The Consumer's Voice
Dedicated to empowering consumers as a source of information and to provide a platform to make their needs known.
From the Editor's Desk
By Adriana Mallozzi
July 26, 2006 marked the 16th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). To commemorate the historic day, the Massachusetts Statewide Independent Living Council, in conjunction with the Disability Policy Consortium, held its annual celebration picnic at Dunn Pond State Park in Gardner, MA. It was a fun-filled day of music, accessible hiking, adaptive kayaking, great company and, of course, remembering the strides we've made, all thanks to the ADA.
The day officially began with Steve Higgins making introductions and reading proclamations from President George W. Bush and Governor Mitt Romney. He reminded us we still have a long way to go, despite the progress we've made thus far. Also, Commissioner Bartels reported that MRC exceeded their goal in the number of consumers who gained employment in FY '05.
After digesting all the interesting news and updates, it was time to chow down on the assortment of food.
Throughout the day, All Out Adventures (www.alloutadventures.org) and Venture Into Wellbeing offered adaptive kayaking and hiking activities. I was quite impressed with how accessible the park was. There is a wheelchair accessible hiking trail and an access route made of rubber matting leading to the water. Tom McCarthy, Director of the Universal Access Program, and Gigi Ranno, Project Director from the Department of Conservation and Recreation, answered questions about their programs and the various outdoor activities they offer through organizations such as All Out Adventures and Venture Into Wellbeing. The Division of State Parks and Recreation's Universal Access Program is dedicated to providing outdoor recreation opportunities in Massachusetts state parks for visitors of all abilities. Accessibility to our state parks is achieved through site improvements, specialized adaptive recreation equipment, and accessible recreation programs.
For our entertainment pleasure, Stavros' own Tom Filiault and his band, The Tommy Filiault Band (firstname.lastname@example.org), filled the park with toe tappin' tunes that made you want to get up and dance! The band played a combination of originals and covers.
All in all, the day was a huge success. Hope to see you there in 2007!
A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has helped fulfill the promise of America for millions of individuals living with disabilities. The anniversary of this landmark legislation is an important opportunity to celebrate our progress over the last 16 years and the many contributions individuals with disabilities make to our country.
When President George H. W. Bush signed the ADA into law on July 26, 1990, he called this legislation a "dramatic renewal not only for those with disabilities but for all of us, because along with the precious privilege of being an American comes a sacred duty to ensure that every other American's rights are also guaranteed." The ADA's far-reaching reforms have played a significant role in enhancing the quality of life for millions of Americans who must overcome considerable challenges each day in order to participate fully in all aspects of American life.
My Administration continues to build on the progress of the ADA through the New Freedom Initiative. We have established an online connection to the Federal Government's disability-related information and resources at DisabilityInfo.gov, and the job training and placement services of the "Ticket to Work" program and One Stop Career Centers are promoting greater employment opportunities. We are also expanding educational opportunities for children with disabilities, providing them with the tools they need for success in their classrooms, homes, and communities. In addition, we are fostering technological advancement and encouraging increased distribution of assistive technology to help people with disabilities live and work with greater independence. My Administration will continue its efforts to remove barriers confronting Americans with disabilities and their families so that every individual can realize their full potential.
On this anniversary of the ADA, we underscore our commitment to ensuring that the fundamental promises of our democracy are accessible to all our citizens. As we strive to be a more caring and hopeful society, let us continue to show the character of America in our compassion for one another.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim July 26, 2006, as a day in celebration of the 16th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. I call on all Americans to celebrate the many contributions of individuals with disabilities as we work towards fulfilling the promise of the ADA to give all our citizens the opportunity to live with dignity, work productively, and achieve their dreams.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fifth day of July, in the year of our Lord two thousand six, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-first.
GEORGE W. BUSH
Changes with the New T.A.P. ID Card
By Melodee Whitman
Do you live in Boston, have a disability, and/or are a senior citizen? Do you live near the MBTA? What would be the best way to get around? I found it to be with the MBTA's Transportation Access Pass (T.A.P.). The Transportation Access Pass is a great marvel when it comes to public transportation in and around the Greater Boston's metro area.
The MBTA is in the process of replacing all fare equipment in stations and on vehicles. Customers with MBTA Senior/Disabled IDs issued prior to May/June 2005 must obtain a new "smart card" ID, also known as TAP. The ID is issued by 13 Massachusetts Regional Transit Authorities and entitles the bearer to reduced fares on all fixed route services across the state, including buses, trains, rapid transit, trackless trolleys, commuter rail and commuter boat. The new Senior/Disabled IDs are available at the Downtown Crossing and Back Bay offices. Your old card and a form of identification with your date of birth will need to be shown to get a new ID.
This now means you do not have to carry around change for the MBTA. Yes, money does have to be put on the card in order to use it, but it's a lot easier than fiddling with change. There are machines in which you insert your card and the amount of money you'd like to have stored on the card.
At first, I was a bit concerned about misplacing the new pass. I was able to attach the old one to my keychain, but with the new pass holes are not permitted. I came to try new ways of keeping track of it and found that using a wallet that attaches to my keychain works best.
For more information visit www.mbta.com/traveling_t/disability_pwd.asp or call 617-222-5838 (Voice), 617-222-5854 (TTY).
Visions of the Fenway
By Adriana Mallozzi
Throughout the months of July and August members of the Peterborough Senior Center proudly displayed their "Visions of the Fenway," an exhibit featuring the photography of Fenway seniors and friends. In April, fifteen disposable cameras were distributed to seniors and friends of the Peterborough Senior Center to photograph the Fenway neighborhood. The photographs were simply amazing and really a tribute to this wonderful, diverse neighborhood. The framed original photographs were for sale to the public for $20 each to raise funds for the Center. Director Lisa Rein-Woisin states, "It is fun to have all the wonderful photos on our walls at the Center!"
What inspired these talented seniors? Born Into Brothels-the Oscar-winning documentary portraying children living in Calcutta's red-light district whose mothers work as prostitutes. The film follows a photographer, Zana Briski, who was documenting life in the brothels. The children's fascination with her camera prompted her to teach them photography. As they began to record and look at their world through new eyes, their talents and sense of self worth began to emerge.
The Peterborough Senior Center is a non-profit organization supported by the Fenway Community Development Corporation through grants they receive from local funders and grassroots fundraising done by the Center itself. The Center is open Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and offers a range of health, educational and social programs. Programs include African Dance Workout, Art History presentations, current films and documentaries, ESL and Spanish classes, computer classes and various lectures and special presentations. The Be Well Tanger Center for Health Management has been doing a series of wellness presentations on stress management, mindfulness, exercise, nutrition, etc. Also, every month the Peterborough Senior Center has at least one musical or related entertainment event.
Only recently have they begun using their small space to exhibit the works of local Fenway artists, including Fenway resident and MRC consumer Lisa Fay. "Lisa had a wonderful, impressive exhibit of photographs, paintings and poetry. She is so talented, yet so modest about her work," said Lisa Rein-Woisin. I certainly can attest to that! Lisa participated in the Visions of the Fenway project and had a handful of photographs displayed at the exhibit. As I looked through all the works on display (belonging to all the participants), I seemed to constantly gravitate towards Lisa's photos. After each of my many compliments, she stated, "It was just there. I did nothing." But it takes a true artist to capture the unnoticed beauty found in our everyday lives, giving the rest of us the opportunity to enjoy it.
And There I Was
By Rosa Pia
And there I was, waiting for the bus to arrive, when two women joined me in the waiting-game. Not too long after we started talking; one of the women turned out to be Eileen Brewster, member of the Editorial Board for The Consumer's Voice. She asked her companion to hand me a flyer and then briefly explained what it was about. She encouraged me to call the number printed on it in order for me to participate in the 2005 MRC Annual Consumer Conference.
A couple of days later I called and spoke to Lisa Weber. Needless to say, everyone was accommodating and courteous, from Lisa to Tony the driver who picked me up on Thursday and drove me back home the following day.
The event was very refreshing, encouraging and above all, informative. Not to mention all of the nice people I met that shared some of their life experiences with me. As an added bonus, the MRC Consumer Conference celebrated their twenty-fifth anniversary, making the event a real blast with music, dancing and lots of good food!
I would like to thank Ms. Brewster for inviting me. The conference has given me the opportunity to reconnect with the community, allowing me to gradually move on. I would also like to thank the MRC, all the providers, contributors and participants. It was a very rewarding experience.
The Irving K. Zola Center for Persons with Disabilities
By Eileen Brewster
I had the opportunity to interview Donna Suskawicz, founder and Director of the Irving K. Zola Center for Persons with Disabilities at Brigham House in Newton, MA. During the course of the interview I learned many interesting things about the Zola Center. The facilities include: five computers with internet access, a large screen TV, DVD and CD players, a pool table, sewing machines and a meeting room. Every Saturday from noon to 3:00 p.m., the Center, located on 20 Hartford Street in Newton Highlands, is open at no cost for people with disabilities.
When asked what inspired Donna to create the Zola Center, she replied, "My own experiences as a person with a disability inspired me to create a social drop-in center. Although I have friends who are able-bodied, I have found that my support, understanding and empowerment have come through my association and friendships with other persons with disabilities. Through social activities with friends with disabilities, I learned to cope with the challenges of my disability. I also learned from them that we have the ability to achieve our goals and dreams and you don't succeed unless you try. My friends have, and continue to be, my inspiration and my comfort. They have taught me to heal through laughter and enjoy life. It was a powerful lesson that I hope other persons with disabilities might cultivate through the Zola Center."
In February 2006, the city of Boston announced Project Independence, a new program originally created by Donna in 2003 with the assistance of the Brookline Police Department. The program provides free emergency cell phones to low-income persons with disabilities. The phones are only capable of dialing 9-1-1. With the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina still looming over our heads, Project Independence is one more step toward making sure "everyone in Boston is secure and connected to help" (Mayor Menino) in the event of an emergency.
Brigham House also accommodates the Riverside Newton Youth Outreach Program, sponsored by the Riverside Outpatient Center and City of Newton. The program serves all teenagers with and without disabilities Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Fridays 4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. and Saturdays 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Weekdays before 3:00 p.m. groups may rent the space for $25 per hour.
For more information or to inquire about making a donation contact Donna Suskawicz at 617-277-5131 or email@example.com.
Testament of an Asian with Cerebral Palsy
By Hang Lee
I am an Asian man with Cerebral Palsy who lived in Chinatown for the first 17 years of my life. Since then I have lived in Ohio, returned to Boston to further my education, and am currently in Milton, MA.
Growing up in Chinatown with a disability was tough. I did not have any friends who were my age because most of the kids were children of immigrants who did not have any understanding of what a disability was. Not forging any friendships in the neighborhood and being with kids who always picked on me caused me to feel alienated.
Outside of the Asian community in Chinatown the scene was completely different. Most of the professionals I was seeing (therapists of different disciplines and medical doctors) were not Chinese and treated me with dignity and respect. I soon learned that some of my peers of various ethnic backgrounds were willing to accept me as well, even though there were many who did not want me to be a part of their inner circles. Nonetheless, I was content with having one or two friends for the time being.
When I was in the eighth grade I began to explore Boston independently outside of Chinatown. First, I ventured to Downtown Crossing. The scope of my journeys soon expanded into Copley Square, where I attended high school. During that time I had several friends who did not care about my disability and who were not concerned with my appearance. From high school on I succeeded in every aspect of my life. I was the first one in my family to graduate from college and became a productive member of society, despite what was traditionally expected of a person with a disability.
As I got older, my self-awareness increased. I came to realize there are some things I can't control; my speech, my dominant right side and my drooling. On the same token, I discovered there are some things I can control; speaking in a lower tone and more relaxed voice, dressing snappier, paying attention to my personal hygiene, and finding adaptive ways to eat my meals in public with friends and family. This has contributed to my good self-esteem and self-image.
In retrospect, I have come a long way. Despite my physical challenges and the low expectations of others, I have carved out a pretty successful professional and personal life. It is not perfect, but then, what is? I know there are more challenges ahead; if one does not change with time, that person will not survive with grace. I intend to evolve with the changing times, trends and culture, for I believe it is the way all people, with or without a disability, survive.
Changing Your Mind: The Case for a Smile
By Judith Poole, MA
I recently spent a week facilitating a retreat in the Catskills. The first thing I noticed when I stopped at a rest stop on the way home was that my ready smile was not returned. The patrons of the fast food place on the NY Thruway Plaza wore grim determined faces. None reciprocated my unspoken greeting. Because this was such a dramatic change from my week-long retreat, I couldn't help but notice. The experience got me thinking.
My first encounter with a theory about smiling was when I began to study the Healing Tao in the 80's. On the first day, we learned a practice called "The Inner Smile." It involves directing an actual smile inward to each organ in turn. We were led through an exercise, first creating a grim expression, then turning up the corners of our mouths and noticing the difference that it made in our mood. If you try it yourself you'll probably notice the difference too.
The instructor then explained there is a real change in the frequency of the energy when we smile. We direct that smile toward an organ, and the organ benefits, receiving high quality vital life energy, or chi.
Years later, after practicing and teaching the Inner Smile for some time, I began studying with Donna Eden (innersource.net). Donna is unusual in that she sees vital energy when she looks at individuals. She talks about "radiant circuits," which are known as extraordinary vessels in traditional Chinese Medicine. She calls them radiant circuits because that's what they look like to her. Donna states, "Radiant circuits serve as inner wells of joy, supporting a vibrancy and a harmony throughout the entire energy system. Charging your radiant circuits can change a person's future, orienting the psyche towards happiness rather than despair."
Radiant circuits are unusual compared to acupuncture meridians because they can respond immediately, sending energy to wherever the body most needs it. Many radiant circuits "borrow" the channels of other meridians, connecting them.
When we are stressed, worried and carry a grim expression, these radiant circuits submerge. It is as if the energies go deep into hiding. Instead, fight or flight energies predominate, which is what I experienced at the rest stop. Both radiant circuit energy and fight or flight vibrations are contagious. That is why we feel good when someone smiles to us and less good when we encounter a grim expression or a frown.
Lots of us wish we could change the world, yet we discover it is hard to even exert influence with those in our immediate vicinity. But it turns out that the simple act of smiling really does create change, a change that spreads from one person to the next.
In Loving Memory of
Robert Donahue passed away on August 26, 2006 after a courageous battle with cancer.
As ombudsman for the MRC, he dedicated his life to helping people overcome adversity. He spent the past 30 years attending many meetings, lobbying the State House and taking an active role in fighting for the rights of people with disabilities.
Bob's legacy shall live on through the lives of people with disabilities who he touched in both his professional work with the agency and the friends he developed over his many years as an advocate for the rights of his fellow people with disabilities.
Bob will be sorely missed by all of us at the Rehabilitation Commission and by many members of the disability community.
Lisa B. Corfman
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Lisa B. Corfman received her degree in Fine Arts from Endicott College in 2004. She now holds three satisfying jobs and does art on the side. One of her most recent projects is a calendar filled with twelve charcoal drawings produced originally on 18 by 24 inch paper featuring origami, a project Lisa plans to do annually. Each of these drawings has a poem written about it and maintains the name of the original origami piece. Lisa is proud to share with you Inkwell, produced on June 12, 2006. (Open the Word document above to see it!)
Here is the poem written about it:
A story it will tell
Let's yell to make that story sell
You may contact Lisa B. Corfman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Consumer's Voice
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- Eileen Brewster
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- Adriana Mallozzi
- Girard Plante
- Robert Sneirson
- Melodee Whitman
MRC Staff Editors
John Chappell, Jr.
Chief of Staff
Director, Consumer Involvement
ICC Program Coordinator
CI Program Coordinator
The Consumer's Voice
This newsletter is an independent publication sponsored by the MRC State Rehabilitation Council. The opinions expressed in this newsletter do not necessarily reflect the policy and practices of the MRC. They are solely the opinions of consumers of MRC programs and services.
This information is provided by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission.