201-996-9100 Bergen Office or 201-533-4407 Hudson Office

hipNews Winter 2020

Heightened Independence & Progress - Our staff

hipNews Winter 2020


From the desk of the President

As you read this edition of the newsletter, we will have completed the first month of the new decade and we are excited to begin the 2020 celebrations of hip’s 40th anniversary.

Looking back to 1980 retrofitting buildings to be barrier free was only happening on government properties, post offices, some new construction and corporations with Federal contracts. It would be ten years until the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted into law. So hip was often the lone voice advocating for making places like restaurants, banks and retail establishments accessible. Like David versus Goliath hip singlehandedly challenged several condominium projects for ignoring the new construction codes requiring equal access. hip won a big judgment in a landmark case that made the entire construction industry take notice.

Those of you who have been with us since our humble beginnings at Englewood Community House have seen us expand into two offices in the County seats of Bergen and Hudson Counties. We have grown based on the Independent Living philosophy of “nothing about us without us” and the extraordinary vision of our founder, Eileen Goff.

The world is beginning to embrace the diversity that disability brings to the life experience, but we still have a long way to go to ensure equality and the ability to move freely about the community with the assurance that we will not need special arrangements. We are ready to tackle the new challenges of the 21st Century and correct some of the inequities left over from the past so please join us as we make plans for the next 40 years.

But, 2020 has given us several challenges to start the new decade: the 2020 census and the Presidential and Congressional elections. The census means a great deal to New Jersey when it comes to the funding of essential programs and we will continue to look to Washington to promote inclusive policies for people with disabilities. Let’s all work together to make positive changes happen.


Eric LeGrand at hip’s 40th Anniversary Gala – bELieve! 

All of us at hip are excited about our upcoming gala event to celebrate 40 years of serving the Bergen and Hudson communities. The gala will take place on Friday, May 1 at 6:30 pm at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Fort Lee. Tickets are $100 per person.

A highlight of the night will be the keynote speaker: Eric LeGrand, former Rutgers defensive tackle and advocate for people with disabilities. After an accident on the football field in October 2010 caused a spinal cord injury, Eric has been a positive role model not only in NJ but worldwide, inspiring those living with and impacted by paralysis to bELieve. Team LeGrand, his fundraising arm of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, has raised over 1 million dollars for the foundation to date. From becoming an author, sports analyst for ESPN, Sirius, the Big Ten Network and Rutgers radio, to a much sought after motivational speaker, Eric has given a voice to the paralysis community to mobilize support for critical initiatives, policies and cutting-edge research over the past seven years.

The evening’s events will also include dinner, dancing to the DJ stylings of the always fantastic Gary Morton, and highlights of hip’s 40 years of service.

Call Jayne Jacobs at 201-996-9100 ext. 26 with any questions. All proceeds from the gala go towards hip’s diverse programs. We look forward to seeing everyone there to enjoy the celebration!

Wedding Bells Were Ringing!

By Trisha Ebel, Independent Living Assistant

I would like to congratulate Genevieve Farrell and Robbie Fisk on their wedding, which took place October 5th! Genevieve is the daughter of Barbara Farrell, who is my volunteer with the Adjustment to Vision Loss Project. In lieu of giving out favors to their wedding guests, they made an amazing donation of a day at the Meadowlands Environment Center to AVL instead! I would like to thank them with all my heart and soul for their generosity.

The place card table at the reception provided an overview of hip, the Adjustment to Vision Loss project, and what the donated activity day would include. Then, on the back of every place card, there was a brief summary of hip, as well as hip’s website. Read further to find out all about our wonderful day!

Fun at the Meadowlands with the Bride

By Trisha Ebel, Independent Living Assistant

On October 21, 2019, 42 of hip’s Adjustment to Vision Loss consumers gathered at the Meadowlands Environment Center located in Lyndhurst for an entire day of educational and recreational fun! The day began at 8 am with coffee, donuts and croissants from Dunkin Donuts. Once all arrived, everyone was divided into 3 groups, each group rotated through 3 different experiences which included exploring all different herbs and spices as all created their own tea bags to take home. Another experience was horticulture: our hip consumers put together a plant in a bottle which all took home to continue to take care of it and watch it grow. Each person was able to pick whatever type of seed they wanted, some of the choices included thyme, sage, basil, parsley or cilantro. The third experience was getting into the FoodMobile, which was a big old school bus that was reconstructed with benches along each side, a counter and a table. Everyone took turns chopping, cutting and tasting fruits and vegetables for a beautiful and delicious birds nest salad.

Around noon we all gathered back in the classroom and had a wonderful lunch that was donated by the bride’s uncle Paul and Natoli’s Deli in Secaucus. 

After all activities were finished, all then gathered to take a hike along one of the MEC’s paved trails. There we all learned about the nature around us as well as the different species that were in the Hackensack River. We walked on a boardwalk that stretched out over the river as we listened to the information.

In my opinion it was fascinating to see just how many of our consumers joined in and enjoyed the entire day.  Our hip AVL consumers are so happy, dedicated and thankful! Just to see how our AVL program has helped our consumers gain independence, feel comfortable to get out of their comfort zones and live a full life again – this fills my heart with so much joy!

hip Mourns… 

Our hip Family lost the following members in recent months: Reva Prosnitz, Lisa Tester, Ethel Ball, Al Carney (father of Trish Carney), Frances Sbrocco and Rigoberto Za

Welcome to hip, Jennifer!

Jennifer Preciado joined the Hudson hip staff in November as the Comprehensive Independent Living Support (CILS) Case Manager. Jennifer earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Management from New Jersey City University and is currently pursuing her MBA in Marketing. Jennifer volunteers with developmentally delayed adults for Camp New Day, which provides a positive and supportive environment for individuals with developmental disabilities. This is where she began her understanding of disabilities and the need for services in our community. Jennifer will be marking her tenth year at New Day in the summer of 2020 and has developed great skills which she now brings to hip.

In her spare time, Jennifer enjoys quality time with her family, traveling, and making new memories.

hip Thanks…

hip receives many contributions from the individuals and the community throughout the year. We thank the following for their recent exceptional generosity:

Heather Broad

Michael and Marie Cook

Lottie Esteban and Family

First Presbyterian Church of Hackensack

River Edge Lions Club

We also extend our heartfelt thanks to the wonderful parishioners of St. Peter the Apostle Church in River Edge and the generous participants in the Bergen Volunteer Center’s All Wrapped Up Holiday Gift Giving Program who provided an assortment of gifts including warm clothes, household items, toys, and gift cards which brightened the holiday season for a number of individuals and families associated with hip.

Special Quote

“The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined efforts of every individual.” – Vince Lombardi

Why the Census Bureau Asks Questions About Disability*

The Census Bureau asks questions about a person’s difficulty with specific daily tasks to create statistics about disability. Local, state, tribal, and federal agencies use disability data to plan and fund programs for people with disabilities. Disability data are also used to evaluate other government programs and policies to ensure that they fairly and equitably serve the needs of all groups, as well as enforce laws, regulations, and policies against discrimination. Disability questions originated with the 1830 Census. The current questions were added in 2008.

The Census Bureau uses your confidential survey answers to create statistics like those below. The Census Bureau is legally bound to strict confidentiality requirements. Individual records are not shared with anyone, including federal agencies and law enforcement entities. By law, the Census Bureau cannot share respondents’ answers with anyone—not the IRS, not the FBI, not the CIA, and not with any other government agency.

There are three Yes/No questions about disability in order to identify limitations in basic areas of functioning and independent living.

  • #18. a. Is this person deaf or does he/she have serious difficulty hearing?

b. Is this person blind or does he/she have serious difficulty seeing even when wearing glasses?

  • #19. a. Because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition, does this person have serious difficulty
    concentrating, remembering, or making decisions?

b. Does this person have serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs?

c. Does this person have difficulty dressing or bathing?

  • #20. Because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition, does this person have difficulty doing
    errands alone such as visiting a doctor’s office or shopping?

The Census Bureau compiles the results from these questions to provide communities with important statistics to help in their disability services planning. For example:

United States Percent with a Disability: 12.6%
Median Earnings of Persons with a Disability: $23,090

New Jersey Percent with a Disability: 10.4%
Median Earning of Persons with a Disability: $27,805

The Census Bureau has identified people with disabilities as a hard-to-count population, which means they are at a greater risk of being undercounted. The 2020 Census will begin in March 2020. Most households will receive a letter explaining how to respond online. There is also an option for responding by phone or by mail. Braille and large print guides will be available to respondents to assist with self-response. Census data help direct more than $800 billion a year in federal funding, including programs that support people with disabilities. So it is extremely important to be counted!

*Information from https://www.census.gov/acs/www/about/why-we-ask-each-question/disability/

It’s Official…

On Tuesday, January 21st, Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation that officially designates the Seeing Eye® dog as the state dog of New Jersey.

All Seeing Eye dogs are born and trained in New Jersey before they are placed with people who are blind across the United States and Canada. The Seeing Eye is a pioneer of the guide dog industry, paving the way for acceptance of assistance animals in society and around the globe.

“As The Seeing Eye wraps up its 90th anniversary year, we are so honored that the great state of New Jersey has recognized the important role that Seeing Eye® dogs have in the lives of the people who raise, train and own them,” said Seeing Eye President & CEO Glenn Hoagland. “When our non-profit was founded, few people believed dogs could contribute to the health and wellness of humankind in the myriad of ways they do today. The work of our founders paved the way for acceptance of assistance animals in society, eventually leading to their incorporation into the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

The bill was introduced by Senator Anthony R. Bucco; after his death, it was shepherded by his son, Senator Anthony M. Bucco, and passed the New Jersey Senate and Assembly with unanimous bipartisan support.

“My father and I shared a passion for the work of The Seeing Eye organization and its mission to increase the independence of those who are blind and visually impaired,” said Senator Anthony M. Bucco. “This was one of the last bills that we worked on together prior to his passing. I couldn’t think of a more fitting tribute to my father than the signing of this legislation which encapsulates his deeply held belief that everyone deserves the opportunity to live with dignity and respect.”

Established in 1929, The Seeing Eye provides specially bred and trained dogs to guide people who are blind. Seeing Eye dog users experience greatly enhanced mobility and independence, allowing them to retain their active lifestyles despite blindness. The Seeing Eye is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit supported by contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations, bequests, and other planned gifts.

The Seeing Eye name is only used to describe dogs trained at the school’s facilities in Morristown, N.J. For more information: www.SeeingEye.org, (973) 539-4425, info@seeingeye.org. 

Annual Meeting at a New Location!

hip’s annual meeting was held the evening of November 14th at a new location, the Westy Storage Center at 65 Commerce Way in Hackensack. A group of almost 100 hip consumers, members, staff and board members convened to discuss the highlights and accomplishments of hip over the past fiscal year.

To start, the finance report was presented by Treasurer Rick Hodgman, who explained that hip is in good financial order. This was followed by board member elections. The keynote speaker was Michael Fondacaro, a wheelchair user who has featured his travels throughout the country and his participation in many sports in an entertaining video titled, “Beyond the Chair.” Michael responded to questions using a communications board. He was a fantastic addition to our meeting this year.

President and CEO Brian Fitzgibbons reviewed hip’s accolades of the year and introduced the staff members of both the Bergen and Hudson offices. Betty Fetzer, Board Vice-Chair, then introduced the members of the Board of Trustees. The meeting ended by inviting the guests to offer their advice for future programs.

Westy contributed to half of the cost of food from Firehouse Subs and the entire rental of the space, tables and chairs – even the tablecloths, plates and napkins with all the utensils were included. Westy also distributed complimentary bags with various favors for our guests. They went out of their way to make sure all accommodations were made and in a timely manner. Thank you to everyone at Westy for providing such a wonderful environment for our meeting.

hip’s Annual Holiday Party

This year’s Holiday Season got off to a great start with our Annual Holiday Party. The partygoers arrived and quickly began to renew old acquaintances and were escorted to their seats by the attentive hip staff to sit down to a four-course dinner skillfully prepared by the chefs of the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Fort Lee. The festive decorations were enhanced by displays of door prizes and colorful cookie tins while each table was set with beautiful poinsettias donated by Herman Hofman. As the first course was being served, DJ Greig Atkinson started the music and the group almost never stopped dancing. If they did take a break from the dance floor many of them dressed up for their close-up at the photo booth run by Irina from Back to Back Music (see the gallery page at www.hipcil.org).

The party was in full swing when hip volunteers started to circulate selling 50-50 tickets and we took a break for cake and calling out the door prizes. Anthony Yorio did a great job calling out the numbers. As an extra added bonus, we distributed over 125 beautiful calendars from a variety of charities. Finally, after all the numbers had been picked, in what has become a hip tradition, Chris Gagliardi offered up a very special rendition of “White Christmas”.

As the crowd dispersed many people were heard to say that this was a great party with good food, treasured friends and lots of fun.

We’ll Miss You, Mary!

Mary Mulvaney, Care Management Supervisor, retired in November after 5 years with hip. She was a social worker who helped so many people over her extensive career, which included positions at the OneStop and Bergen County CAP. Mary was always singing, making everyone laugh and bringing joy to both her coworkers and her consumers. We’ll miss you so much around the office and hope you enjoy your retirement, Mary!

African Drumming Circle

By Trisha Ebel, Independent Living Assistant

On November 12, 2019, hip’s Adjustment to Vision Loss consumers met at the North Arlington Senior Center and explored a new and exciting experience – an African Drumming Circle!

Alfred Fredel is a Health and Wellness coach as well as a Trained Health Rhythm Facilitator. Alfred instructed a 2-hour session to 12 of our hip consumers. The goal of the session was to bring unity and community through drumming and song!

This session was an introduction to group drumming. Everyone learns basic techniques on different percussion instruments normally found in a drumming circle. This was a great way to try something new.       

Alfred made sure that he included each person in the activity. He kept going around the circle letting all of us demonstrate our new skills as he instructed. I also must mention that Alfred has a powerful and beautiful voice, so he also had all of us singing, too! A great time was had by all and we are so thankful to Alfred for taking the time to facilitate a new experience for our support group meeting.

Empowering Women

The Empowering Women group had their January monthly meeting at Matisse Chocolatier at 260 Grand Avenue in Englewood, NJ. The ladies had a wonderful time making chocolate pizzas and bowls and dipping pretzels, cashews, chips, raisins, and marshmallows. We would like to thank Lucille for providing the ladies with a fantastic experience at Matisse.

Transition Conference & Resource Fair

hip collaborated with the Hudson County Office of Disability Services and Jersey City Public Schools to facilitate the 2019 Transition Conference & Resource Fair. The conference was held on November 2nd at County Prep High School in Jersey City. Addressed were several disability topics, including post-secondary education, financial entitlement programs, legal guardianship, community resources and adult services. The conference was a great success with over 100 participants.

hipNews Summer 2020

Heightened Independence & Progress - Our staff

hipNews Summer 2020


Thank You!

hip would like to thank ALL of the essential workers on the front lines of this pandemic. Every single one of you is a hero and we are very grateful for your efforts.

From The Desk Of The President

Just as we were finalizing our plans for hip’s 40th Anniversary we got the order from the Governor to self-quarantine. Fortunately for us a great deal of our work takes place on the phone or in the field so with some modifications we have been able to work remotely. We have been able to coordinate services with our county and state partners and even stay connected with many of you and we want that to continue. So, in the tradition of hipNews we have curated information that will be helpful as we move forward.

If, as the song goes, that “every cloud must have a silver lining” ours has been The CARES Act. We have received federal funds to cover COVID–19 related services that are designed to keep you safe, healthy and connected to your communities. Our entire staff in both offices will continue to work within their specific program areas and will be available to offer all necessary independent living services.

Be safe and stay in touch,


COVID-19 Community Response Program Funding Application

Welcome to the COVID-19 Community Response Program, administered by Heightened Independence and Progress (hip) in Bergen and Hudson Counties. The program will address food insecurities, personal protective equipment, assistive devices (medical and non-medical), transportation, in-home support services, and emergency rental and utility assistance related to COVID-19. In order for us to be more efficient in evaluating your request for funding, we will need your cooperation and diligence. Our program coordinators are available to assist you.

The following items must be included with the application:

  • APPLICATION: Fully complete the 3-part application, all information is required. 
  • MEDICAL PRESCRIPTION: It should state your disability (COPD, end stage renal failure, lung cancer, diabetes, heart disease, developmental delay, etc.) and the reason you need the item you are requesting. The doctor, or other health care provider, may fax it directly to us. 
  • ONE-TIME EMERGENCY RENTAL OR UTILITY ASSISTANCE: Please include a copy of the lease, utility bill and documentation of past due amount. 
  • PROOF OF INCOME is required. Submit most recent income verification (Social Security, pension, wages, etc.). We will require information about income changes due to COVID-19 circumstances. 
  • If you are applying for an air conditioner or home modification, a letter from the landlord, granting you permission to obtain/install item, must be included. The program does not provide installation. Installing air conditioners is the consumer’s responsibility. You may call the ASK Umbrella Program at 1-973-200-4499 for air conditioner installation assistance. 
  • The COVID-19 Community Response Program can also provide one-time $250 funding towards the purchase of incontinence or wound care supplies for individuals in need.

INDEPENDENT LIVING PLAN is a tool used to assist consumers to meet their goals. Please complete the section that is most appropriate.

Due to the high volume of applications we receive, it is very important that you complete and email this application promptly. Please note that hip cannot reimburse you for any paid bill(s). hip makes payments directly to the vendor. We will not be able to process your request until all documents are received.

Each application will be reviewed, and funding will be determined based on need.

hip has 2 locations to serve the community. If you have any questions or need assistance completing the application, please contact us at the office in your county. All contact information is on the left side of the front page.

A Note from the Hudson CIL Executive Director

To our consumers, their families and colleagues,

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 4 months since we closed our office to outside visitors. We made the decision to close due to the Stay-at-Home order because there is nothing more important to us than the health and safety of our consumers, colleagues and staff.  As the situation with the COVID-19 virus continues to evolve, hip is committed to developing ways to provide services for people with disabilities in the safest, most efficient manner possible. We understand there are needs in our community that are not being met and we are working to close those gaps.

hip’s staff will continue to contact all current and former consumers over the next days and weeks to check-in, provide information, and help connect consumers and their families to services and resources, so that they can obtain what is needed during these difficult times. We are keenly aware of the challenges faced by many who lack access to food, protective equipment, medications, medical equipment, and other life-sustaining necessities and we are dedicated to helping. hip’s staff and I want to make sure we are connecting and reaching all those in need. As we move towards the goal of safely reopening, we continue to provide all services and programs remotely and extend our support to all.

Marily Gonzalez

How hip Helps…

All of us at hip have been working hard to make sure our consumers are safe and supported during this difficult time. Here are just a few examples.

LC contacted hip in a desperate attempt to receive assistance with her unemployment claim. She has been a lawful resident for the last twenty-three years; however, she had no idea how to obtain any services. LC has osteoarthritis in her hands which has caused her to have a difficult time obtaining a job. At the time, LC worked at a supermarket but due to many preexisting health conditions, she left the establishment in fear of contracting COVID-19. The Care Manager at hip assisted her by creating an email address and opening her unemployment claim. LC was granted PUA unemployment as well as the additional $600. The Care Manager also helped LC apply for health insurance and food stamps. LC is thriving with all of the services she is now receiving with help from hip.

MS is a man in his 40s with Down syndrome and early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. He lives at home with his mother, and as his day program has been closed since mid-March, his mother is constantly faced with his progressive cognitive deterioration. MS refuses to wear a mask, so his mother cannot take him anywhere, and the days at home with him are very long. She was very grateful to be referred to a virtual support group for caregivers of individuals with early-onset dementia. Also, his hip DDD Support Coordinator provided his mother with registration information for a series of guided sculpting workshops on Zoom designed for individuals in the early stages of dementia and their caregivers, with all supplies delivered to participants’ homes.

SE is a 79-year-old woman who was referred by another hip consumer, who has spoken highly of all hip workers. SE started to feel uncomfortable with driving long distances due to having trouble navigating the highway. She has struggled with a brain aneurysm and pain in her left knee. SE had contacted hip in hopes of acquiring transportation to ease her nerves about her upcoming neuro appointment in Englewood. With the help of Access Link, we have acquired her temporary access to their services. SE is grateful to hip for helping her make her next appointment stress-free.

hip received a referral from Mrs. S, Hudson county resident. Her daughter G is 16 years old and has a rare form of muscular dystrophy plus a cognitive disability. Due to G’s physical disability, her mother and grandfather had to carry her in order to get her in and out of their home. Her grandfather had recently passed away from COVID-19 and her mother was finding it difficult to carry her alone. Financial assistance was needed for a stairlift as G’s grandfather’s death also left G and her mother without his income. The hip Care Manager will help this family complete a COVID-19 Community Response Program Funding Application.

hip has assisted many consumers with arranging grocery deliveries, applying for Meals on Wheels, and obtaining cleaning supplies, paper products, and sanitizing wipes.

How to Get Tested For COVID-19 In New Jersey 

Testing is available to everyone in New Jersey.

Our first responders and health care workers are saving lives every day – and so can you.

Do your part to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community by getting tested for COVID-19.

You could have COVID-19 and not even know it. Find out if you have COVID-19 at any of the 200+ testing sites across New Jersey.

It’s quick and easy. You don’t need insurance and free testing is available. Anyone who wants a test, can now get one.

It’s especially important to get tested if:

  1. You are experiencing symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, sore throat, muscle pain, shivering, headache, or new loss of taste or smell)
  2. You have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19
  3. You are an essential worker (health care worker, first responder, food service worker, or transit worker)
  4. You were recently in a large crowd where social distancing was hard to maintain.


Visit https://covid19.nj.gov/pages/testing to learn more about checking symptoms, finding a testing site, and more.

Pandemics, Visual Impairment and How to Navigate the New Normal

A pandemic in modern times presents unique challenges for people with visual disabilities. Some of the concepts and coping strategies we have learned will require some reworking. On April 4, 2020, I read an article on the BBC website entitled “Coronavirus: Being blind during the pandemic” by the journalist Kate Pounds, who has vision loss (https://www.bbc.com/news/disability-52118942). She spoke to several blind and visually impaired people in the United Kingdom and they shared their experiences and problems they were encountering during the coronavirus pandemic. As a student in the Orientation and Mobility program at Salus University, as well as a man with low vision, I would like to share my thoughts and strategies on how the blind and visually impaired community can navigate this new normal.

Ms. Pounds’ article touched on several different themes; the first of which is how social distancing has impacted the sighted public’s willingness to render assistance to blind and visually impaired people. The interviewees indicated they found it more difficult to obtain assistance with shopping and in finding assistance to cross busy or complex intersections. During this crisis, blind and visually impaired shoppers may have to call ahead and let the retailers know that we are coming and what we’re looking for. Many retailers have also established set traffic patterns within their stores, and as good citizens we should locate an employee and have them identify the traffic pattern. Even if many sighted customers are not following the pattern, we can hold the moral high ground if unpleasant encounters occur. Going forward, an established traffic pattern can be very useful in obtaining orientation information about the store. While these techniques curtail spontaneous shopping, they get the blind and visually impaired shopper in and out of the store as quickly as possible and avoid prolonged exposure.

Independent travel outside of the home can present a significantly more complex dilemma. In many communities the amount of traffic has significantly decreased for both automobiles and foot traffic. Due to the decline in traffic, the sonic environment has also changed. Blind and visually impaired travelers who rely on sighted guides to cross certain intersections may have to wait longer for assistance. You may also consider changing your route to an intersection that is controlled by a traffic signal or you may want to cross intersections at different times to increase or decrease the traffic noise in accordance with your comfort and levels of risk. This is especially true if your sonic landmarks or cues have changed significantly. There is one other factor that should be taken into consideration. According to traffic data, although the number of cars on the road has decreased very significantly, the amount of crashes per mile has remained the same or increased. Drivers are speeding more and paying less attention to motor vehicle rules. As visually impaired travelers, we should go slower, pay greater attention to the environment and make ourselves as visible as possible.

The items we use to protect ourselves also present unique challenges to people who are blind and visually impaired. The facemask can muffle speech on both sides of the conversation. In addition, the fresh elastic on some of the masks can distort the shape of the ear which can present an issue with fully appreciating the sonic environment. The choice of personal protective equipment will require more attention to these details. As members of our community, we should not be afraid to unpack our self-advocacy tool kit. Whenever possible, have your script ready and remember the tripod of self-advocacy: be polite, be firm and be persistent. Just because the world is crumbling around us does not mean we cannot express ourselves as equal citizens and get what we need and want.

One of the more harmful aspects of social distancing that can affect the blind and visually impaired community is social isolation. So many of the places that we used to congregate for our social meetings and networking opportunities have closed or come to a stop. Many of our friends and family are unwilling or unable to come out and visit with us. Caregivers and those who used to provide us with assistance are also unwilling to come into the outside world. I strongly encourage members of our community to reach out using the telephone or text messaging as well as the assorted video messaging services to provide social contact and assistance. There are also some smart phone applications that can also provide assistance and valuable social interaction. Zoom and FaceTime are great ways to have a social gathering. Also, you can join a peer support group or maintain your existing relationship with the ones you already are involved with.

The current crisis could significantly impact blind and visually impaired people’s independence and daily routine. There are workarounds that we can use to reduce the impact that social distancing imposes upon us. Remain steadfast to the values of the independent living movement and do not be afraid to speak up for yourself. Be persistent in expressing what you need and what you want.

Furthermore, this could be an opportunity for our community to set forth guidelines and standards that we would like to see implemented to promote the independence of people who are blind and visually impaired. The strength and tools that we develop during this time can be a great asset in systemic advocacy for the future.

Doug Gilbert

Bored at Home?

Bored at home and looking for a fun, outdoor, socially distanced activity? Check out www.traillink.com and find a nearby trail! Sorted by town, the website shows each trail’s terrain surface, length, whether the trail is wheelchair-accessible, if bikes are allowed, and also includes reviews and ratings for each trail. Enjoy some time outdoors!

Beware of Robocalls, Texts and Emails Promising COVID-19 Cures or Fast Stimulus Payment

Coronavirus scams are spreading nearly as fast as the virus itself. As of June 4, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had logged nearly 36,000 fraud complaints related to the outbreak. Victims have reported losing $46.2 million, with a median loss of $454.

Fraudsters are using the full suite of scam tools – phishing emails and texts, robocallsimpostor schemes and more – and closely following the headlines, adapting their messages and tactics as new medical and economic concerns arise. For example, federal authorities are warning about scams aimed at siphoning Paycheck Protection Program dollars earmarked to help small businesses survive the pandemic.

Here are some other types of coronavirus scams to look out for:

  • In-demand products and bogus cures
  • Financial phonies
  • Phishing scams

For more information on these scams, read the full article at:



The Mask Dilemma

COVID-19 has altered our lives in many ways, one of which is making masks a new fashion statement. If you only have use of one hand because of a disability and there is no one to assist you, it could be a problem. And with problems, you look for solutions.

Governor Murphy issued the order that states if you are going to use public transportation in the State of New Jersey, you MUST wear a mask, except if you have a disability that prevents you from doing so. While I found this a bit contradictory, I asked on my Facebook page if anyone knew where I could get masks, and I had people dropping off and sending me face

masks that I couldn’t put on by myself. I became frustrated because I have cerebral palsy and only have use of one hand. Social distancing means staying away from people, so while staying at home, Trish Carney from hip called to touch base with me and see how I was doing. I happened to mention the difficulty I was having with the masks I was receiving. Trish informed me of a colleague in the Hudson hip office who was sewing masks with rubber adhesive that goes over your head, which makes it a lot easier to put on. Thank you, Maria Smith, for creating this custom mask for me.

Sometimes if you have a problem you just have to keep asking for assistance, and hopefully you can get to the correct person. Thanks to Trish Carney, I did. Let’s all be smart and safe.

Austin Epstein


hip Mourn…

Our hip family lost the following members in recent months:

Bob Ciavaglia (former Board member)

Gail Geresi

Arthur Jusu-Davies

Eileen Martin

Janice Preschel

Judith Rice

Carmen Rosado

Susan Stiles

Christopher Watten

Beatrice Williams

We also mourn all those lost to COVID-19 including relatives of several hip staff members. 

Reminder! Be Counted for CENSUS 

  • The census determines the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives and they are used to draw congressional and state legislative districts.
  • The census provides critical data to lawmakers, business owners, teachers, and many others and that data is used to provide daily services, products and support for your community.
  • Respond at www.2020census.gov or mail back the application you received in the mail.


Calendar Raffle Update

The 66 Day$ of $ummer Calendar Raffle has been postponed but we look forward to hosting it later this year when it becomes possible! Stay tuned for updates!

All Things hip

For information on all things hip, please follow us on Facebook and check our website for updates! www.hipcil.org

In our effort to supply critical information to consumers as quickly as possible, hip is developing a database of email addresses. Regular mail is moving more slowly now, so it is important for us to have other means of communicating with you. Please send an email to contactme@hipcil.org with your personal email address or text the word hip to 22828 (message and data rates may apply) and we will add you to the database.


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Email is the fastest way to let you know about new programs and changes that affect existing programs. We will only send important time-sensitive news. Covid-19 has created many new resources for persons with disabilities, so please sign up!

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