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For Immediate Release:
August 12, 2020
Contact: 518-486-9844
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State Implemented First in the Nation Program to Help Empower Immigrants with Developmental Disabilities Across New York

Partnership between ONA and DDPC Connecting new Americans with Critical Services

Individuals in Need of Services May Call the Toll-free, Multi-lingual New Americans Hotline at

The New York State Office for New Americans (ONA) today marked the first year of implementation of the Ramirez June Developmental Disabilities Navigator Initiative. This initiative, the first of its kind in the nation, is supporting immigrants with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families by connecting them with service providers across the state to help them overcome challenges that may hinder their ability to thrive in the Empire State.

During the first year of the Ramirez June Initiative, the ONA Developmental Disabilities Navigator organized in-person and online trainings for participants who faced barriers accessing disability-related services. As a result of the Ramirez June Initiative trainings, 195 new Americans and NYS service providers reported they feel better able to support, and help others support, individuals with I/DD. The trainings were hosted by ONA’s community partners, with support from the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), and provided for interpretation in Mandarin, Spanish, and American Sign Language. The Ramirez June Initiative also created, translated, and distributed resources on topics such as disability services in New York State, the 2020 Census, and the impact of “public charge” on the new American disability community.

“New York State is a place where diversity and success go hand and hand,” said Secretary of State Rossana Rosado. “The Ramirez June Developmental Disabilities Navigator Initiative is empowering those who need increased access to services and resources and opening doors so new Americans with intellectual and developmental disabilities can live more complete and fulfilling lives to the benefit of their families and all State residents.”

“New York State is once again leading the nation when it comes to access for people with developmental disabilities, breaking down barriers that often prevent new Americans from accessing the support they need,” said Office for People With Developmental Disabilities Commissioner Theodore A. Kastner. “OPWDD already provides access to our supports through interpretation and translation in six different languages, and we are thrilled that the Ramirez June Developmental Disabilities Navigator Initiative will further help people with developmental disabilities who are new to this country and our state get the assistance they need to live a richer life in their new community.”

This three-year initiative, which started July 1, 2019, is funded by a grant from the New York State Developmental Disabilities Planning Council (DDPC) and led by ONA. Over the next two years, the Ramirez June Initiative will continue to grow and shape the program to identify and address the specific needs of new Americans with I/DD and their families in partnership with other state agencies and community-based organizations.

“The Office for New Americans and the NYS Developmental Disabilities Planning Council welcomes new Americans with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families to New York,” said Sheila Carey, Executive Director of the NYS DDPC. “This joint project by our agencies is connecting people from underserved populations to the organizations that can provide them with the I/DD resources they need.”

The Ramirez June Developmental Disabilities Navigator Initiative strives to help affirm the dignity, value, respect, contribution, and worth of all New Yorkers with I/DD by expanding the capacity of ONA to assist new Americans with I/DD and their families in connecting with needed resources and services in New York State. To achieve this mission, the Ramirez June Initiative is providing services including:

New York State is home to more than 4.4 million new Americans. In the U.S. it is estimated that about one in six children has one or more developmental disabilities and that one in 54 children has autism, a developmental disability. This initiative is gathering anonymous demographic information on new Americans with I/DD so that services providers will better understand the language, culture, and needs of the communities they serve in New York State.

The experiences of the Ramirez family and the family of Siewling (June) Lum inspired ONA and the DDPC to create the Ramirez June Developmental Disabilities Navigator Initiative. The Ramirez family came to New York State from Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2003 in search of a better life and access to opportunities for their children, Herminia, Monica, Humberto, and Victor. Their son Humberto has cerebral palsy and he now uses assistive technology, Dynavox, a speech generating device, which helps him communicate.

Siewling (June) Lum is originally from Malaysia and became a member of the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council’s Cultural Competency and Language Access Workgroup in 2016. June’s son was born in New York and he has autism. Due to complex barriers, it took June and her son several years to access disability services. As a result of her hard work and diligence, June now supports other families with developmental needs as a self-direction broker.

Information and materials from the Ramirez June Developmental Disabilities Navigator can be found on the Resources page of the ONA website (, including a flyer available in multiple languages about scheduling a workshop for your community.

The NYS Developmental Disabilities Planning Council enhances the lives of New Yorkers with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) by piloting innovative ideas and culturally competent programs that promote self-determination, independence, productivity, and inclusion in all facets of community life. For more information, you can call 1-800-395-3372, visit or contact them on Facebook:, Twitter: or YouTube:

The New York State Office for New Americans, founded seven years ago, is the nation’s first statutorily created immigrant services office. ONA has Opportunity Centers across the State that are hosted in community-based organizations that deliver a variety of services and support, including legal services, to New York’s new American communities. These sites are the focal point for communities to embrace immigrants by providing them with the tools necessary to thrive and contribute to our state.

Any immigrant that needs free legal assistance or immigration advise is urged to call the New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636 9AM to 8PM (ET), Monday through Friday. All calls are confidential. Assistance is available in over 200 languages.