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Aspire of WNY Statement on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Author Archive

Center for Learning Update

Under the guidance of the Erie County Department of Health and the Center for Learning’s Safety Plan, we have determined that our School Aged and On-Site Preschool will transition to remote learning. The families and caregivers of our students have been contacted. Additionally, teachers and therapists have followed up with their individual students.

The building will also be undergoing a deep cleaning. We are scheduled to return to in-person classes on Oct. 19th.  The Center for Learning Safety Plan can be viewed on

Voting Rights for Persons with Developmental Disabilities

The New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities has released a memorandum on voting rights for persons with developmental disabilities. Read the full release below, or visit the OPWDD website for more.    

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (also known as “The Motor Voter Act”) made it easier for all Americans, regardless of ability, to exercise their fundamental right to vote. The Motor Voter Act requires all offices of State-funded programs that are primarily engaged in providing services to persons with disabilities to provide all program applicants with voter registration forms and to assist in their completion and submission.

OPWDD is committed to ensuring that voting rights are upheld for the people we serve, and that every person is given the opportunity to register to vote. Every effort should be made to discuss with individuals their right to vote and to encourage and assist with any interest in doing so.

This year’s general election will be held: Tuesday, November 3, 2020.

In NYS, the deadline to register to vote is: Friday, October 9th, 2020, and it can be done online, in person or by mail.

Additionally, if registered to vote, mail-in ballots can be requested by Tuesday, October 27, 2020. Several early voting days will be available, beginning October 24th.  

A safe way to vote must be discussed with every individual seeking to exercise this right.

Mental Hygiene Law 33.01 provides for equal provision of civil rights to persons with developmental disabilities and specifically includes the right to register for and to vote in elections “if in all other respects qualified and eligible.” New York State Election Law sets forth the qualifications for eligible voter participation. Section 5-106 prohibits those who have been convicted of a felony and those who “have been adjudged incompetent by order of a court of competent judicial authority” from voting. Interpretation, implementation and monitoring of eligibility criteria is left to the Local Boards of Elections and questions regarding specific individuals’ eligibility and registration statuses should be directed to the Local Boards of Election.

Counsel’s Office Bureau of Service Delivery may be contacted at (518) 474-7700 with additional questions.

Aspire Reopening Safety Plans

Demetrius Brooks

Aspire Announces Appointment of Chairperson to Quality Partnership on Diversity & Inclusion

Demetrius Brooks, Associate Director of Residential Opportunities

Demetrius Brooks

“Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” -James Baldwin

Demetrius began his career at Aspire in 2011 as a Direct Support Professional in residential.  Demetrius joined Aspire while he was pursuing a Master’s Degree of Science and Criminal Justice from Buffalo State College.  He felt Aspire’s Mission aligned with his own, protecting and serving people who have been marginalized.  In 2012, he was promoted to Team Coordinator at the Borden IRA.  He was promoted again to Program Coordinator in 2015.  When the Agency reorganized in 2018, he was promoted once again to his current position, Associate Director of Residential Opportunities.  Demetrius also graduated from Leadership Buffalo’s Rising Leader Program in 2018, where he made community connections and developed his leadership skills.

In addition to the positive contributions Demetrius lends every day to his division, he is an agency investigator and Co-chairs a Quality Partnership focused on program planning and implementation. Demetrius exemplifies the best of us by supporting and empowering our workforce and the individuals we support to create opportunities for success.  He listens, values, and respects others and through his actions and communications, we are a better organization.

When asked why the Quality Partnership on Diversity and Inclusion was important to him, Demetrius shared “I have been discriminated against and judged for the color of my skin and other personal traits/characteristics on countless occasions, yet I have not let that stop me from trying to overcome obstacles and work towards success. My personal experience has only heightened my passion to fight against social and racial injustice, whenever and wherever I may. Change is needed and I want to be a part of that change here at Aspire – no matter how big or small.”

COVID-19 Resources for Self-Advocates

Here are some great resources made by and for people with developmental disabilities about COVID-19.

Self Advocacy Resource and Technical Assistance Center

Click on the underlined words to see the resources:

Informational Video on COVID-19

What You Need to Know About COVID-19 (Video)

Learn all about COVID-19 in plain language. Made by Rooted in Rights in collaboration with Autistic Self Advocacy Network.

Video Series – Critical COVID Information for Self-Advocates

Four-part video series from English- and Spanish-speaking self-advocates giving critical COVID information. Produced by California DD Council.

New Toolkit – A Self-Advocate’s Guide to COVID-19

Below you can download any of the eight parts or the entire toolkit.

Hospital Care

Because of Coronavirus most hospitals are not allowing visitors. New York self-advocates and families spoke up and got hospitals to allow patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities to have a support person with them when in the ER or staying in a hospital.

Plain Language Information on COVID-19 (in 11 languages)

A basic eight-page booklet about the Coronavirus written by and for people with developmental disabilities. It focuses on “need to know” information (not “nice to know” information). Our goal is to keep people with disabilities healthy during this national crisis

Governor Cuomo’s PAUSE Program

(updated April 17)

Governor Cuomo’s PAUSE Program has been extended through May 15, 2020. Please see full details on this program below.

The Governor’s 10-point NYS on PAUSE plan is as follows:
  1. Effective at 8PM on Sunday, March 22, all non-essential businesses statewide will be closed;
  2. Non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason (e.g. parties, celebrations or other social events) are canceled or postponed at this time;
  3. Any concentration of individuals outside their home must be limited to workers providing essential services and social distancing should be practiced;
  4. When in public individuals must practice social distancing of at least six feet from others;
  5. Businesses and entities that provide other essential services must implement rules that help facilitate social distancing of at least six feet;
  6. Individuals should limit outdoor recreational activities to non-contact and avoid activities where they come in close contact with other people;
  7. Individuals should limit use of public transportation to when absolutely necessary and should limit potential exposure by spacing out at least six feet from other riders;
  8. Sick individuals should not leave their home unless to receive medical care and only after a telehealth visit to determine if leaving the home is in the best interest of their health;
  9. Young people should also practice social distancing and avoid contact with vulnerable populations; and
  10. Use precautionary sanitizer practices such as using isopropyl alcohol wipes.

“Matilda’s Law” includes the following rules for vulnerable populations:

  • Remain indoors;
  • Can go outside for solitary exercise;
  • Pre-screen all visitors and aides by taking their temperature and seeing if person is exhibiting other flu-like symptoms;
  • Do not visit households with multiple people;
  • Wear a mask when in the company of others;
  • To the greatest extent possible, everyone in the presence of vulnerable people should wear a mask;
  • Always stay at least six feet away from individuals; and
  • Do not take public transportation unless urgent and absolutely necessary.

Key helpful links to keep you informed during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Erie County Health Department –

Office of People with Developmental Disabilities –

New York State Governor Cuomo –