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Issues Affecting People with Disabilities Archives

December 30, 2010

Roslyn's Story: Ward Makes a Difference in Guardian's Life

By Deborah S. Ball, Esq.

This is the story of my ward, Roslyn. She grew up at a time when children with disabilities were not afforded the type of services they have today. For Roslyn, she was extremely sheltered, by parents she loved very much. But, for all of the love her parents gave her (including her father teaching her to dance), Roslyn never acquired life skills. She was dependent on her parents for everything.

And so, as Roslyn became an adult, she lived with her parents. Then, each died and Roslyn (though she has a brother), was essentially on her own for the first time. She could not take care of herself and ended up being hospitalized. This was approximately ten years ago. I received a telephone call from the judge handling the guardianship matter. The hospital needed to discharge Roslyn, but no one had authority to consent to a placement. The judge asked me if I would become Roslyn's guardian. The commission would be $750.00 per year, to offset my office expenditures. No one would accept the case.

I became Roslyn's guardian and have not regretted doing so. Although I have not received any compensation (for reasons beyond the scope of this essay), Roslyn has become a part of my life. Roslyn is higher functioning than those around her and we have developed a very special relationship. Although she is on government assistance, I advocate for her to receive the best medical attention she deserves. She lives in a group home and attends a day program, which unfortunately, may not be suitable due to her functional level. I've been told there are no alternative programs available for Roslyn.

As for our relationship, Roslyn never forgets to ask how my husband, son and dog are doing. I show her pictures of my family and she has spoken with my son by phone. I have learned a lot from Roslyn, as she has much to offer. I am grateful to have accepted this guardianship because I know I have made a difference in Roslyn's life, as she has in mine.

May 20, 2011

The Good We Do: Angela Winfield

There are very few four-year olds who know exactly what they want to do with their life.

But, even then, Angela Winfield knew she wanted to be a lawyer.

She identified with the assertive, yet equally nurturing Claire Huxtable from "The Cosby Show" and made a law career her life's goal.

As focused and driven as she is sharp, Winfield followed her dream and went on to attend Cornell Law School. She is now a successful litigation associate in Hiscock & Barclay's Syracuse office.

But this is just one part to Winfield's story.

Throughout her life, Winfield has coped with many extraordinary challenges.

She lost vision in her left eye at age 10 and was completely blind by her sophomore year at Barnard College.

Remarkably, Winfield has not let these hardships stand in the way of her dreams.

She commutes an hour daily by bus to her office each way, with the help of a cane and her seeing-eye dog, Ogden.

Early in her law career and despite a heavy caseload, Winfield has donated many hours of pro bono services.

She represents tenants facing eviction in Housing Court for the Onondaga County Bar's Eviction Defense Clinic.

She second-chaired a pro bono wrongful eviction trial in State Supreme Court which the jury awarded her client a significant recovery. She also successfully argued an appeal before the Fourth Department for a Cayuga County not-for-profit organization.

Winfield's disability gave her unique insight and empathy for a blind client. Her client was thrilled not only to have quality representation, but also an attorney who understood exactly what she was going through.

Partners at her firm note her good rapport with clients and her ability to litigate tough cases.

Winfield received the State Bar's 2011 President's Pro Bono Service Award honoring a Young Lawyer.

February 22, 2012

Victor Jr.'s Story: A hero lawyer and judge save a disabled boy's life

With the tap of his gavel, Bronx County Supreme Court Justice Barry Salman gave Victor Vaccariello, Jr. six more years of life.

Victor Jr. was born on July 26, 1989 with multiple mental and physical disabilities, including craniosynostosis, a birth defect that affects skull development and Dandy-Walker Syndrome, a neurological disorder.

During the needed surgery to correct craniosynostosis, Victor Jr.'s airway collapsed and he stopped breathing.

As a result of his disorders, Victor Jr. needed two forms of life support: a feeding tube for nutrition and a tracheostomy tube for breathing. He received 12 hours of nursing care each day.

At the end of 1995, Victor Vaccariello Sr. received a letter from his insurance provider that effectively ended his son's nursing care.

The insurance company said that Victor Jr. required just two hours of care twice a week to change the tracheostomy tube. During the appeals process to reinstate the child's nurses, the insurance company sent a nursing agency to assess Victor Jr.

The agency concluded that the boy needed a minimum of 12 hours of nursing care.
Despite the assessment, the insurance company refused to reinstate Victor Jr.'s care. Instead, they wanted to send another nursing agency for another assessment.

Meanwhile, Victor Jr. began to have seizures and "was going downhill fast." "I had to do everything in power to keep my son alive," said Vaccariello, a single parent.

Deciding to litigate the matter, Vaccariello hired Joseph B. Pritti, a solo practitioner in Manhattan, to seek an injunction to continue his son's nursing care.

Justice Salman granted the injunction. Victor Jr. lived a happy life until his death on February 14, 2002.

"God took my son, not my insurance company," said Vaccariello. After his son's death, his pediatrician told him that without the proper nursing care, Victor Jr. would have suffered and died within six months.

Nearly ten years later, Vaccariello wrote to the New York State Bar Association to express his appreciation of two men who prolonged his son's life. He remains eternally grateful for the legal help he received from Pritti, who died in 1998. Every day he thinks about what Justice Salman did for his son.

"He stopped the bully from killing my son. I cannot say enough good things about him," said Victor Sr. "He is my hero."

The power of the Supreme Court continues to amaze Vaccariello. One day, he might meet the man who saved his son's life.

"It would be like meeting Superman," said Vaccariello.

About Issues Affecting People with Disabilities

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The Good We Do in the Issues Affecting People with Disabilities category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Immigration is the previous category.

Real Estate/Landlord Tenant is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.