BUFFALO, N.Y. — Advocates joined the Developmental Disability Alliance of Western New York (DDAWNY) in downtown Buffalo on Monday to rally for better wages for professionals who help people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
“Without them, I would be stuck home,” said BJ Stacio, a local advocate for people with disabilities. “I can’t advocate from the bed. Sure, I can use the telephone, but I would rather people see me in person.”
Direct service professionals, or DSPs, make an average of 2% above minimum wage and their work is required at all hours of the day, every day of the year. According to the Human Services Research Institute, 41.5% of DSPs are people of color, and some speakers at the rally say it is a racial justice issue.
“The reason we can’t get people, is, this is hard work,” said Brenda McDuffie, former president and CEO of the Buffalo Urban League. “It’s cleaning. It’s bathing. It’s feeding. It’s teaching people to change their behaviors.”
Speakers at the rally urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to allocate more funding to disability services and their workers in the state budget.
“No New Yorker with a disability should have to plan what hours he will be able to use the bathroom because there isn’t enough staff to support it,” said Jeff Paterson, a member of the DDAWNY Board of Directors.
Parents of children and adults with disabilities say this matter has become urgent, as their families struggle to ensure their loved ones receive proper, and sometimes life-sustaining, care.