hipnews Winter 2006 Edition
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Important New Housing Legislation...
We Mourn . . .
New Board Members Elected at Annual Meeting
The View from HUDSON by Marianne Valls
Parents Enthusiastic About YES! Program
Adjustment to Vision Loss Serves 14 Counties ...
Pot O’ Gold Winners
LEAD Prepares for Adult Life
CASP Gives Older Caregivers the Help They Need
[Number of Members] Climb!
SAIL: On the Crest of the Wave
hip Programs
All Wrapped Up
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- hipnews Winter 2006 Edition Text Version -

  Important New Housing Legislation...
 Important New Housing Legislation will Benefit People with Disabilities in New Jersey

by Nancy Hodgins, Staff Advocate


Most of us are aware of the severe shortage of affordable, accessible housing in New Jersey. hip staff are constantly assisting consumers as they search frantically for a low-cost accessible home before their Section 8 certificate expires. We know of persons who have acquired disabilities and cannot leave their apartments because of flights of stairs that they can no longer climb. For an increasing number, the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) has been one of the few resources for many New Jersey families wishing to obtain decent housing. Families whose incomes fall within officially determined low-income guidelines can benefit from housing built under the auspices of COAH (usually referred to as Mount Laurel housing). In any housing built under COAH rules, a percentage of residences must be set aside specifically for occupants with low or moderate incomes. Limits are placed on the selling prices or rents of those residences to be affordable for low-income families. In many Bergen and Hudson County municipalities, COAH projects make up the majority of the new large housing tracts.


Much COAH housing has recently been built as townhouses. This kind of structure presents significant challenges to people with disabilities and is generally not "disability friendly." A townhouse often has a full flight of stairs from the street to access the front door; most have compact floor plans that do not allow adequate space or amenities needed by wheelchair users. Since townhouses are usually considered individual residences, builders have not been required to provide basic accessibility components required in new multi-family dwellings. This makes it impossible, or at the very least, highly problematic for people with disabilities to reside there or even visit these residences. With A3892/S2696, this is about to change!

The passage of this bill was not an easy task. It began in the spring of 2004 when the Community Health Law Project, led by David Lazarus, Esq., met with the COAH Board to seek changes in regulations requiring that all new COAH housing must contain features that make them accessible or adaptable for people with disabilities. COAH Board members would agree to provide accessibility for only 10% of all future COAH housing.   The Law Project, along with representatives of the disability community, felt strongly that 100% of all new COAH housing should be accessible or adaptable; 10% was not good enough and would do little to alleviate the serious lack of accessible and affordable housing.   Disability advocates knew that the larger housing tracts could offer the possibility of change more quickly and effectively than other options.   Unwilling to give up or give in, they sought the assistance of individuals from the Office of Legislative Services, who were pivotal in helping write the initial legislation.


It was now time to bring the issue and the proposed bill to the legislators.   Potential sponsors needed to be identified and brought on board.   Assemblyman John F. McKeon met this challenge at the very beginning; he fought long and hard to get additional sponsors and eventually sufficient votes to assure the bill’s passage in both Houses.   In April 2005, Assemblyman Frederick Scalera agreed to meet with David Lazarus; John Petix, executive director of DIAL; and Nancy Hodgins, hip’s advocate, so that we could explain the proposed legislation and discuss the very real and urgent need for additional housing in New Jersey that is both accessible and affordable to those with low incomes.   After this meeting, Assemblyman Scalera agreed to become a sponsor of the bill.   The other Bergen and Hudson legislators who also became sponsors were Senator Joseph Doria, Jr., Senator Paul Sarlo, and Assemblyman Louis Manzo.   We are very grateful to all of them (as well as five additional sponsors from other parts of the state) for realizing the importance of this legislation and the critical need that makes it so significant.   The support of the Sponsors along with the support of other legislators in both Houses worked to diminish the opposition from the building industry.   The process was lengthy, more than 1-1/2 years from beginning to end, but because of the hard work of key legislators, the perseverance of the Community Health Law Project, and the testimony of advocates like Eileen Goff, hip’s executive director, the hip advocate, and others, I am thrilled to be able to report that A3892/ S2696 was passed by both Houses of the New Jersey Legislature on January 9th of this year.   It was signed into law by Governor Codey in the final days of his tenure, January 12th.

WHAT A3892/S2696 DOES:

This legislation mandates that:

  • One additional member will be appointed to the COAH board who will represent the interests of those with disabilities and possess expertise in construction that provides accessibility.   (Until now, no members of the COAH board represented the interests of persons with disabilities.)

  • 100% of new COAH housing must be built to contain:

    - An adaptable entrance to the dwelling unit

    - An adaptable full service bathroom on the first floor

    - An adaptable kitchen on the first floor

    - An accessible interior route of travel

    - An adaptable room with a door or a casing where a door can be installed, which may be used as a bedroom on the first floor

  • Builders of COAH housing must set aside funds to cover the cost, as needed, of adapting 10% of the front entrances of units that had adaptable but not yet accessible entrances.


It was a very special experience to be involved in the legislative process from beginning to end.   It truly gives one hope that by continuing to work together with perseverance and diligence, many legislators who may not have had a great deal of knowledge of the needs of people with disabilities before will work with us to bring about important changes to benefit the disability community for many years to come.

Please join us in thanking our area legislators who helped to bring about this important legislation by making a phone call, sending an e-mail, or a short note of appreciation via regular mail.   You can access their contact information online at www.njleg.state.nj.us or call Nancy Hodgins at the Bergen hip office.
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  We Mourn . . .
 The death several months ago of our longtime friend, Liz Power, former member of hip’s Board of Trustees, and a dedicated volunteer for the MS Society, after a long illness; and Valeska Kraus, mother of Board secretary and former hip president Joan Bermingham.  Mrs. Kraus was a daily
volunteer for her church and community until a few months before her death on Christmas Day at age 96.

Our sympathy goes also to Sally Fenichel, whose husband Maurice died in mid-January.  Sally has been a vocational rehabilitation counselor at NJ Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired for many years.  She has enrolled her clients in hip’s Spirit To Work project, and linked them with other services and programs at our CIL. She has requested that memorial donations be directed to hip.
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  New Board Members Elected at Annual Meeting
 Three outstanding community leaders were elected to the Board of Trustees by the membership at hip’s annual meeting on November 15th: Betty A. Fetzer, R.N., of Maywood; Bergen County Surrogate Michael Dressler of Cresskill; and Lisa Firko, Esq. of Rutherford.  The meeting, hosted by Hudson hip and held at the Meadowlands Plaza Hotel, Secaucus, drew a full and enthusiastic turnout of hip members and friends.

Keynote speaker for the evening was Gustavo L. Adrianzén, director of constituent services for Representative Robert Menendez, who was subsequently appointed U.S. Senator by Governor-elect Jon Corzine.  Mr. Adrianzén praised members of organizations like hip for getting out the vote and stressed how important even one vote can be.  He told his personal story–how his interest in public service grew, and he urged the audience to get involved in the legislative process by visiting legislators and by communicating with their staffs, trusting them to "get the word" to their boss if they can’t always see the legislator in person.  He concluded by urging us, "Never stop standing up for what you believe in, and for what is right."

In other business, Nancy Carr was elected 2nd vice president, Lillian Ciufo returned to the Board as a member-at-large, and Joan Bermingham was elected to a third term.
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  The View from HUDSON by Marianne Valls
 Recently, as I was walking home, a young man asked for a light for a cigarette.  Because at first he only gestured, I didn’t understand what he wanted.  I don’t smoke, so I was unaware that he was asking for a match.  I was oblivious of the social cue.

Science tells us that intelligence has many aspects.  Social intelligence is one–it affects all our relationships.  However, like all forms of intelligence, it must be exercised.  Some people with disabilities have limited chances to practice this necessary social skill.  Whether physically, emotionally, or mentally challenged, in many instances, a disability robs one of social contacts that are such a large part of most people’s lives.  Lacking early and frequent social interaction, some people with disabilities may misread some of the social cues that are part of everyday life, even if they move into community activities or to a job.  For example, there may be countless reasons why a phone call isn’t returned, but some people may convince themselves that failure to return a call is payback for some personal offense.  Similarly, a gentle reminder may appear to be harsh criticism.  A slight complaint from a supervisor at work may be misinterpreted as a threat of dismissal.

Good relationships matter in the home, workplace, and in the community at large.  Living in a limited world limits one’s ability to pick up social cues that are important to maintaining good relationships.  Social cues frequently tell us what our response should be in a given situation.  As with any skill, social skills become rusty without constant practice.  They can’t be learned from books.

Disability matters less and less if one has good social skills.  Misreading of social cues can be the cause of broken relationships.  Friendships do not last very long when offense is taken where none was intended.  Work relationships suffer when an employee does not realize that the boss has problems that go beyond the office.

A person who is socially connected to the world worries less about disability, and is more able to foster her or his abilities.  In this age of technology, understanding how the social game is played is of the utmost importance.  Playing it well may be crucial to your psychological survival.
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  Parents Enthusiastic About YES! Program
 Through the YES! program, hip is offering direct help to improve the advocacy skills of high school students in transition.  Students are learning skills such as knowledge of their legal rights, how to write business letters, and assertive communication, through workshops in many Bergen County high schools.  Andy Skea, Bergen hip’s Independent Living Transition Coordinator, is also meeting with their parents to enlist their support and to help them provide their sons and daughters with the "breathing room" needed to test out their advocacy skills in various aspects of their lives.  So far this year, four such meetings have taken place.

It is no surprise that, as we have worked more closely with parents, their interest has helped reinforce some of the advocacy topics covered in YES! workshops at school.  Some students have even had to ask about replacement copies of workshop materials and the "hip Resource Guide for Bergen County Youth in Transition" because they have been unable to get their original copies back from their parents.

Parent enthusiasm for the YES! program will improve hip’s long-term impact on students’ lives.  Most parents we have met in group settings have asked to be put on hip’s mailing list.  They hope their children will continue to connect with hip after they have left school.  They recognize that "independent living" is a lifelong enterprise.
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  Adjustment to Vision Loss Serves 14 Counties ...
 Adjustment to Vision Loss Serves 14 Counties from Bergen hip

Adjustment to Vision Loss addresses the issues of those living with the loss of their sight.  It is a unique, multi-faceted program designed to assist residents of 14 counties in Northern and Central New Jersey.  This is accomplished through their involvement in peer support groups, and when requested, through linkage with mental health consultants and other professionals who have been trained to understand their special needs.


Peer support groups bring together people who share the same life situation.  Individuals with similar experiences meet with one another to gain emotional support, exchange helpful information and learn practical solutions.  The realization that one is not alone is of great value.  Someone who has had similar experiences can offer a special kind of understanding not available elsewhere.

AVL also conducts training for mental health and other professionals related to the emotional issues unique to persons with vision loss.  Our experienced training team provides information on such topics as the psychological effects of loss, and changes in lifestyle and relationships.  A directory of mental health professionals who have received AVL training is available to the community for referral and information .  A telephone "link line" is also available to professionals for free clinical consultations with one of our mental health consultants

AVL is now totally housed at hip’s Hackensack office.  Our staff will be pleased to provide technical support to anyone interested in either locating or forming a support group in their geographic area.  Contact Susan Vanino for information regarding AVL support groups, or Nancy Hodgins for training or other AVL matters.
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  Pot O’ Gold Winners
 Congratulations to this year’s Pot O’ Gold winners!

 Glenn Gardner of Hackensack
1st prize - $1231.00 and

 Jo Ann Struzienski of Kearny
2nd prize - $308.00

 Lauren Valenta of Ridgewood won the $50 prize for selling the largest number of raffle books.

The names were drawn on December 17th at the hip office and announced at the annual Holiday Party the next day.
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  LEAD Prepares for Adult Life
 LEAD, a statewide project, focuses on enhancing the skill development of high school students who are blind or visually impaired, who function on grade level.  LEAD operates in the North, Central, and Southern regions of New Jersey under the supervision of regional coordinators.  These "LEADers" are selected based on their ability to serve as strong role models and mentors as a result of their individual successful lifestyles.  The ultimate goal of LEAD is to assist young people in developing the skills they need to successfully transition to adult life, higher education, and employment.

The four components of the LEAD Program (leadership, education, advocacy, and determination) combine in a multi-faceted approach to enhance skill development.  Activities are designed to enable the participants to reach optimum self-esteem and self-confidence.  Program activities generally occur in specific geographic areas.  However, some activities bring all the students together and take place on a statewide basis.

For further information, contact Najwa De Martino or Lori Spano at Bergen hip.
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  CASP Gives Older Caregivers the Help They Need
 The Caregiver Assistance and Support Project (CASP) continues to be a great success since its initiation in 2003.  Last year the program assisted 47 Bergen County families with caregivers over 60 who are assisting individuals between the ages of 18 and 59.  An experienced care manager provides support for caregivers as well as recipients.  A comprehensive individualized support plan is developed with each family to address their own personal needs and desires.  Families are linked with necessary services such as applying for Medicaid, housing, financial aid, health care, home modifications, assistive devices, and other community-based services.  A social worker provides encouragement and support, assisting the family to navigate through a complicated system and helping them reduce the stress in their everyday lives.  Contact Najwa DeMartino for further information.
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  [Number of Members] Climb!
 With over 200 new and renewing members already signed up for the year 2006, hip has broken a record for "early joiners." We ran out of space in this issue, so all names will appear, along with more who sign up in the coming weeks, in the spring hipNews!
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  SAIL: On the Crest of the Wave
 Special Assistance for Independent Living, the Hudson hip program that assists individuals, has not only changed the lives of many recipients, but the lives of their families as well.  Recently, a
three-year-old boy with cerebral palsy who attends a private daycare center was in need of a Rifton chair.  This is a special chair for individuals who are neurologically impaired that provides both support and maximum freedom to move their bodies.  The boy’s single working mother was very depressed that she couldn’t afford to buy the chair, nor was it covered under insurance.  She was concerned that her child was being excluded from activities due to his disability and safety issues.  The little boy was frustrated and disruptive in daycare.

The Rifton chair was the perfect solution to allow the toddler to participate in activities with his able-bodied friends.  The mother came to hip, and through SAIL, we were able to buy the chair.  The child is now fully able to participate in all activities.  The daycare staff contacted us with an update: "The toddler is definitely a happier, more confident young boy," and his mother is now able to feel secure that her child is treated with dignity and like all the other children.

This is one example of the success stories we can tell about SAIL.  In 2005, the program, which provides full or partial funding toward the purchase of assistive devices, equipment, services, and home modifications, served 57 consumers in Hudson County.  SAIL enabled them to maintain, or to achieve for the first time, a higher level of independence.  hip collaborated with other agencies such as the Multiple Sclerosis Society of New Jersey, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, the New Jersey Division of Developmental Disabilities, the American Red Cross, Hear Now, Donated Dental Services and Lenscrafters Community Assistance Program, to finance purchase of assistive devices and home modifications.

Consumers were also encouraged to participate with co-payments where appropriate.  In many cases, consumers served by this program had absolutely no other form of funding available to them, making SAIL their only resource.  That is what makes SAIL a uniquely beneficial program.  Since the start of the program, SAIL has been able to provide a wide range of services to 156 consumers.  We encourage Hudson County residents with disabilities to contact the hip Hudson office for more information and eligibility guidelines.
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  hip Programs
 hip Offers Innovative Programs to Meet the
Independent Living Needs of People with Disabilities
in Bergen and Hudson Counties.

Founded in 1980, Heightened Independence & Progress (hip) has come a long way from its humble origins.  hip not only continues to provide vital assistance through information, referral, advocacy, and peer counseling, but also offers a wide variety of programs to people with all types of disabilities in Bergen and Hudson Counties.  The following is a summary of hip programs, with the project coordinator’s name and location.

Community Advocacy and Outreach Program seeks to promote full inclusion through advocacy, education, and legislation. Contact: Nancy Hodgins (Bergen)

Project Outreach to Disabled Minorities directs all Independent Living Services to individuals with disabilities of Afro-American or Hispanic origin, in English and Spanish.

Contact: Lucy Montalvo (Bergen) or Marily Gonzalez (Hudson).

Special Needs Assistance Program (SNAP) facilitates acquisition of services and adaptive devices such as wheelchairs, bathroom equipment, hearing aids and more.

Contact: Maria Valentin (Bergen)

Modification Access Project (MAP) assists with barrier-free home renovation projects from concept to completion. Contact: Maria Valentin (Bergen)

Multimedia Transcription Service (MTS) converts written materials into Braille, large print, computer disk, and audio tape formats. Contact: Cathy Zimmerman (Bergen)

ABLE–Athletics for Blind Leisure Enthusiasts maintains a year-round schedule of outdoor activities for persons with vision loss.  Contact: Mike Visone (Hudson)

Support for Independent Living (SIL), a component of Bergen EASE, provides ongoing care management services through assessment, linkage, and coordination for people with disabilities (18-59). Contact:
Lori Spano (Bergen)

Leadership, Education, Advocacy, and Determination (LEAD), a statewide project for high school students with vision loss, is geared toward the development of a variety of life skills. Contact: Najwa De Martino and Lori Spano

Transition Programs assist high school students and families to move from school to adult life. Contact: Marian Padilla (Hudson); Andrew Skea (Bergen).

Adjustment to Vision Loss coordinates peer support groups and assists with access to mental health professionals for individuals with vision loss. Contact: Nancy Hodgins or Susan Vanino (Bergen)

Support Groups– In Bergen: COPE (Multiple Sclerosis) and Women with Disabilities.

Contact: Paula Walsh.

Membership Meetings offer an update on the latest issues in Independent Living and an interesting theme, ranging from health care to hip’s annual picnic. Contact: Paula Walsh (Bergen) or Mike Visone (Hudson)

On the Move provides opportunities for young adults with physical, sensory, or learning disabilities to participate in recreation and social skills development programs.

Contact: Lucy Montalvo (Bergen)

Special Assistance for Independent Living (SAIL) provides funding for assistive devices or barrier-free home renovation projects. Contact: Noris Nunez (Hudson)

Caregiver Assistance and Support Project (CASP) provides care management to Bergen County residents 60 and over who are providing care for younger adults with physical disabilities. Contact: Najwa De Martino

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  All Wrapped Up
 Once again, the staff at hip had the opportunity to "play Santa" for a huge number of gifts which we distributed to our consumers.  Many of the gifts came through the wonderful efforts of the All Wrapped Up project at the Volunteer Center of Bergen County.  Under of the direction of Kristen Hepsen, coordinator, and other Volunteer Center staff, hip and many other non-profit agencies are able to receive donated gifts from members of the community to brighten the lives of so many people.  We are also extremely fortunate to work with Chris Black and Susan Carney of Saint Peter’s Church in River Edge, whose parishioners also were extremely generous at the holiday season.

In some cases consumers picked up their holiday gifts at hip’s Hackensack office, and our staff also delivered many items to long-term care facilities and homes throughout the area.  Clothing, household items, tons of toys, and many gift certificates were part of this bountiful outpouring.  Some of our staff members took it upon themselves to personally buy gifts for consumers, and an occasional Christmas tree was presented to families as well.  Many gift recipients also had an extra bonus of a cuddly teddy bear, compliments of Bergen County’s United Way.  In total, several thousand dollars worth of gifts and gift certificates were distributed which brightened up the season for all of us at hip.
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