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Buffalo Strong: Erie County disabilities advocate honored with county's first community service award

Stephanie Speaker honored with county's first community service award.jpg
Posted at 2:00 PM, Aug 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-23 19:06:54-04

ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. (WKBW) — An Erie County native who works tirelessly to improve the lives of people with disabilities is inching closer to getting a bill passed.

7 Eyewitness News is introducing Stephanie Speaker, highlighting her efforts is making our community "Buffalo Strong".

"My community is good to me so I have to give back to my community," Stephanie Speaker said.

For the last seven years, Speaker has been committed to increasing the distance Paratransit travels for people with disabilities. She wants this to create a better public transportation option for people with development disabilities, so that they are not stranded.

"What the bus company does is when they cut the big bus routes, the automatically cut Paratransit, and people are being stranded because of it and I can't have that happen no more," Speaker said.

Speaker is talking about Senate Bill No. 5092 and Assembly Bill No. 3181.

Both bills are still in committee. It requires accessible buses to be available within a service area measuring three miles from any bus line of the authority or its subsidiaries.

"It's going to be named after me. It's going to be Stephanie's Law because I'm the one who got the whole thing started," Speaker said.

Erie County Clerk, Michael Kearns said, "I know that she will continue to advocate for her bill in Albany, working with the Albany County officials. Hopefully, with a new governor, someone that she has met, she may get that bill passed."

The Erie County disabilities advocate has disabilities herself, so she knows first-hand, the effects the transportation department has when making changes without notice.

"I have got stranded three times already," she explained. "I need transportation because I don't drive. My disability won't let me drive. I have what you call, epilepsy. I have been taking Paratransit since 1998."

Kearns said, "She approached me many years ago when there was a need to have Paratransit be held accountable in a positive way to make sure our most vulnerable community can get to work. They were being picked up when they went to a job interview. She understands the importance of Paratransit because she takes Paratransit."

"Because of Speaker's consistency in being a voice for the voiceless in the county, the Erie County Clerks Office awarded her with the first community service award of its kind.

Kearns said, "She's a very special person. They that there's angels on earth. If she is not angel, then she is not someone who has been blessed by God to do positive things in our community, I don't know who else is."