From the Editor’s Desk

On March 6, 2015 Commissioner Charles Carr stepped down from his position at the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC).  During his 7 ½ years Commissioner Carr kept the MRC moving forward in its mission to develop programs and services that empower people with disabilities to attain social and economic self-sufficiency.  Thank you Commissioner Carr for your dedication and service to the Commonwealth.  Good luck in your future endeavors.

Adelaide “Nicky” Osborne has been appointed Commissioner of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission by Governor Charlie Baker and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders.  Ms. Osborne began her position on April 7, 2015.  

The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) has announced that CVS Health and the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) will receive the 17th Annual John Gould Education & Workforce Development Award for their groundbreaking Health Pharmacy Technician Program.  Read the complete article in this issue of the Consumer’s Voice.

Girard Plante brings us another “Did you know?” article featuring the work of Lisa Hemmerle, Director of Community Development for Cambridge, MA.

We are looking for articles, poetry, or short stories for the Consumer’s Voice and images for the featured artist section.  If you are interested in writing for the Consumer’s Voice or an artist with an image to share, please contact me by email at or call me at 617-204-3665.

Welcome Commissioner Osborne
Rhonda Mann, Executive Office of Health and Human Services, Director of Communications

Adelaide “Nicky” Osborne, Director of Brain Injury and Statewide Specialized Community Services at the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC), has been tapped by Governor Charlie Baker and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders to lead that agency.

“Nicky’s portfolio covers nearly 40 years of hard work developing and implementing services for those with physical and developmental disabilities, brain injuries, and mental illness,” said Governor Baker. “As Commissioner, she will use her experience and creativity to empower people with disabilities to lead fulfilling, independent lives.”

Commissioner Osborne will oversee 800 employees in 27 offices. There are more than 22,000 individuals actively receiving vocational rehabilitation through the agency and another 11,000 receiving community living services.

“The MRC provides critical services that assist those with disabilities in their pursuit of independence and economic self-sufficiency in the community,” said Marylou Sudders, Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. “Nicky’s public and private sector experience, her compassion and social work training, along with her strong management skills, will serve this community well.”

Ms. Osborne first worked in state government at the Department of Mental Health in the 1970’s. After 15 years of public service, she moved to the private, non-profit sector where she held key management roles at the South Middlesex Opportunity Council, Riverside Community Care and Eliot Community Human Services. In these roles, she provided executive management of residential and support services for individuals with developmental disabilities, traumatic brain injury, and behavioral health conditions. In her most recent role at the MRC, Ms. Osborne successfully managed the state’s Brain Injury and Statewide Specialized Community Services program.

“It is an honor to be asked to serve the Baker Administration as Commissioner of this agency that I have grown to love,” said Ms. Osborne. “I can think of no greater mission than helping those with disabilities lead better, more satisfying lives.”

Ms. Osborne received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Nebraska and her Masters in Social Work from Boston College. She also completed the Executive Management Program at Harvard University. She has served on a number of advocacy boards around issues of behavioral health, substance abuse and developmental disabilities.


AIM to Honor CVS Health and the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) for Pharmacy Training Initiative
Brian Gilmore, AIM, Amy Lancelot, CVS, Daniela Trammell, MRC

Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) announced that CVS Health and the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) will receive the 17th Annual John Gould Education & Workforce Development Award for their groundbreaking Health Pharmacy Technician Program. The award will be presented at AIM’s 100th Annual Meeting at the Boston Westin Waterfront Hotel.

“The most critical challenge before us is affording every citizen the opportunity to participate in and contribute to building our commonwealth’s future”

The award was established in 1998 to recognize the contributions of individuals, employers, and institutions that promote improving the quality of public education, the advancement, employability, and productivity of residents of the Commonwealth. In 2000, the award was named after John Gould, upon his retirement as President and CEO of AIM, to recognize his work to improve the quality of public education and workforce training activities in Massachusetts.
The Pharmacy Technician Training Program created in partnership with the MRC has become one of CVS Health’s signature training programs and serves as a model of the commonwealth’s commitment to job- driven training. The program is an innovative eight-week training session for MRC consumers who are seeking employment and have shown interest in careers in health services.

To support the program, CVS Health has shared its pharmacy technician training curriculum and provided access to its learning-management system. The MRC provides added resources and expertise around soft-skills training and job readiness to meet the needs of MRC consumers while addressing CVS Health’s staffing needs.

The first class of the program was conducted during the summer of 2014 with nearly 30 pre-screened, qualified candidates. That group yielded an 89 percent success rate, based on the number of trainees hired. The second class graduated 43 consumers on March 23, 2015 in a ceremony held in the Great Hall of Flags at the State House. Several graduates have already obtained employment and others are moving forward in the employment process with CVS.

“The most critical challenge before us is affording every citizen the opportunity to participate in and contribute to building our commonwealth’s future,” said Richard C. Lord, AIM’s President and CEO. “We are pleased and proud to honor this successful collaboration between a major employer and a key public agency to prepare motivated people for productive and rewarding career paths.”

CVS Health is a pharmacy innovation company helping people on their path to better health. Through 7,800 retail pharmacies, more than 900 walk-in medical clinics, a leading pharmacy benefits manager with nearly 65 million plan members, and expanding specialty pharmacy services, CVS Health enables people, businesses and communities to manage health care in affordable, effective ways. This unique integrated model increases access to quality health care, delivers better health outcomes and lowers overall health care costs. Find more information about how CVS Health is shaping the future of health care at

Established in 1915, Associated Industries of Massachusetts is the largest nonprofit, nonpartisan association of Massachusetts employers. AIM’s mission is to promote the well-being and prosperity of the commonwealth by reducing business costs, shaping state and federal business regulations, and ensuring a skilled and highly educated workforce.

(Adapted from a Business Wire and TGIF article.)


Social Security Administration (SSA)to Expand Field Office Hours. Nationwide Budget for Fiscal Year 2015 Allows Agency to Restore Some Service Hours
Kristen Alberino
Metropolitan Public Affairs Specialist

SSA announces, as a result of Congressional approval of the fiscal year 2015 budget, the agency will expand its hours nationwide and offices will be open to the public for an additional hour on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, effective March 16, 2015.  For example, a field office that is usually open from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. will remain open until 4:00 p.m.  Offices will continue to close to the public at noon every Wednesday so employees have time to complete current work and reduce backlogs.

“This expansion of office hours reaffirms our commitment to providing the people we serve the option of top-notch, face-to-face assistance in field offices even as we work to expand online services for those who prefer that flexibility,” said Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of SSA.  “The public expects and deserves world-class customer service and thanks to approved funding, I am pleased we will continue our tradition of exceptional service.”

In recent years, Social Security reduced public office hours due to Congressional budget cuts, growing backlogs, and staffing losses.  The agency began recovery in fiscal year 2014 by replacing some field office staffing losses and providing overtime support to process critical work.  With the commitment of resources in fiscal year 2015, the agency is able to restore some previously reduced service hours to the public.

Most Social Security business does not require a visit to a local field office.  Many services, including applying for retirement, disability and Medicare benefits, creating a Social Security account, replacing a Medicare card, or reporting a change of address or telephone number are conveniently available anytime at  Social Security also offers assistance via a toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (Voice) and 1-800-325-0778 (TTY).  Representatives are available from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Social Security Administration Disability Benefits (SSA)
Kristen Alberino
Metropolitan Public Affairs Specialist 

Social Security disability benefits are a vital lifeline for people who are unable to work due to severe disabilities.

There are numerous ways to protect our health, including eating well, exercising, and not smoking. We get checkups, and make sure to keep our cholesterol down.

However, sometimes these measures aren’t enough.  According to the SSA, disability will affect one in four of today’s 20 year-olds before reaching retirement age. The Social Security Disability Program excels in providing financial help to people when they need it most, help they earned by paying Social Security taxes on their earnings or as dependents of someone who paid Social Security taxes.

Social Security pays benefits to covered people who can’t work and whose medical condition meets the strict definition of disability under the Social Security Act.  A person is considered disabled under this definition if he or she cannot work due to a severe medical condition that has lasted or is expected to last at least one year or result in death.  The person's medical condition must prevent him or her from doing work that he or she did in the past, and it must prevent the person from adjusting to other work based on their age, education, and experience.  You can find all the information you need about eligibility and benefits available to you by reading our publication, Disability Benefits, available at

If you are disabled, and think you are eligible to receive disability benefits, you will need to complete an application for Social Security benefits. It’s easy to apply online at

We also invite you to visit our Faces and Facts of Disability website to get the facts.  Helping people is at the heart of what we do. You can learn more at:


Did You Know?
Girard A. Plante 

Bob Dylan’s popular folk song ‘Times they are a changing’ echoed across America’s atmosphere of activism in the early 1960s. A similar change is sweeping through Cambridge as its Director of Community Development, Lisa Hemmerle, redirects the business landscape with two economic policies she devised last year.

The first policy, Storefronts for All, offers businesses in Cambridge a 90 percent reimbursement to construct accessible entryways. That’s a win-win situation for store owners and people with disabilities as they remain a largely untapped retail market.

“Twenty-five years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we still don’t have wholly accessible stores,” Lisa adds. “Some buildings are old and it’s costly to rebuild or fix-up, but both policies will benefit the entire community.”

Lisa’s fresh ideas and new initiatives arise partly from her unique situation. She uses a wheelchair for mobility, after a car accident 15 years ago caused a low-level spinal cord injury. “In my research,” Lisa explains, “I found that nobody made the case for economic development for people with disabilities.”

The other public policy venture that benefits both business owners and consumers with disabilities is the Retail Interior Accessibility Program. Funds are available to business owners to refurbish the interior of their establishments. Doing so will ensure safe and easy access for people with disabilities and tap a teeming market of consumers.  

Like many mothers, she juggles raising her nine-month-old child and a full time job. A factor why her three-year-old blog has taken a hiatus. “My original intent, for the blog was to highlight barrier-free Cambridge businesses. Yet it’s important for everybody. So, I didn’t want to highlight it as a disabled-centric blog.”  

As a reviewer for TripAdvisor, the largest travel-based review website in the world, Lisa wrote general content. As she began traveling more she realized places were not accessible. “If you can’t get in a hotel in a wheelchair, you cannot get a stroller in any easier,” she emphasizes. Once she began writing about accessibility for TripAdvisor, readership increased 400 percent. “I found that interesting,” she recalls.

Prior to accepting her current job two years ago, Lisa held the position of Deputy Director of Economic Initiatives in Boston. She resides in Cambridge, and is a member of the Community Advisory Board with the New England Regional Spinal Cord Injury Center at Boston University.  

Lisa earned a graduate degree in public administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in 2007, and an undergraduate degree from Northeastern University in 1996.A renaissance woman who does not allow her disability to define who she is. “My injury opens my eyes to a lot of things. And that has allowed me to suggest policies for the benefit of the cities I’ve worked for.”  


Labels are for Jars, Not for People
Larry Espling

Every day we use labels to describe people: pretty, handsome, smart, dumb, popular, hardworking, or lazy.  Some labels are positive while others are negative and effect one’s self esteem.

One hundred years ago labels such as: idiot, imbecile and moron, were acceptable to describe people with disabilities.  Handicapped, invalid, deviant, and defective, have all been used and in many languages of the world, comparable terms are still common today.

Medical labeling of disabilities: autism, chronic illness, hearing loss/deafness, intellectual disability, learning disability, mental illness, physical disability, speech/language disorders, vision loss/blindness and cerebral palsy describe a person’s limitations.  When you put a label on a person, it doesn’t tell you anything about that person, likes, dislikes, interests, and life goals.

*The social model of disability considers disability as the interaction between people living with a disability and an environment filled with physical, attitudinal, communication and social barriers.  Therefore, the social environment must change to enable people living with disabilities to participate in society on an equal basis.  The social perspective does not deny the reality of disability, nor its impact on the individual.  It does challenge the social environment to accommodate disability as an expected incident of human diversity.

Labels have a purpose when used in medical documentation or to support programs/vocational rehabilitation agencies.  Other than that, labels belong on a jar.

* model of disability 


Working Toward Better Health as a Person Using a Wheelchair
Liz Kopin, MD 

As a physician and a patient, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in the year 2000.  Now retired from my medical practice I am putting my time into keeping fit and promoting a healthy lifestyle.

During the last twenty years of practice, as a gynecologist, I experienced a gradual onset of disability. Now, I get around using a motorized scooter. After I found myself forced to “sit down” I quickly discovered that I was gaining weight.

During medical appointments my doctor did not weigh me, rather he would ask how much I weighed.  There was no accessible scale in the doctor’s office to verify my weight.  When I expressed concern about my weight I was told to accept being heavier.  My weight and the secondary health risks of weight gain and inactivity where not being addressed.

My neurologist did encourage me to do something to stay active but was unable to give instruction as to how to accomplish this.

Due to a sedentary lifestyle, wheelchair users are at risk of developing secondary health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease caused by weight gain.

It became apparent I would have to independently research and find information or services to improve my health.  

The Federal Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion has published guidelines for all Americans at the website. A second resource on health for people with disabilities is the website for the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD). On the NCHPAD website ( they offer weight loss and exercise plans with how-to videos and contact lists for your area of fitness facilities equipped for people with disabilities.

I am currently helping to develop the first home scale for wheelchair users.

This scale will help people with disabilities learn to manage their weight and be more independent. It is exciting to be part of the solution to weight management for people with mobility disabilities. Hopefully, this aspect of medical care (nutrition, exercise, and weight management) for people with disabilities will no longer be ignored.


The Silent Call Procedure
Ronnie Zuniga, The Massachusetts State 911 Department 

The Silent Call procedure is a unique program in the Massachusetts Enhanced 9-1-1 system that allows a caller who is unable to verbally communicate their emergency over the phone to receive the appropriate response.

If you need to call 9-1-1 and are unable to speak for any reason, such as a physical disability, domestic violence or home invasion, follow these simple steps using a touch tone wireline telephone or a cell phone:

Dial 9-1-1, once the call is answered, indicate your need by pressing the appropriate number on your telephone.
For Police press 1
For Fire press 2
For Ambulance press 3

The 9-1-1 Dispatcher may ask questions that require yes or no answers.
Press 4 for yes
Press 5 for no

Remain on the phone with the dispatcher until the emergency staff arrive.


Becoming an Individual Consumer Consultant (ICC)
Leslie Wish, Program Coordinator

The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission’s Consumer Involvement Program makes a special effort to form cooperative relationships with those individuals who are known as consumers or recipients of services.

We are interested in applicants for the ICC program that have skills and experiences valuable to the needs of the MRC.  

The individual must be a consumer of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) Vocational Rehabilitation Program (VR) or a consumer of another Commonwealth of Massachusetts sponsored Vocational Rehabilitation Program. The consumer must have met all eligibility criteria to enter the program and currently seeking employment.

In order to be eligible for the Individual Consumer Consultant Program (ICC), one must have completed an Individual Plan for Employment (IPE) or be ready for employment.  

This program is for consumers to gain work experience and are encouraged to apply to gain meaningful employment skills working on projects as an ICC.  This is not considered full time work, it is a step on the road to employment.

These projects are usually very short term, one to three days in length, and there is no guarantee for consistent work.  Every effort is made to accommodate all ICC’s with regard to their abilities and limitations.

If you are interested in becoming an ICC please contact Leslie Wish, Program Coordinator for Consumer Involvement, at 617-204-3771 or by e-mail: Leslie.Wish@MRC.State.Ma.US.


Upcoming Events:

2015 SRC meeting times:  
All meetings will be held on Tuesdays from:  1:00 pm until 3:30 pm
With the exception of September 8, 2015 1:30 pm until 4:00 pm
September 8, 2015  West Region-Springfield Public Library
December 8, 2015 Metro West Region-Morse Institute Public Library

Other Events:
June 18, 2015 Annual Consumer Conference, Sheraton Norwood
July 22, 2015 ADA 25th Anniversary, Boston Common,Boston, MA

Consumer's Voice Newsletter is a publication of the MRC State Rehabilitation Council
Alan Greene, Chairperson
Nicky Osborne, Commissioner, MRC

Elaine McHugh, Editor

Contributing Writers
Larry Espling
Girard Plante
Liz Kopin, MD

MRC Staff Editors
Sheila Wojdakowski, HR/Customer Relations
Leslie Wish, ICC Program Coordinator

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.

For further information contact Elaine McHugh, Editor, at the Consumer Involvement Program, at 617-204-3665.

To receive the newsletter electronically, e-mail

This information is provided by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission.