Equity, Accessibility and Sustainability


Transforming the OPWDD service system using the principles of equity, accessibility and sustainability to guide our transformation will ensure that all New Yorkers with an eligible developmental disability have access to the supports and services they need to live productive, positive lives now and well into the future. These concepts will help guide us moving forward.

Making needed improvements to the OPWDD service system now will ensure a more responsive service system that truly supports each person according to his or her needs, while recognizing each person’s unique abilities and circumstances.

Achieving this vision requires examining many aspects of the service system — how a person’s need for services and supports is determined, how services are authorized across the state according to need, how need is determined, the administrative processes through which OPWDD manages the different types of services, and even the menu of service options available to each person in need.

OPWDD is also considering how to incentivize service providers and Care Coordination Organizations to help us improve efficiency while providing better outcomes for people in areas such as personal health, housing, community integration and employment.


Ensuring accessibility in the system means making sure that eligible people can access the supports they need. To improve accessibility, OPWDD will be taking the following steps:

  • Making improvements to the Front Door Access to Services process by -
    • Providing online accessible information sessions at varying times and in several languages rather than in person sessions which can be difficult for many to attend.
    • Improving the Access to Services guide using stakeholder feedback to ensure that the process is clear to everyone seeking services.
    • Recording step-by-step plain language easy to follow video guides to the different steps for getting eligibility, signing up for a Care Coordination Organization and being assigned a Care Manager, going through an assessment and accessing services.
  • Participation in an Ensuring Access Grant with the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council (DDPC) will help -
    • Enhance access to OPWDD services for Spanish-speaking and Chinese-American populations using a 27-month grant for $400,000.
    • Increase access to information about the OPWDD services and supports through a targeted informational campaign to Spanish and Chinese speakers.
    • Evaluate the impact of this initiative to inform future cultural and linguistic competency (CLC) initiatives.
  • OPWDD is participating in the NYS Community of Practice on Cultural and Linguistic Competence led by the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council (DDPC), part of a 5-year Community of Practice (CoP) coordinated through Georgetown’s National Center for Cultural Competence (NCCC) and funded by the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Administration for Community Living, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through a 5-year Cooperative Agreement.
  • The NYS Office for New Americans Ramirez June Initiative is the first initiative of its kind in the nation to build capacity to support new Americans with developmental disabilities at the state level.
    • OPWDD is in year 2 of a 3-year grant working with the NYS Developmental Disabilities Planning Council (DDPC) to connect new Americans with developmental disabilities and their families to vital resources, information, and services in New York State.


Establishing fair and consistent processes for providing services and supports across the entire state will ensure equity in our service system. OPWDD is committed to implementing best practices and performance measurements that foster an inclusive, equitable service system by equipping staff with the training, knowledge, skills, and resources necessary to increase organizational awareness of diversity and inclusion objectives within both OPWDD and our network of not-for-profit providers.

To accomplish this goal, OPWDD will:

  • Use data to inform innovations to programs and policy that foster diversity.
  • Engage stakeholders to help strengthen service delivery to underserved communities where inclusive language and cultural competency can improve access and quality outcomes.
  • Employ diversity and inclusion in our hiring practices.
  • Provide guidance to the developmental disabilities field on inclusive practices by collaborating with government and other external entities to learn and integrate best practices.

OPWDD has drafted a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plan which commits to:

  • Providing communications materials that are accessible and supportive of diversity and inclusion principles to both the workforce and public.
  • Making a Language Access Data Dashboard publicly available.
  • Monitoring outreach efforts related to diversity and inclusion.
  • Incorporating the National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health and Health Care


If there is one thing that OPWDD and our not-for-profit providers have learned through the COVID-19 public health emergency, it’s that there are many factors that can threaten the sustainability of a service system. A sustainable service system is one that can meet the needs of the people OPWDD supports now and well into the future. We know that starting with a solid foundation, preparedness, data driven decision-making and flexibility are just some of the things that can enhance sustainability. 

Other considerations for providing a sustainable service system are:

  • Standardized statewide processes – OPWDD is in the process of establishing fair and consistent processes for providing services and supports across the entire state which will not only ensure equity in our service system, but will also improve sustainability.
  • People have timely and equitable access to the services they need.
  • Service provision is based on providing people the right services at the right time and in the right setting.
  • Provider pay rates are reasonable and based on their ability to help people they support to reach their desired outcomes or goals.
  • A strong and stable workforce.