Candidate Forum: At The Strong Museum of Play on October 19

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To prepare for the upcoming Candidate Forum on Disability Rights,  surveys were given to candidates running for Sheriff, Mayor, City Council, Family Court, and City Court in the city of Rochester. We hope reading these responses will help you to make a well-informed choice before voting in the November election. 

To meet some of the candidates we encourage you to attend the Candidate Forum at the Strong Museum of Play’s Activities Room (1 Manhattan Square Dr, Rochester, NY) on October 19, from 6pm to 8pm! Entrance is located on the business side in the back, please do not use the main entrance. Facility is wheelchair accessible. FM Loop, CART, and sign language interpreters will be provided. For accommodations, contact Ericka Jones at 585.546.7510 or ejones@cdrnys.org.

Bring your family and friends to learn more about the candidates’ views on disability issues as they pertain to healthcare, housing, transportation, education, and communication access!


Joseph Nesser for Monroe County Family Court

1. Accessibility is a real barrier for disabled people who have to appear in court or even serve on juries. How will you ensure that disabled people get reasonable accommodations?

The Hall of Justice has ramps at the entrance and elevators to provide access to people with disabilities.

2. Communication access in courts is an issue for the Deaf Community. Currently there are not enough interpreters and there is not even a video phone in the courthouses. How will you ensure that Deaf people have access to communication in the court system?

The Hall of Justice provides interpreters for parties who are deaf. I have never had a problem with securing the services of an interpreter. In addition, I have been able to use a phone which is able to have an interpreter for a deaf party. The Hall of Justice does have audio-visual capability which I have used on some of my cases for out of town parties and witnesses.

3. Due to stigmas against disabled people, parents with disabilities have their children taken away at a disproportionately higher rate than non-disabled parents for simply because they are disabled and our system assumes that makes them less able or incapable of parenting. If elected, what will you do to ensure this isn’t the case in the Greater Rochester area?

I have presided in Monroe County Family Court for ten years and over 13,000 cases and never once was a child removed from a parent, because they had a disability in my Court.

Todd Baxter for Sheriff

1. People with disabilities often encounter police violence. Often, it is due to a lack of understanding of invisible disabilities. Not responding is perceived as a threat. How will you as Sheriff work to improve relations with people with disabilities?

As Sheriff, I will ensure deputies receive proper training on how to recognize when an individual may have an invisible, cognitive disability and respond accordingly. I will increase the number of deputies on the Emotionally Disturbed Persons Response Team (EDPRT). In some towns like Irondequoit, officers carry a card with tips to remind them on how best to interact with individuals with autism while in the field—I would make sure this tool is available to all deputies so they can communicate properly and put the individual at ease. I will also invest resources in ongoing training and awareness programs countywide in order to continue to improve relations with community members with disabilities. We can never do enough training.

2. Accessibility is a barrier when disabled people are arrested and there is a lack of communication between the officer and is a Deaf person is arrested. How will you ensure that people with disabilities are appropriately informed of their arrest information and any other necessary information?

The Sheriff’s office has interpreters on call 24/7, and I will make sure officers thoroughly understand the policy and utilize them as a resource to communicate effectively with deaf community members. In short term interactions deputies need to understand there are other forms of communication including writing in the notebook that each deputy carries. For those arrested we will have a simple form that shares needed information; deputy name and contact information, arrest time and location, charges, and supervisor information.

3. Access and safety are an issue when wheelchair users are arrested and transported to another location. If a person is lifted out of their chair and placed in a vehicle, there are a number of injuries that can occur to a disabled person. If a person is handcuffed, doing so behind their back can cause injury to their shoulders. In cases where wheelchair users are arrested, what will you do to ensure these persons are transported safely and processed?

In situations like this, ambulance transport is always available and I will ensure deputies are aware of this option. I will also work to increase access by purchasing a dedicated accessible vehicle for these purposes. An agency that runs a jail, and transports people all the time, I am surprised there is not a wheelchair accessible vehicle.


Patrick O’Flynn for Sheriff

1. People with disabilities often encounter police violence. Often, it is due to a lack of understanding of invisible disabilities. Not responding is perceived as a threat. How will you as Sheriff work to improve relations with people with disabilities?

Monroe County is a diverse community, and as Sheriff, I have made it a priority to make sure our deputies have the necessary training and resources to be able to effectively communicate and interact with everyone. Ultimately, an open line of communication and mutual understanding between law enforcement and the disabled community will help ensure everyone’s safety. That is why I have made it a priority to allow citizens to get a behind-the-scenes look at the training and education our deputies receive through various citizen academies.

2. Accessibility is a barrier when disabled people are arrested and there is a lack of communication between the officer and if a Deaf person is arrested. How you will you ensure that people with disabilities are appropriately informed of their arrest information and any other necessary information?

In the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office we have a great working relationship with the deaf and hard of hearing community through our community partnership with RIT. We are

the primary first responder law enforcement agency at the RIT campus. We also handle all of their special event details. We have deputies trained in ASL sign and if a deputy is not available during an incident we will ensure a qualified (certified) ASL sign interpreter is made available. This has been recently made a requirement as part of our General Orders as well. (See MBGO 093-16) We also have deputies who attend monthly meetings with the deaf and hard of hearing community to assess their needs and concerns to continue our partnership.

Additionally, the Monroe County Jail has the Interpretype machines used during the booking and classification process to assist the deaf and hard of hearing community. In addition this instrument can be used as a relay and a phone for their convenience.

3. Access and safety are an issue when wheelchair users are arrested and transported to another location. If a person is lifted out of their chair and placed in a vehicle, there are a number of injuries that can occur to disabled person. If a person is handcuffed, doing so behind their back can cause injury to their shoulders. In cases where wheelchair users are arrested, what will you do to ensure these persons are transported safely and processed?

Upon the arrest of individual with specific medical needs and at the discretion of the deputy, an ambulance or medical transport company may be called to assist with transportation to either the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Substation or Monroe County Jail. Additionally, when an individual with a disability enters into the Monroe County Jail a complete Medical and/or Mental Health screening is completed to evaluate their needs. There is also handicapped accessible housing area equipped for wheelchairs, walkers and in certain circumstances canes.

If it is determined an individual has special needs based on a disability or otherwise (i.e. elderly, size, pregnancy) the deputies will handcuff in the front or use an alternate soft restraint device. (See MBGO 005-16.)

 

Lovely Warren for Rochester Mayor

1. If you are elected how will you increase the amount of affordable, accessible, integrated housing to ensure disabled people and seniors are able to live in the community?

We work closely with our developers to make sure the needs of our citizens with disabilities are being met. We are working to introduce family-oriented independent living facilities, that not just serve this population, but also their families. In the next couple years, more affordable housing projects will be coming onto the market, including the Home Leasing project on the Inner Loop, and DePaul’s affordable housing project on Hudson Avenue – the first housing development on Hudson Avenue in over 30 years. Lastly, on any housing project that receives financial support from the City, we require that developers build at least 10 percent of the units as affordable units.

2. The city of Rochester has already shown interest in Visitability and is currently working with CDR to draft a proposed ordinance that would require new homes built in Rochester to have at least one no-stop entrance, a first floor bathroom and 36″ clearance passage for all main floor internal doorways. Would you support this?

Yes. I am supportive of this concept, and my Administration is will continue to work with both CDR and our development communities to make sure it is drafted and implemented correctly. We are proud that Stadium Estates in the JOSANA neighborhood, which has been developed over the past few years, meets these requirements.

3. What is your plan to promote independent living for seniors and people with disabilities and ensure Olmstead compliance within the city of Rochester?

We work closely with agencies that provide housing for individuals with disabilities who also want to live independently to ensure state and federal requirements are met, and we are proud to support these agencies. As noted above, we are also working with our developers to create more family-friendly, accessible housing.

4. If elected how will you support the disability community in creating more accessible transportation options?

We are actively meeting with businesses that provide such services, and hope to bring them to Rochester in the near future. In addition we are also working in partnership with RGRTA to review their routes to ensure our citizens’ needs — particularly those with disabilities — are being met.

5. As Rochester Mayor, what will you do to make sure that the city’s department of NBD ensures building accessibility?

The City will continue to work diligently to ensure all of our Code requirements are met.

6. What will you do to ensure that disabled Rochestarians have full access to the community and city’s Services?

All City of Rochester buildings and functions are accessible, and work across all departments to ensure compliance. We also make every effort to be a model employer by hiring individuals from all backgrounds. Our Project Search program is a one-year, high school transition program, which places students with disabilities in City internships with the goal of attaining competitive employment. As we begin to rebuild much of Rochester’s infrastructure – like Charles Carroll Park – we will be putting accessibility at a premium. And finally, we work to ensure that all of our City programs – like Clean Sweep – are accessible, and actively work to highlight participation from CDR and the greater disability community in these important projects.

 

Alex White for Rochester Mayor

1. If you are elected how will you increase the amount of affordable, accessible, integrated housing to ensure disabled people and seniors are able to live in the community?

Rochester needs to have a visitability rule for all new construction in Rochester as this will increase available housing options   We also need a 70/30 market rate/ low income housing requirement on all new construction. Rochester should also take some money form the CDBG and finally use it to provide grants for residents to do needed renovations to their homes to make them visitable.

2. The city of Rochester has already shown interest in Visitability and is currently working with CDR to draft a proposed ordinance that would require new homes built in Rochester to have at least one no-stop entrance, a first floor bathroom and 36″ clearance passage for all main floor internal doorways. Would you support this?

Yes.

3. What is your plan to promote independent living for seniors and people with disabilities and ensure Olmstead compliance within the city of Rochester?

We need to make grants available to help renovate homes. We also need to pressure the county to approve more home health aides rather than nursing homes as it will not only save money, but it is the right thing to do.

4. If elected how will you support the disability community in creating more accessible transportation options?

As mayor I intend to negotiate with RGRTA to change the routes, resolve snow removal at bus stops, and improve para-transit.  I would also force ride sharing services and taxis services to provide accessible transport services.

5. As Rochester Mayor, what will you do to make sure that the city’s department of NBD ensures building accessibility?

The city needs to take CDBGs money and make it available to businesses as grants to improve accessibility.  I would also let the disability community help determine which business applicants should be the recipients of this money.

6. What will you do to ensure that disabled Rochestarians have full access to the community and city’s Services?

I support having a person in the administration whose job is to work with and advocate for the Disability Community.

 

Mitch Gruber for Rochester City Council

1.  People with disabilities and seniors are unnecessarily forced into nursing facilities due to a lack of affordable, accessible, and integrated housing.

If you are elected, how will you increase the amount of affordable, accessible, integrated housing to ensure that disabled people and seniors are able to live in the community?

We have a shortage of affordable, accessible, senior housing. We can address this by ensuring that future development projects include plans for affordable units that are designed for seniors and people with disabilities. 

2. The City of Rochester has already shown interest in Visitability and is currently working with Center for Disability Rights to draft a proposed ordinance that would require new homes built in Rochester to have at least one no-step entrance, a first floor bathroom and a 36 inch clearance passage for all main floor internal doorways.

Would you support this ordinance?

Yes.

3. The United States Supreme Court decided in 1999 that all individuals with disabilities have the right to live in the most integrated setting. Regardless of age, type of disability, or level of need, states cannot force people with disabilities to live in institutions. This ruling is most commonly known as the Olmstead decision. All States/local governments are required to comply with Olmstead.

What is your plan to promote independent living for seniors and people with disabilities and ensure Olmstead compliance within the City of Rochester?

I would push for new development projects to include units that are affordable and accessible for individuals with disabilities.

4. People with disabilities are limited by their transportation options in our city. Ridesharing is new to Rochester and not accessible to people with mobility disabilities. Lack of transportation leads to having to plan our lives days in advance or opting to stay home. For people living in nursing facilities or institutions, getting out into the community may be the only freedom they have. In the City of Rochester, we have nearly 10 taxi companies and none of them have accessible vehicles.

If elected, how will you support the Disability Community in creating more accessible transportation options?

This is a huge and complex issue. I would work with CDR, and experts like Medical Motors, to find a workable solution for this issue.

5. In Rochester, there are many inaccessible businesses that most commonly do not have an accessible entrance. Center for Disability Rights more recently worked with the Plum House asking them to put a ramp in at their entrance so that wheelchair users would be able to enter.

As a member of City Council, what will you do to make sure that the City’s Department of Neighborhood and Business Development ensures building accessibility?

I believe that most businesses would like to be accessible for people with disabilities; a place like the Plum House, for example, wants to welcome more customers. These businesses need training and access to capital to make these changes. I would encourage NBD to work with CDR on these initiatives.

6. There are approximately 35,000 people with disabilities living in Rochester and disabled people account for 22% of people living in poverty in Rochester.

What will you do to ensure that disabled Rochestarians have full access to the community and the City’s services?

Many organizations try and struggle to reach individuals with disabilities. For example, when I started Foodlink’s Curbside Market, we built the vehicles to be wheelchair accessible. However, there are still many in the community who believe that these vehicles are not accessible to those with disabilities. We must improve communication between City, social service agencies, and individuals in poverty. I hope to work on that, especially with key community organizations like CDR.

 

Pamela Davis for Rochester City Council

1. People with disabilities and seniors are unnecessarily forced into nursing facilities due to a lack of affordable, accessible, and integrated housing.

If you are elected, how will you increase the amount of affordable, accessible, integrated housing to ensure that disabled people and seniors are able to live in the community?

I would like to renovate and rehab vacant homes in our city, which I intend to use as a public works job creation engine. These trade skills like plumbing, carpentry, and electrical will teach young city residents on the job training, giving them experience to join our local unions, and establish themselves with well paying careers. These homes would be affordable, and renovated with accessibility in mind. I would also like to see them be as environmentally focused as possible, by installing solar panels to lower electric bills, and using renewable and sustainable resources like bamboo flooring, to protect our Earth.

2. The City of Rochester has already shown interest in Visitability and is currently working with Center for Disability Rights to draft a proposed ordinance that would require new homes built in Rochester to have at least one no-step entrance, a first floor bathroom and a 36 inch clearance passage for all main floor internal doorways. Would you support this ordinance?

Absolutely! Who wouldn’t?!? This is one of the topics to be addressed when renovating homes for our city’s homeowners. This helps everyone plan for the future.

3. The United States Supreme Court decided in 1999 that all individuals with disabilities have the right to live in the most integrated setting. Regardless of age, type of disability, or level of need, states cannot force people with disabilities to live in institutions. This ruling is most commonly known as the Olmstead decision. All States/local governments are required to comply with Olmstead.

What is your plan to promote independent living for seniors and people with disabilities and ensure Olmstead compliance within the City of Rochester?

I would like the city and county to help people stay in their own homes for as long as possible. These aging-in-place seniors and those with disabilities need a strong network of support services, which, again, could be another opportunity for career paths for our younger city residents. I would also like to see more social workers hired on in all fields, as it takes a village to raise a child, and multi-generational living environments benefit everyone.

4. People with disabilities are limited by their transportation options in our city. Ridesharing is new to Rochester and not accessible to people with mobility disabilities. Lack of transportation leads to having to plan our lives days in advance or opting to stay home. For people living in nursing facilities or institutions, getting out into the community may be the only freedom they have. In the City of Rochester, we have nearly 10 taxi companies and none of them have accessible vehicles. If elected, how will you support the Disability Community in creating more accessible transportation options?

I would like to see more Lift Line type vehicles available, but operated on an Uber/Lyft like way, which is much more convenient for users. Again, hiring city residents for these additional jobs. And, preferably electric or hybrid powered vehicles. Public transportation has huge obstacles for everyone in the city, but it is especially daunting for those with physical disabilities.

5. In Rochester, there are many inaccessible businesses that most commonly do not have an accessible entrance. Center for Disability Rights more recently worked with the Plum House asking them to put a ramp in at their entrance so that wheelchair users would be able to enter. As a member of City Council, what will you do to make sure that the City’s Department of Neighborhood and Business Development ensures building accessibility?

Building accessibility should be a given in 2017. I cannot believe that building owners of commercial businesses wouldn’t make their establishments accessible for all already! I would put this on the owner’s plate, as these are income-generating properties for them. The business owner renting the space should not pay. Also, ramps should be put up anywhere they are requested, and doorways widened when needed, and again, this work should be done by a crew comprised of city residents. I do believe that any costs for these ramps or entrance alterations should be shared between the city and the county. We pay county taxes, too, and public accessibility is helpful for all who live, work, and play within our city/county.

6. There are approximately 35,000 people with disabilities living in Rochester and disabled people account for 22% of people living in poverty in Rochester.

What will you do to ensure that disabled Rochestarians have full access to the community and the City’s services?

I will ensure that disabled Rochestarians will have full access to the community and the City’s services by listening to groups that know the most about these topics, like the Center for Disability Rights! Your members live with these challenges each day, and can alert us when there is a problem, and offer a possible solution. I also would like to establish a translation training program, utilizing ASL interpreters as well as multi-lingual interpreters to bring access to more our our city’s residents at public meetings and events, especially for smaller community associations and groups, as they often cannot afford to pay for these professional services. I would look to offer class/course credit and a nominal stipend per event for having interpreters give back to their community, as we are all in this together.

 

Malik Evans for Rochester City Council

1. People with disabilities and seniors are unnecessarily forced into nursing facilities due to a lack of affordable, accessible, and integrated housing.

If you are elected, how will you increase the amount of affordable, accessible, integrated housing to ensure that disabled people and seniors are able to live in the community?

I will work to accomplish this by insisting that any new housing developments work to include housing that is accessible to seniors and disabled people.

2. The City of Rochester has already shown interest in Visitability and is currently working with Center for Disability Rights to draft a proposed ordinance that would require new homes built in Rochester to have at least one no-step entrance, a first floor bathroom and a 36 inch clearance passage for all main floor internal doorways. Would you support this ordinance?

Yes.

3. The United States Supreme Court decided in 1999 that all individuals with disabilities have the right to live in the most integrated setting. Regardless of age, type of disability, or level of need, states cannot force people with disabilities to live in institutions. This ruling is most commonly known as the Olmstead decision. All States/local governments are required to comply with Olmstead.

What is your plan to promote independent living for seniors and people with disabilities and ensure Olmstead compliance within the City of Rochester?

I will work to ensure that new housing and development is fully compliant with the Olmstead decision and will insist that City Staff works to ensure that this is incorporate in any review.

4. People with disabilities are limited by their transportation options in our city. Ridesharing is new to Rochester and not accessible to people with mobility disabilities. Lack of transportation leads to having to plan our lives days in advance or opting to stay home. For people living in nursing facilities or institutions, getting out into the community may be the only freedom they have. In the City of Rochester, we have nearly 10 taxi companies and none of them have accessible vehicles. If elected, how will you support the Disability Community in creating more accessible transportation options?

I would work to attract companies that are able to meet the needs of our disability community. I would also like to discuss with Taxi companies ways in which they can accommodate the disabled. This is an important issue to ensure a good quality of life for the disabled community.

5. In Rochester, there are many inaccessible businesses that most commonly do not have an accessible entrance. Center for Disability Rights more recently worked with the Plum House asking them to put a ramp in at their entrance so that wheelchair users would be able to enter. As a member of City Council, what will you do to make sure that the City’s Department of Neighborhood and Business Development ensures building accessibility?

I would work with NBD to ensure that all buildings in the city strive to be accessible to all of the citizens in the community. This is an important issue and no member of the community should feel isolated.

6. There are approximately 35,000 people with disabilities living in Rochester and disabled people account for 22% of people living in poverty in Rochester.

What will you do to ensure that disabled Rochestarians have full access to the community and the City’s services?

I will always ask the question, are we being inclusive as a community and does any plan account for the 35,000 people living with a disability in Rochester.

 

Charles F. Crimi, Jr. for Rochester Family Court

1. Accessibility is a real barrier for disabled people who have to appear in court or even serve on juries. How will you ensure that disabled people get reasonable accommodations?

The Courthouse is ADA compliant and the court system has an ADA and court interpreting coordinator, Commissioner Charles Perreaud. If there is a request for accommodation the court system complies with the ADA.

2. Communication access in courts is an issue for the Deaf Community. Currently there are not enough interpreters and there is not even a video phone in the courthouses. How will you ensure that Deaf people have access to communication in the court system?

We do have sign language interpreters available for cases. City Court currently has an ITY device. Earlier this week, Chief Judge DiFiore announced the formation of an advisory panel to address access to our courts by persons with disabilities. Both Commissioner Perreaud and Monroe County Court Judge Vincent DiNolfo have been appointed to the panel. I am willing to convey any concerns or proposals to them for their committee’s consideration.

3. Due to stigmas against disabled people, parents with disabilities have their children taken away at a disproportionately higher rate than non-disabled parents for simply because they are disabled and our system assumes that makes them less able or incapable of parenting. If elected, what will you do to ensure this isn’t the case in the Greater Rochester area?

This concern does not arise in City Court.