Holding Public Officials Accountable for Immigrant, Refugee, and Disability Rights

VOICE-Buffalo and BILT Host Public Meeting Holding Public Officials Accountable for Immigrant, Refugee, and Disability Rights

VOICE-Buffalo’s Accessibility Task Force and the Buffalo Immigrant Leadership Team (BILT) will take collective action to hold Erie County public officials accountable to the needs of the people at their annual Public Meeting on October 25th.

This year, VOICE is inviting Governor Cuomo and the other Gubernatorial Candidates to publicly commit to moving the Developmental Disabilities State Offices (DDSO) from West Seneca to the City of Buffalo. BILT is inviting Buffalo Public Schools officials, including Dr. Kriner Cash and Dr. Barbara Nevergold, to publicly commit to expanding services for English Language Learner students to raise the ELL graduation rate.

At the meeting, the VOICE-Buffalo Accessibility Task Force will sound our concerns to public officials regarding the location of the DDSO. As it stands, the DDSO is inadequate and inaccessible to the people whom it is supposed to serve. The facilities are the grounds of a former institution for people with disabilities. Even though the building spans multiple acres, only two buildings are in use. Worse yet, the location of the DDSO is not accessible via public transportation, which requires two buses from Buffalo and a shuttle ride from the nearest bus stop, travel which takes up nearly 5 hours.

Our goal is to relocate all offices from West Seneca to one or more spaces on an active bus-line, preferably in the city of Buffalo. Making the DDSO more accessible would allow for people with disabilities to obtain needed services and career opportunities. BILT will also challenge public officials to demonstrate educational support for immigrant and refugee children attending Buffalo Public Schools. BPS have over 6,200 English Language Learners in its classrooms.

ELL students are currently graduating at a rate of 26% and have a dropout rate of 43%. This number will only continue to grow as Buffalo embraces immigrant and refugee families into our communities. Under NYSED Part 154, each district in New York is required to have a bilingual program for every 20 students per grade who speak the same home language.

At the beginning of the 2018 school year, only eight bilingual programs exist in Buffalo. BILT’s current campaign aims to launch additional bilingual programs and increase the number of bilingual teachers and aides to support our growing immigrant and refugee student population and improve the graduation rates for ELL