that helps to advance the Independent Living Philosophy of, “All people, regardless of disability, have the right and responsibility to assume control over their own lives”; the Year-in-Review Video; the election of officers; employee recognitions; plus raffles.

The Western New York Independent Living Inc. Family of Agencies offer an expanding array of services to aid individuals with disabilities to take control of their own lives.

July 30, 2020 - 4:41pm

Press release:

Western New York Independent Living (WNYIL) has addressed the needs of youth with disabilities by establishing a Youth Peer Advocacy Program.

To allow anyone who might be interested in getting to know the Program without leaving home, they are holding a Youth Peer Virtual Open House via the GoToMeeting online app, from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday Aug. 6.

Like others their age, young people with disabilities have questions and would appreciate getting honest and transparent answers – and who better than young people who also have disabilities to provide them? 

Attendees will be able to meet Young adult peers from the disability community, learn its current and planned activities, and offer suggestions for its future direction by joining the Youth Advisory Council. There will also be opportunities to win prizes and participate in a Question and Answer session.

There is no need to register in advance. On the Youth Peers at WNY Facebook page there is a larger flyer with a scannable QR (Quick Response) code square to connect easily. For those who cannot scan, the direct link to the virtual gathering is here.

Those with any questions can reach out to the Program by emailing [email protected], or calling (716) 836-0822, ext. 540.

The Western New York Independent Living Inc. Family of Agencies offer an expanding array of services to aid individuals with disabilities to take control of their own lives.

May 18, 2020 - 1:08pm

Press release:

Even though we are not sure when Western New York will meet the last of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s seven metrics for Phase One reopening from the COVID-19 pandemic and New York on PAUSE restrictions, Mental Health PEER Connection (MHPC) has created a safe way to relieve stress and observe Mental Health Month – by online teleconference on Thursday, May, 28th.

Realizing that isolation exasperates mental health issues, the staff of MHPC, all of whom have mental health concerns, have developed a system of specific tools to help all people to deal with the pandemic.

Maura Kelley, CPRP, director of MHPC, will lead the staff in sharing their tools by making up a so-called “Tackle Box for Emotional Health.”

“We are doing this to celebrate ‘May is Mental Health Month’," Kelley said. "If we who already have mental illness can thrive in this troubled time, people should support us and learn from it during this observance.”

Each staff member selected a mental-or-emotional-health-enhancing topic to research and prepare a two-to-three-minute presentation. At 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 28, anyone who registers to log onto the GoToMeeting teleconference site will enjoy the 16 uplifting presentations.

If you wish to participate in the Mental Health Awareness Month Celebration, or have any questions, please email Jillian Moss at: [email protected]. Or call her at (716) 836-0822, ext. 146, before May 28th. Upon registering, you will receive the GoToMeeting link to log in.

A member of the Western New York Independent Living Family of Agencies (WNYIL), Mental Health PEER Connection is a peer-driven advocacy organization, dedicated to facilitating self-directed growth, wellness and choice through genuine peer mentoring.

April 7, 2020 - 11:28am

Press release:

The Western New York COVID-19 Community Response Fund coordinated by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, Health Foundation for Western & Central New York, The John R. Oishei Foundation and the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County announced that it has granted $4.5 Million to 74 organizations in less than two weeks after the Fund was announced.

Grants were awarded to organizations serving all eight counties of Western New York that are addressing immediate needs in our community as a result of the COVID-19 crisis in the areas of food, housing, healthcare, childcare, mental health, transportation, and other emergency services.

Grants were made to nonprofit organizations throughout WNY including urban and rural areas, organizations of every size, and to those serving a range of populations with consideration for areas already in economic distress. 

The WNY COVID-19 Community Response Fund is a collaborative effort among the region’s philanthropic organizations to help essential organizations on the front lines of this community crisis with grants designed to complement public sector funds.

Anyone is welcome to join the effort and donate to the Fund through the website – www.WNYResponds.org.

The following nonprofit organizations received a grant from the WNY COVID-19 Community Response Fund:

• Allegany County Community Opportunities and Rural Development

• Arc of Genesee Orleans (Meals on Wheels)

• BestSelf Behavioral Health

• Boys & Girls Clubs Collaborative

• Buffalo Prenatal Perinatal Network

• Buffalo Urban League

• CAO of Western New York

• Cattaraugus and Wyoming Counties Project Head Start

• Cattaraugus Community Action

• Cattaraugus County Dept. of Aging (Meals on Wheels Fund)

• Cazenovia Recovery Systems


• Child & Family Services of Erie County

• Child Care Coalition of the Niagara Frontier

• Christ Church Community Kitchen

• City Mission Society, Inc.

• Community Action of Orleans & Genesee

• Community Health Center of Buffalo

• Community Missions of Niagara Frontier

• CoNECT (Community Health Worker Network of Buffalo)

• Crisis Services

• Cuba Cultural Center

• Directions in Independent Living

• Empower (United Cerebral Palsy Assoc. of Niagara County)

• Erie Regional Housing Develop. (Belle Center)

• Evergreen Health

• Every Bottom Covered

• Family Help Center

• Feed Buffalo

• FeedMore WNY

• Friends of Night People

• Genesee Orleans Ministry of Concern Inc. 

• Harvest House of South Buffalo

• Health Association of Niagara County (HANCI)

• Healthy Community Alliance

• Heart Love & Soul

• Hearts and Hands: Faith in Action Inc.

• Horizon Health Services

• Jericho Road Community Health Center

• Jewish Family Service of Buffalo & Erie County

• Journey's End Refugee Services

• Kendall Community Food Cupboard Corp.

• Learning Disabilities Association of WNY

• Life Impact (Resurrection Life Food Pantry)

• Lt. Col. Matt Urban HSC of WNY

• Metro Community Develop. Corp.

• Mid-Erie Mental Health Services (Endeavor Health Services)

• Native American Community Services 

• Neighborhood Health Center 

• Niagara Community Action Program Inc.

• Northpointe Council

• NYS Network for Youth Success

• Olmsted Center for Sight

• Open Buffalo (Seeding Resilience Initiative)

• Parkside Evangelical Lutheran Church

• PUSH Buffalo

• Restoration Society

• Safety-Net Assoc. of Primary Care Affiliated Providers

• Save the Michaels of the World

• Say Yes Buffalo 

• Spectrum Health and Human Services

• Western New York Independent Living

To date, the WNY COVID-19 Community Response Fund has received approximately $5.5 million from local foundations, private sector companies, and individuals. Additional funds raised will be distributed based on evolving needs related to the pandemic. To see a full list of contributors to the Fund, please visit www.WNYResponds.org.

On Monday (April 6) Buffalo Bills General Manager Brandon Beane announced that he is donating $20,000 to relief efforts and is also offering fans an opportunity to interact with him as he gears up for the 2020 NFL Draft to build awareness for the Fund.

The initiative, which runs until Friday, April 17, will award seven randomly selected entrants with one of seven unique Bills-themed experiences or prizes.

For anyone in need of assistance with information related to services available in our community, please call 2-1-1. It is a referral hotline that is staffed 24/7 and serves all eight counties of Western New York.

January 29, 2020 - 1:09pm

Press release:

The Facebook Journalism Project has awarded the Buffalo-based Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service a grant of $24,996 to fund the agency’s new Podcasts & Streaming Initiative. The project is expected to launch within the next two months.

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.

The reading service is available to Genesee County listeners, primarily in the western portion of the county, according to Executive Director Michael Benzin.

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 tenfold increase in the number of listeners served with the addition of the new program.

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 internet-connected device.

The Facebook Journalism Project (FJP) 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 Cummings Foundation and is also being supported by the East Hill Foundation, the Christos Foundation, Ingram Micro, and WNY Independent Living.

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, Canada.

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 New York Times, Niagara Gazette, Jamestown Post Journal, Dunkirk Observer, weekly newspapers like the local Bee Group Newspapers and Business First, a variety of magazines, and books curated from The New York Times' Best Seller List.

The NFRRS is an affiliate of Western New York Independent Living, a community-based nonprofit organization that serves more than 7,000 people with disabilities annually through peer counseling, support for independent living, transitional services, advocacy and information and referrals. WNYIL has an office in Batavia on West Main Street.

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

“Alexa, play Niagara Frontier Radio Reading.”

“Hey Google, what’s on Niagara Frontier Radio Reading at 9 a.m.?”

For more information, visit:

December 14, 2018 - 2:21pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, Announcements, WNYIL, NFRRS.

Press release:

As of Dec. 1st, Western New York Independent Living Inc. (WNYIL) is excited to welcome the Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service (NFRRS) as the sixth member of their family of agencies!  

Founded 31 years ago, it's an audio news service for those who are unable to read print publications, such as the blind, dyslexic, those with certain traumatic brain injuries, or who have limited limb use that makes holding publications difficult, etc.

This 24-hour/7-days-per-week service brings community newspapers, magazines, and books into the homes and ears of its constituents all across Western New York and Southern Ontario, Canada. 

This function makes NFRRS a natural to join a collaboration of agencies that work to bring knowledge to people with disabilities who wish to stay informed, make their own decisions, and participate in their neighborhoods.

At present, a listener must have a special radio set to receive the side band audio channel that WNED-FM provides to be able to enjoy it. While they are provided at no cost, an annual donation would be appreciated.   

A cadre of dedicated volunteers reads from The Buffalo News, USA Today, Niagara Gazette, The Wall Street Journal, the Sunday edition of The New York Times, various popular magazines, best-selling fiction and nonfiction books, one hour per week of old-time radio, and, the most popular features: the Death Notices, Horoscopes and Tuesday supermarket ads! 

NFRRS is always seeking more service participants and volunteer readers, including those who can read but have other disabilities. A survey will be going out to existing participants to determine what’s working in the service and what can be improved.

A majority of the more than 100 audio information services in the United States stream their broadcasts on the Internet, and WNYIL is exploring that option to determine if that would be embraced by current and potential participants.

To get additional information on NFRRS, call Program Manager Nick Aldrich at (716) 821-5555.

The Western New York Independent Living Inc. family of agencies offer an expanding array of services to aid individuals with disabilities to take control of their own lives.

July 6, 2018 - 2:44pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, Milestones, WNYIL, batavia.

Submitted photo and press release:

The Western New York Independent Living Inc. Family of Agencies (WNYIL) is pleased to announce that Stephanie Orlando has joined their team as chief operations officer (COO), second only to Chief Executive Officer Douglas J. Usiak.

As COO, she is responsible for the overall supervision of over 2,500 employees at seven offices, serving 12 counties, that have an annual operating budget of more than $40 million. The Batavia office (Independent Living of Genesee Region) is located at 113 Main St.

She will help manage 61 contracts, including 18 management care and managed long-term care agreements, including federal grants, as well as state and local contracts. In addition, she helps manage 13 subcontracts with community-based organizations that provide services to 23 counties.

Some selected highlights of Orlando's accomplishments and honors:

  • In 2005, the Western New York native moved to Albany to work for Families Together in New York State where she developed the statewide network YOUTH POWER! (YP!). Through peer-to-peer mentoring YP! empowers young people to be leaders and advocates. Notable among the other programs she helped develop, was the 2015 New York State Office of Mental Health Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Waiver Youth Peer Advocate training curriculum, which she co-authored with Jutta Dotterweich of Cornell University. She transitioned out as YP! director in 2017.
  • Also, in 2005, Orlando connected to other advocates by joining the National Youth Leadership Network (NYLN). Attending their Leadership Institute resulted in her serving for years on the National Council on Disability’s (NCD) Youth Advisory Committee (YAC), holding the positions of Outreach Workgroup Leader, Chairperson, and Mentor. In 2012, President Barack Obama appointed her, (confirmed by the U.S. Senate), to serve a two-year term on the full NCD. In this period, Orlando served on the Executive Committee as the chairperson of the Governance and Planning Committee.
  • From 2001 to 2005, she was the executive assistant for the Children’s Mental Health Coalition of Western New York, organizing a variety of activities.
  • From 1999 to 2001 Orlando worked as the lead Youth Peer Advocate for Mid-Erie Counseling and Treatment Services. Also, in 1999, Stephanie was selected as an original member of the New York State Office of Mental Health Youth Advisory Council and elected Chairperson.
  • Having received her high-school-equivalency diploma, Orlando obtained her Bachelor of Arts and graduated magna cum laude from the University at Buffalo in 2005.
  • Among her honors are: the Erie County Executive Award for National Disability Employment Awareness Month (2004); Mental Health America’s mPower Award (2006); the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL)'s Diana Viets Memorial Award (2008); and the Leila Salmon Advocacy Award from The New York State Mental Health Association (NYSMHA).

We of WNYIL look forward to working with Stephanie Orlando in this exciting new role.

WNYIL is Western New York's largest cross-disability, consumer-directed, non-residential organization for persons with disabilities. At WNYIL, individuals of all ages and all types of disabilities learn to exercise their freedom of choice to take control of their own lives, in order to live more productively in, and contribute to, the community.

March 22, 2017 - 12:53pm
posted by Billie Owens in WNYIL, news.

Press release:

At the annual “Night for Independence Gala,” on May 20 in Salvatore’s Italian Gardens, Western New York Independent Living Inc. Family of Agencies (WNYIL) will salute a member of the disability community with its Independent Citizen Award. WNYIL is requesting that the public submit the names of candidates for this distinguished honor, prior to the Monday April 3 cutoff for nominations.

To be considered, the individual would have shown support, assistance and inspiration to others while demonstrating the five core values of this award:  

  • Exemplifying independence in the community, such as: by beginning a special project; by spearheading an awareness effort; or by gaining the support of decision-makers, for the benefit of others with disabilities or the general community;
  • Going above and beyond what would be expected to assist others, by offering personal experience or expertise, organizing individuals around an issue, enlisting partnerships, and/or revealing self-sacrificing work; 
  • Remaining active in the community over an extended period, even after an initial success with an activity or major project;
  •  Rejecting others’ criticism or doubt, that potentially could have deterred the individual from striving to reach and achieve personal goals;
  •  Showing the world the value of one person’s actions by encouraging others to have a contributing, encouraging, and positive attitude about making the community a better place for all. 

Anyone who is aware of an individual with a disability who would meet all these criteria should contact Heather Mattiuzzo of the WNYIL Office of Community Outreach at (716) 836-0822, ext. 146; or email her with the candidate’s name, a paragraph about his/her qualifications and contact information, as well as the submitter’s name and contact information, to [email protected].

WNY Independent Living, Inc. is Western New York's largest cross-disability, consumer-directed, non-residential organization for persons with disabilities. At WNYIL, individuals of all ages and all types of disabilities learn to exercise their freedom of choice to take control of their own lives in order to live more productively in, and contribute to, the community.

July 16, 2016 - 3:17pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, business, Announcements, WNYIL, news.

Press release:

Western New York Independent Living, Inc., (WNYIL), which has an office in Batavia, will be holding its third Biannual Summit on Aging and Independence: “Shaping Health and Wellness for the Future” on Sept. 29-30 at the Buffalo Convention Center, and they need knowledgeable people to share their expertise.

WNYIL is recruiting individuals who work with seniors, OR who are part of an organization, business or service providing support to individuals who are over 55 years old, OR are doing research specifically focused on the senior population, to participate as presenters, as plenary speakers, or in panels or interactive workshops. There is no charge to make a presentation, which is limited to 75-minutes long, and those accepted will be given breakfast or lunch.

The purpose of the Summit is to identify and reveal critical efforts, ideas, research and issues related to aging, independence, wellness and change, but it also affords participants a great opportunity to represent and exchange knowledge regarding concepts, programs, services, trends, etc., which can impact individuals who are in the 55+ group.

To be considered, would-be presenters should prepare a proposal that fits one of these categories: Practical and scholarly work on issues important to aging populations; Lecture-style presentations; Hands-on workshops or simulations; Presentations on or by community groups that interact with aging populations; Presentations by students on aging-related course assignments or volunteer work; Panel Discussions; and Interactive Workshops.

While proposals can involve any appropriate topic, some potential areas are: Health Care Provision; Managed Long-Term Care; Assistive Technology Advances; Gerontology; Care-giving; Research; Independent Living; Public Policy or Systems Advocacy; Healthy Lifestyles; Cultural Diversity; New Trends; or Outcomes. The Summit is divided into five tracks to appeal to the perspectives of different attendees: Service providers or advocates; healthcare professionals; consumers; caregivers; or researchers/educators.

The intended audience should be identified in the proposals, which will be scored by the Steering Committee based on how well they address the content area, plus clarity, objectives, method of presentation, likely interest to participants, and overall program balance.

For more information, and to request Proposal Guidelines and application forms, please call Heather at (716) 836-0822, ext. 146, or Katie at ext.166, and we will be happy to assist you! Applications are due by Aug. 15 to WNY Independent Living, Inc. – Summit on Aging, 3108 Main St., Buffalo, NY 14214, or to [email protected]. Those accepted will be notified by Sept. 1.

The Western New York Independent Living, Inc., family of agencies offer an expanding array of services to aid individuals with disabilities to take control of their own lives.

October 15, 2015 - 12:23pm
posted by Billie Owens in WNYIL, disabilities.

Press release:

A focus group on Monday, Oct. 19th, will enable New Yorkers with disabilities in Buffalo, Niagara Falls, New York City and Batavia to have their voices heard on which programs most deserve Federal Independent Living funds allocated for the Empire State in the next three years.

The entity designated by the federal government to oversee this process, the New York State Independent Living Council (NYSILC) has been gathering consumers’ input on the statewide plan for Independent Living (SPIL) for 2016-2019.

In our region, Western New York Independent Living, Inc. (WNYIL), is facilitating this effort by holding the focus group from 2 to 4 p.m. at its 3108 Main St. facility near Hertel Avenue, in Buffalo’s University District. However, video conferencing will permit participation by those at Independent Living of Niagara County, 746 Portage Road, near Pine Avenue in Niagara Falls, and at Independent Living of the Genesee Region at 113 Main St., Suite 5, in Batavia.

Funding ideas presented for past SPIL three-year plans that bore fruit include: the Statewide Self-Advocacy Network (SSAN) in which community-change advocates across New York work collaboratively to help localities become more disability-accessible; development of programs, such as Consumer-Directed Personal Assistance Services (CDPAS), which give individuals control of their own Home Care Attendants; plus research into an array of disability issues, and training to enhance the quality of local services.

Those who wish to register can call Johanna at (716) 836-0822, ext. 120. Additional information is available from Todd Vaarwerk at (716) 836-0822, ext. 101.  Space is limited.

WNY Independent Living, Inc. is Western New York's largest cross-disability, consumer-directed, non-residential organization for persons with disabilities. At WNYIL, individuals of all ages and all types of disabilities learn to exercise their freedom of choice to take control of their own lives in order to live more productively in, and contribute to, the community.

December 17, 2011 - 1:13pm
posted by Billie Owens in ILGR, WNYIL.

Press release

Beginning in mid-January, Independent Living of Genesee Region (ILGR) is pleased to announce that in cooperation with Western New York Independent Living, Inc. (WNYIL), transportation services will be offered for people that are eligible for services through the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities AND are living with a family member in Genesee or Orleans counties.

Qualified individuals will receive up to six round trips per month at no cost to a location of choice in the Buffalo / Rochester region.

A wheelchair-accessible van with a driver that meets Article 19A of the Vehicle and Traffic Law guidelines will be based at the ILGR main office on Main Street in Batavia. ILGR and WNYIL recognize that reliable, accessible and affordable transportation is a barrier for many families, especially in rural areas. This program will help eliminate that barrier.

Also in January, ILGR will offer transportation services on a fee-for-service basis for anyone with a disability. ILGR believes the availability of local accessible services will assist to serve the ever-increasing mobility needs of the local community.

If you would like to sign up for either program, you can call 815-8501, ext. 126.

Independent Living of Genesee Region (ILGR), part of the WNY Independent Living Inc., Family of Agencies, has primary offices at 113 Main St., Suite 5, Batavia. The agency provides individuals of the Genesee Region (Orleans, Genesee and Wyoming counties) with four Core Services: Information and Referral; Peer Counseling; Independent Living Skills Training; and Individual and Community Advocacy.

For more information about ILGR or to begin receiving services, please call 815-8501, ext. 400 between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

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