30 Year Anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), signed into law in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush, is landmark civil rights legislation which ensures people with disabilities are entitled to the same rights as every other American. The law and its enforcement influences all sectors of public life including employment, accessibility, and public services.

Americans are celebrating 30 years of victories as well as a shift in perspective regarding those with disabilities. The ADA has served a generation of people with disabilities and paved the way for better accessibility, education and employment options. Additionally, with the advent of social media, advocacy and awareness is reaching a new generation with information about disability rights and giving rise to expansion of the movement.

The ADA is a promise to people with disabilities that enables them to achieve their full potential and the opportunity to contribute economically and socially to their communities. At the core of the ADA is the furtherance of rights and protections overlaying all categories of disabilities and providing assistance, outreach, enforcement and the prohibition of discrimination.

“This law not only can help disabled individuals learn about our rights, but I think also can really foster a sense of dignity and pride within disabled individuals to recognize that we are not the problem, we are not the ones that need to change,”

Judy Heumann (one of the founders of the disability rights movement)

Moreover, in the span of 30 years, the ADA provided for more visibility of people with disabilities as public spaces and transportation became accessible. The social and personal impact the ADA has had on millions of American lives reflects on the last 30 years of progress. Nevertheless, there are still significant disparities in services, benefits and support which continue to be addressed.

Opengate joins advocates and other agencies in our collective mission to prepare individuals to achieve their personal outcomes with positivity, dignity, and respect. We recognize the positive impacts the ADA has made for all people with disabilities and persist in building better lives on its success.

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Employee of the Month, May 2020

We are very happy to announce the May Employee of the Month!

Sharon Oloo, Lead Counselor at ICF Gray.

Sharon received 3 nominations recognizing her dedication. She did not hesitate to volunteer to be quarantined with our first Individual exhibiting symptoms of Covid-19, and went on to volunteer a total of 3 times at different Residences and spent 28 days on campus during the Pandemic.

Sharon never complained or showed any displeasure regardless of how unpleasant the situation became but continued to be steadfast in her commitment to caring for our Individuals.  During her second quarantine, she became ill, but continued to check on the Individuals that were in her care while recuperating at home, and would also offer words of encouragement to the management team.

Once Sharon was cleared to return to work she did not hesitate to volunteer a third time to quarantine at another house.  She always made sure to communicate with the families and offered emotional support and encouragement to her peers.

Sharon has been a valued member of the Opengate family for the past 7 years and has proven to be a caring team player who believes in our vision and mission. Her tenacity, positive attitude, and work ethic in a very difficult time are unmatched.

Sharon, thank you for all that you do with the Individuals we serve. 

This recognition is well-deserved.

Employee of the Month award recipients receive a $100 bonus as a token of Opengate’s appreciation. 

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Individuals Coping with Social Distancing

During this time of social distancing, we strive to maintain a sense of normalcy and routine for the individuals we support. Although visitation has been restricted and day programs and community outings remain suspended, managers, clinicians and frontline staff take great care to manage the situation creatively and foster a positive and engaging environment.  

To maintain contact with family and friends, the residents have the opportunity to communicate regularly through video chat using applications such as Zoom or FaceTime. Several families have done drive by visits where they can wave to each other and chat from a distance. In addition, some families have ordered takeout meals for the residents or provided them with home cooked meals, which they deliver to the doorstep. 

As the weather gets warmer, residents are turning to the outdoors for a source of leisure. Individuals have been eating their meals outdoors as often as possible and going for local walks. Gardening has been a popular activity at Gray, Lehr and Auerbach, as well as at Marcy, where the residents also painted birdhouses. At Florida Rd and East basketball has been a preferred outlet. At Auerbach, individuals had a video party on the lawn.

Some residences have gotten creative with in-house parties. At Rivera, the residents celebrated Cinco de Mayo with a delicious spread of food. At Grasso, dance competitions and costume parties keep things lively. Dance has also been a fun way to keep moving at Lehr and at West. Residents at Lissauer and Bernstein have turned to online exercise classes to stay active. Puzzles, baking and arts and crafts have been popular activities amongst many of the individuals, especially at Frankel. No matter where an individual’s interests lay, staff work hard to provide opportunities for them to enjoy themselves and feel a semblance of normalcy as we navigate this challenging time together.


Recently residents harvested kale and zucchini and soon tomatoes and peppers will be ready to incorporate into fresh, nutritious meals for the residences.

Liz Dama is making her famous pesto from the abundance of basil in the herb garden and soon there will be a kale cook-off.

To stay apprised of the activities taking place at Opengate we invite you to follow us on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn, as well as subscribe to our Newsletter and Blog.

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Staff Accepts Donation from Assemblyman Kevin Byrne

left to right: Tom Brundage of Assemblyman Byrne’s office; Kristen Elkins, Chief Operations Officer; Brian Hulten, Chief Executive Officer; Lynda Guzman, Director of Clinical and Behavioral Services; Zuleika Liriano, Residence Program Coordinator; Peggy Ramsey, Director of Nursing

Assemblyman Kevin Byrne, who represents the 94th Assembly District, donated hand sanitizer to various organizations and businesses throughout the district. Opengate is pleased to be a recipient of a delivery which helps to replenish our supplies.

Assemblyman Byrne is the ranking member of the Assembly Health Committee.

The way that the community has come together during this challenging time is truly incredible, and we appreciate Assemblyman Byrne’s donation of hand sanitizer. When caring for individuals with developmental disabilities, close, hands-on contact is often necessary and the availability of hand sanitizer and adherence to good hand hygiene is critical for the safety of our staff and individuals.

Kristen Elkins, Chief Operating Officer

Opengate has been the beneficiary of the generosity from our community and our families during this crisis and we are extremely grateful for each donation. The health, safety, and welfare of our individuals and staff members is of the utmost importance and in the forefront of our responses.

Not knowing when COVID-19 precautionary measures will ease, Opengate has a continuing need for donations to maintain the vital supplies necessary to safeguard our individuals and staff members.

Thank you for your abundant support.

To stay apprised of the activities taking place at Opengate we invite you to follow us on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn, as well as subscribe to our Newsletter and Blog.

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URGENT: Protect Our Funding!

Proposed OPWDD Cuts Will Be Devastating For NY’s Most Vulnerable

For over 50 years Opengate’s mission has been to provide a high quality of life to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). Our programs have brought individuals out of the darkness of institutionalized care to a place where they may participate fully in the community and be involved in decisions regarding their health, well-being and happiness.

We must not take a step back!

Once again, we are facing proposed funding cuts under a State Plan Amendment and a 1915(c) waiver amendment proposed by DOH and OPWDD for the fiscal year 2021. Its passage will mean a loss of millions designated for the care of I/DD residents in New York.

Scores of legislators and advocates are demanding OPWDD reverse these cuts on the basis that it will financially threaten service providers already managing the repercussions of COVID-19. Furthermore, they point out that agencies are required to follow guidelines set forth by CDC and OPWDD, and are forced to purchase personal protection equipment, medical and sanitizing supplies at a premium price with no reimbursement.

(Scroll to the bottom to read official letters.)

Advocates emphasize the hardships created for essential front line and clinical staff members who care for our vulnerable individuals. Providers offering supplementary compensation to well-deserving staff are especially hard hit during a global pandemic when budgets and donations are already stretched thin. 

Opengate is vehemently opposed to OPWDD’s proposed cuts and we need you to be part of the solution. Please take the time to contact your legislators and let them know you stand against funding cuts that will possibly devastate the quality of care for I/DD individuals.

Go to this link and lend your voice in opposition of these measures to cut essential funding: https://www.cpstate.org/advocacy/

Read letters from NY Senator David Carlucci and Assembly Member Aileen Gunther:

To stay apprised of the activities taking place at Opengate we invite you to follow us on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn, as well as subscribe to our Newsletter and Blog.

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