hipnews Spring 2007 Edition
 
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YES! Receives Continuation Funding
A NEW “LEADer”
MTS Prepares For Spring
“Happy Retirement” to a Member of the hip Family
Making Home Accessible
I Love LEAD!
Parent Action Transition Handbook – PATH
So, your IEP meeting is coming up! ...
YES! Summer Program Returns
Peer Mentor Visits Students
Practical Information Helps ...
Disability Etiquette
On the Move
Member Update
"Fun on a Bun" - Life Can Be A Picnic
The View from HUDSON by Marianne Valls
Ways to Give to hip
When Gretchen Meets Henry
Is There An ADA Committee In Place Where You Live?
From the ADVOCATE’S DESK by Nancy Hodgins
What’s Happening With Our Peer Support Groups?
Thanks
hip Programs
Two Important Fund Raising Events Coming Up...
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  YES! Receives Continuation Funding
  
 In March 2004, the NJ Department of Education funded a three-year project for all 12 New Jersey Centers for Independent Living. The goal of the project is to assist high school students to enhance their self-advocacy and self-determination skills as they prepare for adult life. Additionally, since the majority of services that students with disabilities receive end at graduation, the program strives to link these young people to the Center for Independent Living that can best assist them in addressing their future needs.


The project has had a positive impact on high school students across the state. Both Marian Padilla at Hudson hip, and Andy Skea at Bergen hip, have worked diligently in coordinating hip’s YES! program. In three years, 2,413 students in Bergen and Hudson Counties have participated.


The statewide self-advocacy program has received acclaim and continuation of funding through a combined grant from the NJ Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services and the NJ Department of Education. We at hip appreciate the opportunity to continue to work with these young people and their families as they prepare for adult life. – Eileen Goff, Executive Director
 
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  A NEW “LEADer”
  
 We are pleased to announce that Maria Valentin, a hip staff member since 2001, has assumed the administrative role for the LEAD Program at hip’s Bergen CIL. Maria is eager to work with the coordinators and get to know the LEAD participants.


LEAD (Leadership, Education, Advocacy and Determination) is a skill development and mentoring program for high school students with vision loss in New Jersey. Six highly qualified coordinators work with students in the northern, central and southern regions of the state. Since 1999, LEAD has been considered a model program with few counterparts in the nation.
 
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  MTS Prepares For Spring
  
 Multimedia Transcription Service Prepares
for Spring



Multimedia Transcription Service is preparing to accept requests for textbooks to be produced in Braille for the 2007-08 school year. Teachers across the country are now assessing the needs of Braille users in their classrooms. History, science, algebra, calculus, geometry and foreign language books are now being produced by MTS. Currently, the largest number of textbook requests come from Florida, Kentucky and New York.


In addition to the textbooks that make up a large portion of MTS production, individual orders include theater programs, government publications, hospital consent forms, utility bills, training materials, brochures, and personal letters. MTS converts information into Braille, large print, and audiocassette.


During the past year, MTS has produced 400,000 Braille and large print pages and duplicated almost 10,000 audiocassettes. To date, 387 textbooks have been produced for schools in 26 states.


Our staff of Library of Congress Certified Braille Transcribers who work in New Jersey and several out of state locations, has grown to nine with the acquisition of our newest team member, making her the second transcriber to reside in New York State. She has a strong background in Braille transcription and brings a wealth of experience to MTS.


For further information about Multimedia Transcription Service, call Cathy Zimmerman at 201-996-9423, or send an e-mail to mts.ber@hipcil.org.
You can also visit the MTS website, www.mts-braille.com.
 
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  “Happy Retirement” to a Member of the hip Family
  
 A soft-spoken gentleman with a friendly Seeing Eye dog came to a hip picnic at the Englewood Boat Basin in July 1996. As the staff from the Hudson office introduced themselves to the newcomer, it became clear that Mike Visone radiated the kind of enthusiasm that draws everyone to him. During the evening, he made it a point to find out about hip, but not just because he wanted to know what we could do for him. In fact, he wanted to know what he could do for hip. Within the week, Mike was a full-time volunteer in the Hudson office.


From that day forward, callers to Hudson hip have been greeted by the warm and knowledgeable voice of Mike Visone, who was hired as Independent Living Services Assistant a year later. He has always been the “go-to guy.” Everyone knows that Mike will be there to provide information, peer support, and friendly encouragement. He’s also there to sell 50/50 raffle tickets at the holiday party and picnic, get massive mailings out on time, and do everything else from coordinating transportation for hip events to assembling office furniture and installing computer hardware.



MIKE PLANS TO TAKE IT EASY

As an avid animal lover, Mike devotes many hours to presentations about the Seeing Eye program and the independence he has gained from using a dog guide. An active member of the Hudson County Animal League, he has also done a great deal to raise money and awareness about animal adoption.


Mike recently announced that the time has come for another transition in his life. He and his wife, Carol, plan to retire and relocate to Ocean County. He tells us he intends to “take it easy.” Somehow we doubt it. Knowing him as we do, we’re quite sure that he’ll find someone to help. One thing is for sure: Mike will enrich the lives of all he meets.


As Mike’s retirement date draws near, we know that there will be an empty spot at hip. Not only will we miss his voice on the phone, but we will really feel as though a family member has moved away. It is with great affection that we wish Mike and Carol much luck and success in their new home.
 
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  Making Home Accessible
  
 Universal design is a relatively new concept that seeks to make the built environment usable by all people without the need for adaptation. This might include kitchen islands with adjustable-height countertops, front-loading washers and dryers, roll-in showers, and no-step entrances, eliminating the need for ramps, according to a New York Times article in January.
The following is a checklist of some basics of universal design. (Source Washington Post)

  • A no-step entry, so any resident or visitor can get into the house or the main rooms.

  • One-story living. All thresholds should be flush with the floor, and a pathway from and between rooms should be wide enough for a wheelchair to get around easily.

  • Doorways at least 32 inches wide but preferably 36 inches.

  • Hallways at least 36 inches wide

  • Floors and bathtubs with non-slip surfaces.

  • Handrails at stairs and grab bars in bathrooms.

  • Lever door handles rather than doorknobs, rocker light switches rather than standard switches, easy-access electrical outlets and other controls



The following websites offer help in adapting a home:

  • The Do-Able Renewable Home, published by AARP in 1991 and updated in 2000, offers advice on making residences accessible. Free at www.universaldesign.com.

  • AARP’s website, www.aarp.org, includes home-design information. Click on “Family, Home and Legal” on the main page and then “Home Design.”

 
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  I Love LEAD!
  
 Dear hip,


I joined LEAD in my freshman year of high school, and did not know what to expect at first. Right away, I loved the events, especially when the three regions got together for statewide trips. At every one of these events, I exercised and improved my leadership skills, my education about blindness and skills to overcome it, advocacy, and how to speak and do for myself, and my determination to succeed and help others to succeed as a LEADER.


I met many new people at LEAD, and I already knew many previously from Camp Marcella. I also met a girlfriend. I must say that much of the good balance that we enjoy in our relationship, and also in our other relationships with friends, comes from the optimistic attitude of LEAD. Many students including my girlfriend and I plan to go to college, and much of our strong preparedness also comes from LEAD and this group’s optimism and “you can do it” attitude.


I am very into music – I play the piano and trumpet, and I sing. I memorize the music that I learn, but should I depend on others to learn the music, when a code known as braille music exists, created by Louis Braille himself? No, not by me! It is my goal to be as literate as possible so that I can read, write, play and sing music well. I want to learn about all the latest technology, so that I can quickly contribute to the music world, with blindness being the smallest of my issues! Even though the music that I write, play, read, and sing is not closely linked to LEAD, the energy that I have and my motivation to improve most definitely comes from this group.


Recently another senior at LEAD and I attended a Leadership Seminar in Washington, D.C., and we enjoyed it so much. I heard someone say, “Don’t panic, adjust!” What good advice this is for a blind or visually impaired person, especially for one who loses his or her vision at an age later in life than birth!


I thank you so much for doing what must be done to allow LEAD to prosper. Please keep up the good work. I am looking forward to all the remaining events that I will attend in my senior year of high school.


I am also looking forward to coming back to LEAD in a few years as a mentor. I know that I and other blind people should be motivated, and should do more than is required before the average sighted person calls us amazing. LEAD is most certainly a powerful engine in our journey through life with Leadership, Education, Advocacy, and Determination.

Thank you,
Ben Vercellone
 
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  Parent Action Transition Handbook – PATH
  
 PATH (the Parent Action Transition Handbook) is now available. hip, in collaboration with DAWN and DIAL, both Centers for Independent Living, have developed a reference handbook for the parents of transitioning students. The path to independent living can be difficult for parents, as well as students, to navigate. This handbook aims to help parents and whole families, by outlining some of the steps they need to take while preparing, with their children, for life after high school. Resource information is readily available in the PATH guide. Copies are available at all Centers for Independent Living throughout New Jersey.
 
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  So, your IEP meeting is coming up! ...
  
 So, your IEP meeting is coming up! What can you do to get ready?



Picture yourself, in your high school years, pulled out of class for a meeting to plan both what you will do in school for the next couple of years, as well as how you will prepare for the years after graduation. Surrounding you at this table are two of your teachers, your case manager, your parents, and maybe a couple of other people from the school. Among this group are people who know you really well, and maybe one or two whom you talk to only a few times each year, and you aren’t completely sure what their jobs are. Even if you have a really good idea of what your plans are, this gathering, called your Individualized Education Program or IEP meeting, can be a little intimidating. But there are things you can do to make it a more comfortable experience. Both parents and students should try to get to know the different people involved in the IEP process.


A good strategy is to do some preparation yourself, so you have a better idea of what you want people to know as plans are made. Here are some questions that both students and parents can ask themselves when preparing for their IEP meeting:


1) What are your strengths both in school and out of school?

2) What is challenging for you about school?

3) What techniques or technologies help you learn better?

4) What goals do you have for the next year?

5) What are your long-term goals? It’s all right to be unsure; this just means that you should plan to look into some possibilities.

6) Are there any other issues you have questions or concerns about?


Finally, if you’re looking for assistance to get ready for an IEP meeting, Bergen hip can help. Andrew Skea, our Independent Living Transition Coordinator, can meet with students and their families ahead of time to discuss strategies and provide information about what to expect and, if necessary, will even attend the meeting to act as an advocate on behalf of a student. Andrew can also attend IEP meetings at the request of schools who wish to inform families of services available through our two Centers for Independent Living as well as other community-based supports which may be helpful. For more information on these services, please contact Andrew in the Hackensack office.
 
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  YES! Summer Program Returns
  
 Hudson hip is pleased to announce the return of the YES! (Youth Envisioning Success!) Summer Program. The goal of this year’s program is to involve students from various Hudson County high schools in a multi-faceted program. Sessions will be conducted at hip’s Hudson office once a week for six consecutive weeks during the months of July and August. Students will receive independent living skills training with an added focus on career and job preparation skills. There has been an overwhelming demand for services such as developing job searching skills, resume writing, and interview skills. Two outings are also scheduled for the students. Transportation will be provided. For further information contact Marian Padilla, IL Transition Coordinator.
 
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  Peer Mentor Visits Students
  
 With the assistance of a sign language interpreter, Amy Guzman, Hudson hip’s Independent Living Transition Coordinator, Marian Padilla, recently presented a series of self-advocacy sessions to a group of students with hearing impairments at McNair Academic High School in Jersey City. Students and staff eagerly welcomed the opportunity to participate in the informative workshops. The Transition Coordinator had to make some adjustments to her way of giving presentations, realizing that her use of hand gestures while speaking would distract the students’ attention from the sign language interpreter. Fortunately, Ms. Guzman provided some helpful suggestions. Much to the delight of the students, Marian even learned some useful sign language along the way.


One of the workshop sessions featured a visit from a peer mentor who is a student at Fairleigh Dickinson University. As a person who is hearing-impaired, she faces the same challenges and obstacles as the students and is a model of self-advocacy and independent living. Each student prepared a list of questions for her. She emphasized the importance of being one’s own advocate and requesting the accommodations that work best for oneself. Students were advised to research the schools they are interested in attending and to become familiar with the support services the school provides. The students were also encouraged to think creatively about accommodations that may be available outside the classroom. For example, a Sidekick mobile phone and text messaging can be used to enhance communication with hearing peers in social situations. The sessions were a success and very rewarding to all involved.
 
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  Practical Information Helps ...
  
 Practical Information Helps Students Design Accessible Homes



On a snowy afternoon in late February, several Hudson hip staff members and consumers described their “dream homes” to a group of architecture students. Dr. Richard Olsen, of the Architecture and Building Sciences Research Center at New Jersey Institute of Technology, brought his class of 10 to Jersey City to discuss access issues with people who have various disabilities and a wide range of accessibility needs.


The discussion ranged from what type of flooring is easiest for walking or pushing a wheelchair, to the use of proper lighting and contrast to make environments more accessible for people with limited vision. Bathroom and kitchen safety issues as well as the integration of stylish decor into accessible homes were also lively subjects for discussion.


Following the meeting, each architecture student was assigned to design a home that would be accessible for an individual with a different disability. This assignment was unique because the students were instructed to incorporate the “dream home” ideas discussed during the meeting at hip into the plan along with ADA accessibility guidelines and standard architecture concepts. In commenting on the benefit of this meeting for his students, Dr. Olsen said, “I can talk about the laws and concepts, but it is only when the students get to meet people who live with accessibility concerns every day that it becomes real for them.”
 
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  Disability Etiquette
  
 People with disabilities are entitled to the same courtesies you would extend to anyone, including personal privacy. If you find it inappropriate to ask people about their sex lives, or their complexions, or their incomes, extend the courtesy to people with disabilities.


a) If you don’t make a habit of leaning or hanging on people, don’t lean or hang on someone’s wheelchair. Wheelchairs are an extension of personal space.


b) When you offer to assist someone with a vision impairment, allow the person to take your arm. This will help you to guide rather than propel or lead the person.


c) Treat adults as adults. Call a person by his or her first name only when you extend this familiarity to everyone present. Don’t patronize people who use wheelchairs by patting them on the head. Reserve this sign of affection for children.


IN CONVERSATION...

a) When talking with someone who has a disability, speak directly to him or her, rather than through a companion who may be along.


b) Relax. Don’t be embarrassed if you happen to use common expressions, such as “See you later” or “I’ve got to run,” that seem to relate to the person’s disability.


c) To get the attention of a person who has a hearing disability, tap the person on the shoulder or wave your hand. Look directly at the person and speak clearly, slowly and expressively to establish if the person can read your lips. Not everyone with hearing impairments can lip-read. Those who do will rely on facial expressions and other body language to help them understand. Show consideration by facing a light source and keeping your hands and food away from your mouth when speaking. Keep mustaches well-trimmed. Shouting won’t help, but written notes will.


d) When talking with a person in a wheelchair for more than a few minutes, place yourself at the wheelchair user’s eye level to spare both of you a stiff neck.


e) When greeting a person with a severe loss of vision, always identify yourself and others who may be with you. Say, for example, “On my right is Andy Clark.” When conversing in a group, remember to say the name of the person to whom you are speaking to give a vocal cue. Speak in a normal tone of voice, indicate when you move from one place to another, and let it be known when the conversation is at an end.


f) Give whole, unhurried attention when you’re talking to a person who has difficulty speaking. Keep your manner encouraging rather than correcting, and be patient rather than speak for the person. When necessary, ask questions that require short answers or a nod or shake of the head. Never pretend to understand if you are having difficulty doing so. Repeat what you understand. The person’s reaction will guide you to understanding.


COMMON COURTESIES...

a) If you would like to help someone with a disability, ask if he or she needs it before you act, and listen to any instructions the person may want to give.


b) When giving directions to a person in a wheelchair, consider distance, weather conditions and physical obstacles such as stairs, curbs and steep hills.


c) When directing a person with a visual impairment, use specifics such as “left a hundred feet” or “right two yards.”


d) Be considerate of the extra time it might take a person with a disability to get things done or said. Let the person set the pace in walking and talking.


e) When planning events involving persons with disabilities, consider their needs ahead of time. If an insurmountable barrier exists, let them know about it prior to the event.
 
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  On the Move
  
 Bergen County teens and young adults are on the move again, and ready to spring into action. This season’s activities will begin with a day at a movie and lunch. Everyone loves rooting for their favorite team at the Jackals baseball game, and this year will be no exception. On the Move participants will join in with other hip members at the annual picnic in June, which takes place on the banks of the Hudson River. Due to budget cuts, there may be fewer activities this year; however, be assured that there will be no reduction in the fun to be enjoyed.
 
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  Member Update
  
 We welcome the following new and renewing members of hip. Their commitment to Independent Living is deeply appreciated!







Bernice Baron Lucille Peterson
Gail Braun Andrew Pigoncelli
Mary Ruth Burke Brian Quinones
Ivan Cueva Mr. & Mrs. Thomas Rager
Maria I. Donohue Linda Rice
Mary Jo Hackett + Jamee Romano
Nancy Henry Pamela Rostoczynski & family
Louis Intorre Karin Segelbacher
Vincent Iucci & family Steve Silkeit
David Karp Fredelia Smith
Lorraine Kendel Frank & Joan Solensky
John Lampert+ Florence Loren Stors
Janet C. Marcus Bobbi Wailes *
Noris Nunez Sherlock Washington
Jeannette Oliveri Cindy Zirkin
Chris Paraskevacos  



Life Member *

Corporate Member +
 
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  "Fun on a Bun" - Life Can Be A Picnic
  
 Two of hip’s favorite social activities of the year are the picnics that take place in Bergen and Hudson Counties. As always, the Bergen hip picnic is held at the Englewood Cliffs Boat Basin, nestled on the west bank of the Hudson River at the foot of the mighty Palisades. There is live music, festive picnic fare, and tons of fun. Mark your calendar for Tuesday, June 19th at 6 p.m.


Last year the Hudson hip picnic was an absolute smash and plans are currently in the works for another special event. Details will follow.


There is no charge for the picnics for hip members; for others, the cost is five dollars.
 
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  The View from HUDSON by Marianne Valls
  
 For the past several years, Centers for Independent Living have partnered with other agencies throughout New Jersey to ensure polling place accessibility for persons with disabilities. To my knowledge, few poll workers have challenged anyone’s competency to vote because a person used a wheelchair or a walker, was blind, or had some other disability that prevented them from physically accessing the voting machine. The question was not whether we could vote, but whether structural barriers could keep us from exercising our franchise. There were no legal barriers, just physical ones, or so we thought. Nevertheless, although it was not often practiced, under a 1789 provision of the New Jersey Constitution, a person’s competency could be called into question if he or she has a disability.


“No idiot or insane person shall enjoy the right of suffrage” (Article II, Section 1 of the State Constitution). Senate and Assembly legislation enforced this provision. The New Jersey Developmental Disabilities Council (NJDDC) discovered this archaic law and went to work to help re-word this offensive language. Luke Koppisch, a coordinator with the NJDDC, which brought the idea to State Senate President Richard Codey to sponsor, said the language is insulting and had no place cemented in state law. “It harkens back to an era when people with disabilities were treated like second-class citizens,” he said.


Representatives from the Public Advocate’s Office, the Monday Morning Project, the Office of Legislative Services, and Jennifer Mathis of the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, helped craft the final version of the new legislation. Senator Codey proposed deleting “idiot or insane person” and replacing those words with “‘No person who has been adjudicated by a court of competent jurisdiction to lack the capacity to understand the act of voting’ shall enjoy the right of suffrage.” Armed with a change in wording, the NJDDC, with other agencies who joined their cause, set out to find legislators who would shepherd this important change in the Constitution through the State Legislature.



On February 26, Assemblyman Joseph Cryan (District 20 – Union) and Assemblyman Jim Whelan (District 2) introduced Assembly Concurrent Resolution (ACR-240). A-4030 is the companion Assembly bill which, if passed, would delete the offensive language from the State Constitution. In the Senate, SCR-134 and S-2476 are the State Senate companion legislation to the bills working their way through the Assembly. These bills passed the committees unanimously. It will take 3/5 of the members of both houses of the NJ Legislature by August 16th to pass SCR-134/ACR240 for the change in the Constitutional language to be on the ballot in November. Any change in the State Constitution must go before the voters.



In an article in the Newark Star-Ledger on January 30th, Todd Emmons, a person with a developmental disability, is quoted as saying, “Voting is one of the most important rights we have.” Voting was an empowering act for Mr. Emmons. He went on to say that being able to vote made him feel “like an equal, a regular person like everyone else.”


Editor’s Note: Readers who would like to support the proposed Amendment to the State Constitution can do so by visiting the NJ Developmental Disabilities Council website and signing a petition (www.njddc.org). Comments may be included. By April 1st, only 45 signatures were recorded, one of them by Tom Bengaff, hip Board of Trustees member and chair of our Advocacy Committee.
 
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  Ways to Give to hip
  
 Gifts to hip can be made by VISA or Mastercard. In addition to always-welcome unrestricted gifts, hip suggests several channels of giving that may appeal to our friends. Call hip at 201-996-9100 or give by e-mail: ber@hipcil.org.



Laura’s Legacy, a fund created by the hip Board in memory of the daughter of Board member Lillian Ciufo, helps a family or an individual in need each year. Recipients are identified by hip staff and Board members. Laura Ciufo fully understood the concept of helping others. Her spirit continues to be with us as we assist others in her name.



Tribute Cards to extend best wishes or congratulations for happy events, or to express sympathy, are available at hip. Attractively designed on cream-colored stock with burgundy ink, the cards are personalized for you with the occasion or a brief tribute and the sender’s name. A phone call and a contribution to hip will send your card on its way to an appreciative recipient.



United Way Contributions can be directed to hip either through an employee program or independently. Just designate Heightened Independence and Progress as the recipient of your donation.
 
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  When Gretchen Meets Henry
  
 Last November, Susan Vanino and her dog guide, Gretchen, were paired together at the Seeing Eye in Morristown. Since Gretchen was Susan’s first dog guide, they spent almost a month in extensive training to become a successful dog guide team. Gretchen is a beautiful two-year-old golden retriever, full of energy. Since returning home, Susan and Gretchen have been visiting the Adjustment to Vision Loss peer support groups that Susan coordinates throughout northern and central New Jersey. Gretchen also loves spending time at hip’s Hackensack office, where she has a fuzzy bed and squeaky toys. Staff members make a big fuss over her.


Ironically, Mike Visone, who for many years has been the Independent Living office assistant at Hudson hip, arrived at the Seeing Eye one month later. Mike was paired with Henry, a two-and-a-half-year-old long-haired German shepherd who is strong-willed, playful, and very close to Mike. Henry enjoys his nylabone and his good morning greeting from the staff at work. Mike is not only an experienced dog guide user, but is partial to German shepherds. Henry is his third. Since Gretchen and Henry are very friendly dogs, they secretly wished for a canine companion to hang out with at hip’s agency-wide functions. Imagine their delight at hip’s holiday party in December when Gretchen met Henry for the first time since they had been together at Seeing Eye! The friendship, which began during their school days, has now been renewed.
 
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  Is There An ADA Committee In Place Where You Live?
  
 “I really believe all towns want to do the right thing for their residents,” says Bobbi Wailes, chairperson of the Fort Lee ADA Advisory Board to the Mayor and Council. “An ADA committee can make sure that proper accessibility is established in the town for all the residents with disabilities. I am happy to say that since its inception, the Fort Lee ADA committee has been responsible for accomplishing a great deal of accessibility throughout the town.”


ADA committees should be comprised of a majority of people with disabilities, as well as other citizens who understand that all programs and services must be equally available to all residents. These can include access to the municipal pool for people in wheelchairs, assistive listening devices at council meetings, and ensuring access to information about flu shots and town events for people with vision loss. The ADA committees function in an advisory role and need to receive cooperation and support from the Mayor and Council.


Does your municipality have an ADA Committee? We encourage you to contact your mayor or city clerk and find out. If there is not a functioning committee in place, we suggest you consider becoming involved in establishing one. Why not call Nancy Hodgins, hip’s Advocate, who can provide you with information on how to establish an ADA Committee where you live? – Eileen Goff, Executive Director
 
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  From the ADVOCATE’S DESK by Nancy Hodgins
  
 
I’m Tired of Just Complaining! What Can I Do on the Local Level?


Many towns and cities don’t get the scrutiny that state government receives. Yet it is the local level that affects our daily lives the most. Our local streets are where we live and local services are the ones we use daily.



Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that local government, as well as state and county, provide facilities, programs and services for all citizens.



Any town with 50 or more employees must appoint an ADA compliance officer, an employee who is charged with receiving complaints about lack of access. This individual is usually responsible for oversight of the town government’s level of ADA compliance and for establishing and publicizing the town’s ADA grievance procedure. This officer is also responsible for finding solutions to problems. Most Bergen and Hudson towns have 50 or more employees and are therefore required to have this position in place.



We are more likely to visit our town hall than our state or county building. Yet at the local level, few individuals, including our elected officials, are knowledgeable about the ADA Title II requirements. Residents with disabilities and their families know what problems exist in our communities that impact on daily life. Is it a sidewalk without a curb cut? Is it the town hall with steps and no ramp, with a second floor and no elevator? Is it a town meeting that you cannot participate in because there is no sign language interpreter or listening assisted device? Is it a town’s Senior Center trip you can’t take because the bus doesn’t accommodate people in wheelchairs? Is it your garbage that you can’t bring to the curb or to a dumpster in your housing complex? Is it an important notice you can’t read because of your vision loss?


ASK FOR SELF-EVALUATION REPORT


These issues should have been identified 15 years ago with plans put in place to address them, according to ADA Title II requirements. In most towns this hasn’t happened. If there are still issues that prevent someone with a disability from enjoying full community access, seek out the ADA compliance officer in your town. If there is none, tell officials, if your town employs at least 50 people, that you know they are mandated to have one. Also ask to see your town’s Self Evaluation Report. This report was supposed to survey all of the town’s facilities, programs, services, policies and practices to be sure that they do not discriminate against persons with disabilities.



Ask to see your town’s Transition Plan, which details all the corrections that must be made to ensure access and bring your town into ADA compliance, with target completion dates. If your town tells you that they don’t have these plans, or that they can’t be shown to you, remind them that they are in violation of the ADA. These reports are “public information” and should be available on request. If your town hasn’t done these reports, tell them you know these reports are required and you expect your town to comply with their ADA obligations. You know your town best. You can keep pace with your government’s activities and identify problems or voids when and where they occur.



We would like to know the status of compliance in your town. Tell your Bergen or Hudson hip office how your town is doing. Does it have an ADA compliance officer? Does it have an ADA advisory committee? Is there an ADA grievance procedure? Have they prepared Self-Evaluation and Transition plans? Are there problems with access in your town that are not yet resolved? Are town officials responsive to the issues you have raised? Most importantly, let them know you are there, that you are knowledgeable about the needs of citizens with disabilities, and that you are willing to be a resource for them so that what is done is effective, appropriate and accessible to everyone.
 
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  What’s Happening With Our Peer Support Groups?
  
 Did you know that Bergen hip hosts several peer support groups that have been meeting for many years? Participants have benefited by the sharing of ideas and problem solving.


COPE, the Multiple Sclerosis Support Group, which was organized through a collaborative effort between hip and the Greater North Jersey Multiple Sclerosis Chapter, has been meeting on the last Thursday of each month for over 22 years, to discuss issues of concern and interest while socializing and forming friendships.


The Women with Disabilities Support Group meets on the first and third Monday each month. Discussions about relationships, women’s issues, family dynamics, employment, information sharing, and day-to-day problems are some of the focus areas. Many close friendships have been formed, and peer sharing has enabled many of the participants to feel more comfortable about their disability and be more independent.


If you are interested in attending any of these support groups, please call Paula Walsh at the Bergen hip office. Some limited transportation may be available.
 
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  Thanks
  
 hip has received a significant financial contribution to support our programs for young people. We thank Richard Wolfman for his generosity.
 
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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.



ABLE–Athletics for Blind Leisure Enthusiasts maintains a year-round schedule of outdoor activities for individuals with vision loss.  Contact: The Hudson Office



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)



Caregiver Assistance and Support Project (CASP) a component of Bergen EASE, provides care management to Bergen County residents 60 and over who are providing care for younger adults with physical disabilities. Contact: The Bergen Office



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



Leadership, Education, Advocacy, and Determination (LEAD), a statewide mentoring and skill-building project, assists high school students with vision loss in their transition to adult life. Contact: Lori Spano



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, and audiotape formats. Contact: Cathy Zimmerman (Bergen)



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)



Project Access reviews residential construction plans to ensure
compliance with existing legislation. Contact: Maria Valentin (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 Assistance for Independent Living (SAIL) provides funding for assistive devices or barrier-free home renovation projects. Contact: Noris Nunez (Hudson)




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

Contact: Maria Valentin (Bergen)



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: The Bergen Office



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

Contact: Paula Walsh.



Youth Envisioning Success (YES!) assists high school students and families to move from school to adult life. Contact: Marian Padilla (Hudson); Andrew Skea (Bergen).

 
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  Two Important Fund Raising Events Coming Up...
  
 Two Important Fund Raising Events Coming Up - Something for Everyone !



"UNDER THE HIPTOP"

On April 28th, we're looking forward to filling the Fort Lee Recreation Center, our traditional party place, with a roomful of hip family and friends, for our usual delightful evening of dinner, dancing, prizes, and general fun. Members received an invitation, but all are welcome. Call our Bergen Office to reserve - but don't wait - space is running out. Limited transportation is available. Remember, you can reserve by using a VISA or American Express credit card. Call Bergen hip.



"TEE-OFF FOR INDEPENDENT LIVING"


Golfers and golfing enthusiasts are encouraged to call Bergen hip for a brochure describing our first golf outing, set for June 11th at the distinguished Forest Hill field Club in Bloomfield. this is a prestigious event at an attractive price, which we hope will being new friends to hip and open a new avenue for financial support. Again, registration can take place through VISA or MasterCard. Call hip at 201-996-9100.


Even if you are not a golfer, there are opportunities to support this first-ever event. Call Lou Intorre at 201-967-2716.
 
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