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“Responding to an Emergency” Special Needs Seminar Held

“Responding to an Emergency” Special Needs Seminar Held

By Eugenia Moskowitz

The Washingtonville Special Needs Advocacy Group organized a seminar on Feb. 27 to show first responders how to most effectively respond to emergencies involving people with special needs including physical disabilities as well as cognitive, developmental, and autism-spectrum disorders.

Diane Troeller and Jennifer Sutton of Independent Living in Newburgh discussed disability awareness of various physical and “hidden” disabilities, what service dogs do and how to manage them, the different mechanical devices used by people with special needs, and the very important tech devices many people use for communication.

Thirteen members of the Washingtonville Police Department, including sergeants, officers, and school SROs, were in attendance to participate in hands-on experiential learning about what some disabilities actually feel like by, for example, attempting to read while wearing sight-altering goggles. Officers said the awareness and direct experience how disabilities affect a person’s perception of what an officer is trying to do in an emergency will help them better manage their responses to emergencies for more effective outcomes.

Blooming Grove Ambulance and New Windsor Ambulance personnel were also in attendance, as well as local volunteer firefighters, speech and language pathologists, teachers, parents, and special needs advocates. Mayor Joe Bucco also attended the event, which was held at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Hallock Drive.

Washingtonville Special Needs Advocacy Group organizers include Nikki Munoz, Celina Rofer Moye, and Rachel Brownlee. Anyone wishing to learn more or join the group can send an email to

spec needs 1

spec needs 2 (2)

CAPTION 1: Nikki Munoz (Washingtonville Special Needs Advocacy Group) and Jennifer Sutton and Diane Troeller (Independent Living) presented the seminar on understanding special needs for first responders. (Photo by Celina Rofer Moye)

CAPTION 2: Washingtonville Police Department officers try to read while wearing eyesight-altering goggles. (Photo by Celina Rofer Moye)

CAPTION 3: (Above) Nikki Munoz spoke to the large audience about how best to respond to a person with autism. (Photo by Eugenia Moskowitz)



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