New York State Industries for the Disabled Launches “Don’t Hesitate. Vaccinate!” Video Campaign

Special Olympics New York’s Stacey Hengsterman and Jude Killar Appear in Video

ALBANY, NY – Using a $20,000 grant from the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), New York State Industries for the Disabled, Inc. (NYSID) has launched a campaign aimed at encouraging people with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and other developmental disabilitiesalong with the workers and caregivers who support themto get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The video and forthcoming 30-second public service announcements feature persons with developmental disabilities, family members, caregivers, providers and others who are deeply involved in supporting the community. It also includes Special Olympics New York President and CEO Stacey Hengsterman and Special Olympics New York athlete and employee Jude Killar.

Stanfort Perry, Executive Director of AHRC Nassau and Chairman of the Board of NYSID, said: “People with developmental disabilities were hit harder by COVID than the general population. They suffered from isolation, an inability to receive supportive services, and denial of the kind of specialized interactions they need to get through the day. They were nearly three times as likely to die of COVID as the general population. The more folks are vaccinated, the quicker we can return to a semblance of normal life.”

NYSID President and CEO Maureen O’Brien said: “We’re grateful to OPWDD for this grant and the support they gave us in creating this campaign. They are tremendous partners in the work that began nearly five decades ago with the closure of Willowbrook. We hope that together we can bring vaccination rates up and help everyone be safe.”

Office for People with Developmental Disabilities Commissioner Theodore M. Kastner, MD, MS, said: “Vaccine hesitancy among staff who support people with developmental disabilities is a serious issue that OPWDD and our voluntary providers are struggling to overcome. Direct support staff are at increased risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 due to work-related duties which must be performed on site and in homes in close contact with people with developmental disabilities and their coworkers. The `Don’t Hesitate. Vaccinate!’ video created in partnership with NYSID will help educate staff about the importance of getting the vaccine. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine provides an added layer of protection against the virus and ensures the continued safety of the people we support.”

NYSID created the video with the involvement of several critical partners, including Special Olympics New York, Center for Disability Services and Albany Medical Center. The campaign is an extension of their common efforts during the pandemic, which have included specialized vaccination clinics for people with developmental disabilities as well as collaboration on specialized vaccination opportunities.

The full video will be posted on social media and is being circulated to local agencies throughout the state. Shorter versions will be sent to local TV stations and websites for use as public service announcements and paid spots.

More videos can be seen at NYSID’s YouTube channel.

Special Olympics New York President and CEO Stacey Hengsterman said: “The pandemic had a devastating impact on Special Olympics athletes. They were cut off from the social and emotional benefits of our program, in addition to the overall wellness that sports provide. I’m glad we’re able to bring them together again but we have to do it safely, and that means we need to get vaccinated.”

Center for Disability Services President and CEO Greg Sorrentino said: “The pandemic resulted in individuals who rely on us not being able to fully access our programs. They were cut off from their daily routines – which are fundamentally important for someone with an intellectual or developmental disability – with the result being isolation and often depression. Vaccination is essential if we’re going to get back to supporting people the way they need and deserve.”

Dr. Dennis P. McKenna, President & CEO of Albany Med Center, said: “We’re thankful for the role we can play in bringing vaccinations to every community, but particularly people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The vaccine is safe and effective and will help all of us get back to safe, more normal lives. This campaign will bring this message to those who need to hear it the most.”

In the words of Jude Killar, a Special Olympics athlete featured in this inspiring message of vaccine support, “We need to get back in the game.”

“I got the vaccine and I got my life back,” Kevin Cornwell, a program participant at Center for Disability Services, says in the video, “What are you waiting for?”

NYSID is a statewide non-profit that facilitates employment opportunities for nearly 6,000 New Yorkers with disabilities annually through New York’s Preferred Source Program and the private sector. The program was created in 1975 as part of the state’s plan, after the Willowbrook scandal, to integrate people with disabilities into community life through work and improve supports for people with disabilities. (Learn more about Willowbrook here and here.)

NYSID facilitates contracts between state and local governments and a network of non-profits for services which include data imaging, secure document destruction and janitorial as well as manufactured products. NYSID also contracts directly with private businesses who want to diversify their supply chain to help create more jobs for this able workforce.

In September 2019, The Rockefeller Institute of Government found that the Preferred Source Program has created thousands of jobs for people with disabilities (and turned them into taxpayers), reduced government public assistance costs, and generated $368.9 million in economic output for New York in 2018 alone. Read the report here.

About Special Olympics New York

Special Olympics New York is the largest state chapter in the country, serving more than 68,000 athletes across New York with year-round sports training, athletic competition, and health screenings. The organization also partners with about 250 schools statewide to offer Unified Sports, where students with and without disabilities compete as teammates. All Special Olympics New York programs are offered at no cost to athletes, their families or caregivers. The organization has earned the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.com, making it one of the most trusted charities in the business nationally. For additional information about Special Olympics New York, to learn more about getting involved, or to make a donation, visit www.specialolympicsNY.org.

About New York State Industries for the Disabled, Inc. (NYSID)

NYSID is a 501(c)(3) with the mission of “advancing employment and other opportunities for individuals with disabilities.” Established in 1975, NYSID facilitates employment opportunities for nearly 6,000 New Yorkers with disabilities annually through New York’s Preferred Source Program and in the private sector. NYSID’s community rehabilitation member agencies and corporate partners are located throughout the state, providing jobs in the community and in production facilities. For more information, visit www.nysid.org.