David V. Whalen
David Whalen founded Disability Awareness Training (DAT) in September 2004. He specializes in training law enforcement, emergency responders, human service providers, public, private, and school transportation, corporations and businesses, places of worship, and educators. The training is designed to both sensitize and educate the audience on all aspects of disabilities including, but not limited to, definitions of disabilities, etiquette and interaction skills, stigma and misperceptions, proactive approaches to community inclusion and integration, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and overcoming barriers through advocacy. Specific topic areas include emotional disturbance/mental health awareness and responsiveness, developmental disabilities, co-morbidities and dual diagnosis, and pertinent legislation. He has presented to over 500 audiences.
David Whalen has worked in the disability field for most of his career. He spent 17 years at Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara serving individuals with developmental disabilities. As Vice President of Program Operations, David established groundbreaking programs recognized statewide, including a fully operational greenhouse, an on-site nature trail, rehabilitation counseling in schools, collaborative certification with the county alcoholism department, and a sensory integration room. He chaired the agency’s safety committee for seven years and developed their wellness program. Dave worked for one year serving low income medically frail seniors as Director in a Long Term Managed Care (Pre-PACE) program. He has developed a comprehensive plan to serve seniors with developmental disabilities that is currently being implemented in agencies.
David served on the Western New York Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day (DD Day) committee from 1993 to 2008. A former co-chairperson, he was instrumental in making DD Day the largest single day conference in New York State dedicated to the field of developmental disabilities
He served as President of the New York State Association of Day Service Providers, dedicated to Day Treatment and Day Habilitation providers. Under his direction, the Association established collaborative relationships with statewide associations in the field. David has worked with the State of New York in establishing policy, regulations and staff training.
Dave was instrumental in starting the Diocese of Buffalo’s Disability Action Team. A committee developed with the intent to ensure that the Catholic churches in WNY best serve their parishioners with disabilities. He has taken his initiative and introduced it to other faiths in the area. Dave was commissioned by the Bishop in September 2009 to be the Parish Disability Advocate at Sts Peter and Paul RC Church.
Mr. Whalen was appointed to the NYS Office for Persons with Developmental Disabilities Quality Assurance Real Choice committee, addressing the quality of care of individuals with disabilities.
Dave is President of the Buffalo Alumni Chapter of St. Bonaventure University, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology (1984) and his Masters of Science in Education degree in Counseling Psychology (1986). Mr. Whalen has established the four ideals of the alumni association: spirituality, socials, volunteerism and university support. He oversees some 10 events per year and works with the university on various initiatives and projects. In 2009, he was awarded the Alumni of the Year by the university.
Mr. Whalen became active in the Challenger Baseball League, Skating Athletes Bold at Heart (SABAH), and the Committee on Special Education (as both a parent representative for the Williamsville School district and the State of New York). He also is the President of the Board of the Williamsville Special Education Parent Teacher Student Association (SEPTSA) and past Vice President of the PTSA council. Dave is past Chair of the Board of Directors of the Parent Network of WNY, a non-profit agency serving parents of children with disabilities. He was also appointed to Chair the Town of Amherst’s committee on disabilities. He developed the innovative Town Hall Training whereby he trains advocates to work within their municipality on disability matters, including how to start a committee so town governments will understand and be responsive to the needs of individuals with disabilities in their communities. This initiative was presented at the national FEMA Get Real II conference in Arlington, VA. In March 2011, David accepted an invitation to the White House for an historic MOU signing between FEMA and the National Disability Rights Network. In April 2015, he became a FEMA-certified Access and Functional Needs Trainer.
David is co-founder of Access Buffalo, a progressive initiative to ensure that individuals with disabilities can access restaurants and hotels in the Buffalo area. DAT trains college students to do accessibility reviews in restaurants throughout Western New York. Each restaurant will be listed on the Buffalo Niagara Convention and Visitors Bureau website. In August 2010 he became a certified ADA trainer through the Region II Northeast ADA center.
In January 2010, the New York State Board of Regents appointed him to a three year term on the New York State Independent Living Council and in the fall of that year he wrote a collaborative grant with Niagara University and received a three year (since extended two more years) NYS Developmental Disabilities Planning Council grant to develop Disability Awareness Training for First Responders. Arkansas Council on Developmental Disabilities funded the same program beginning in October 2014. In March 2011, Erie County (NY) appointed Dave to sit on the Disability Advisory Board. In January 2014 Dave accepted an invitation to join the advisory council of the National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability. Also, he accepted an invitation to join the International Association of Chiefs of Police focus group, "Mental Health of Arrestees and How It Impacts our Officers." Dave attended the Senate Hearing on April 29, 2014 "Law Enforcement Responses to Disabled Americans: Promising Approaches for Protecting Public Safety" while also providing written testimony. He accepted an invitation to join the Niagara County Behavioral Health and Justice Committee in March 2015.
He resides in Williamsville, NY with his wife Sandy and their twins David and Rachel.