The Museum of disAbility and People Inc. presented Lynne Sommerstein, a lecturer in Buffalo State’s Exceptional Education Department, with its Director’s Advocacy Award on May 19 at an awards ceremony at the disAbility Museum.
Nominees for the awarded were required to be an accomplished individual who is an advocate with people with disabilities, has broken barriers, is a bridge-builder, and is an inclusive thinker. After reading the criteria, Kathy Doody, assistant professor of exceptional education, said she immediately thought of Sommerstein and nominated her.
“Lynne is pretty synonymous with inclusion in Western New York. She advocated fiercely for her daughter, Michelle, to be included more than 25 years ago,” Doody said. “Because of Lynne, my own son with a disability and hundreds of other kids have been able to be educated in an inclusive setting with peers with typical development. Lynne broke down those barriers for all of us.”
An educator at Buffalo State since 1996, Sommerstein also served as a consultant to school districts on inclusion, curriculum modification, friendship facilitation and transition for students with developmental disabilities. She is the co-founder of Hand in Hand, an inclusion advocacy organization for faith communities, and is the founder and adviser of the Buffalo State chapter of Best Buddies. She also co-founded and directs Buffalo State’s College Based Transition Program, an initiative with Buffalo Public Schools and People Inc. that provides college-age adults with moderate to significant disabilities the chance to take college classes and participate in college life.
Sommerstein’s tireless commitment to students with disabilities has garnered recognition throughout the community and beyond.
“People everywhere know that it was Lynne who made inclusion possible for generations of kids,” Doody said. “She is a hero to numerous families.”
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