(201) 996-9100 Bergen / (201) 533-4407 Hudson
COVID-19 Vaccine Sign Up – Hackensack Meridian – Sports Complex

COVID-19 Vaccine Sign Up – Hackensack Meridian – Sports Complex

COVID19 Updates – Hackensack Meridian Health


Hackensack Meridian Health is administering a COVID-19 vaccine in coordination with federal and state partners at the Bergen County Mega Site.


Availability is very limited.

Vaccinations are limited to:

  1. Health Care Workers,
  2. First Responders and
  3. 65 or older, and those
  4. 16-64 with underlying health conditions.

Letter – May, 2020

Letter – May, 2020

In my town we’ve just completed a Municipal election to fill three seats on the Council. In the spirit of social distancing It was determined that the election be conducted completely by mail-in ballots. I thought that this would be a simple process especially because I was sure of my candidate selections and the instructions were clear.
All of that seemed great until I was required to fill in a bubble next to my choices and then print my name and address in three sections with signatures. I usually consider my shaky signature as a  minor inconvenience for which I have made several accommodations but without a poll worker to witness my signing I wondered if my vote would be valid.
During the next several months we will be advocating for the electronically accessible format mentioned in the article (The Record; May 17, 2020) by Disability Rights New Jersey’s Director of Policy, Mary Ciccone.



Accessibility matters when it comes to voting |
Mary Ciccone

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally altered when and how we vote in New Jersey. To reconcile public health and safety with the public’s right to vote, on March 9, 2020, Governor Murphy’s Executive Order 105 postponed certain elections to May 12 and made those exclusively vote-by-mail. Although vote-by-mail has long been an option for New Jersey residents, for people with certain disabilities — those with vision or dexterity limitations, for example — voting-by-mail presents barriers that prevent them from voting secretly and independently. 

According to the American Association of People with Disabilities, in 2018, only 40% of eligible individuals with disabilities voted, and many individuals cited existing barriers as a reason to not vote. Lack of accessibility will only make it more difficult for individuals with disabilities to vote.

Accessible vote-by-mail ballots exist, however. Where accessible voting is an option, a voter with a disability can request a ballot to be sent electronically, auto mark it and return it electronically, all without barriers or the need for assistance. The right to vote is impeded only when these ballots are not made available. Why hasn’t New Jersey adopted this practice for all elections? Some argue that permitting people with disabilities to vote electronically would make our election system less secure.

To the contrary, however, New Jersey residents serving overseas in the military are permitted to receive and send their ballots electronically and have been doing so for many years without incident. Other states such as Colorado and Maryland are already using this technology to ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal access to the vote-by-mail ballot, a requirement for state and local governments under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Moreover, paper ballots that can be stolen or lost in the mail are no more or less secure.

Tracy Carcione, a voter with a visual impairment, was concerned about her ability to vote when Gov. Murphy postponed her town’s municipal elections to May 12 and ordered them to be conducted entirely by vote-by-mail. She lives alone and was not sure how she would be able to fill out the paper ballot. She contacted the county clerk and they advised her that — for this election only — she could request an accessible ballot that would be sent to her electronically and could then be returned electronically. She received the ballot, completed it with ease and returned it. Because of this system, she was able to cast her vote.

It is time for New Jersey to adopt this practice for all elections. For individuals with disabilities, the most fundamental constitutional right — the right to vote — requires it.

Mary Ciccone is the Director of Policy for Disability Rights New Jersey

Letter – March, 2020

Letter – March, 2020

There is no question that this entire COVID-19 response is like nothing we’ve ever experienced. We’ve been suddenly faced with curfews, closures, product shortages and constantly breaking news updating us on the status of the spread of the virus. As I write this from my Teaneck home on Day 4 of our voluntary town-wide quarantine I thought that it would be a good time to bring you up to date about hip. 

Both our Bergen and Hudson locations are closed to the public but we are all working remotely. We have been instructed to suspend all in-person interviews and meetings but our DDD Support Coordinators are keeping up with their consumers who need alternate programs and our Care Managers are in contact with the Human Services personnel in both counties to be sure that people with  disabilities have what they need. While it’s difficult to conduct business from a laptop or telephone our staff has risen to the occasion and is doing a great job.

I am disappointed to report that our 40TH Anniversary Gala scheduled for May 1 must be postponed based on the state’s guidelines prohibiting large gatherings. We’ve been in contact with our guest, Eric LeGrand’s management team and they have agreed to work with us on a new date. Perennial DJ Gary Morton has also agreed to offer his talents to us “one more time”. We are very excited about dinner at  the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel, our traditional gift basket tricky tray and a unique game offering many chances to win a wide range of prizes. As a matter of fact we’ve already collected over 50 prizes!

We will keep you informed about this and other happenings at hip on this website and on our Facebook page. If you need to contact anyone please call and leave a message to the specific person and we’ll get back to you ASAP. In the meantime, maintain safe distances, follow all of the advice from the CDC and stay safe. We will get through this.



Austin’s Corner

Austin’s Corner

Austin’s Corner

February 21, 2020

I am Austin Epstein, past President and Vice President of the Board of Trustees at DIAL Center for Independent Living. Brian Fitzgibbons, President/CEO of Heightened Independence & Progress Center for Independent Living (hip) has given me the great opportunity to do a blog for hip’s website. I have decided to call it “Austin’s Corner.” History is good, as it puts a lot of things in focus. I would like to spend time on the present. How can we communicate all the knowledge of the past 40 years and where we hope to go?  We have been so busy trying to prove that these services were necessary that we forgot why this information was needed and how to disseminate it sensibly. Are we there yet? I am not sure.

A brief history of Independent Living Centers (CILs): hip and DIAL are in their 40th years of operation in New Jersey and all other CILs in NJ were established later. hip and DIAL were the first to receive federal funding in the state. The centers were originally supported by the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (DVRS) and the Commission for the Blind & Visually Impaired (CBVI). The two agencies pooled their resources to help their clients with disabilities became more independent. It was a novel approach – I should know, I was there.

We are in the era of 24/7 access to the web and Facebook. Many agencies have their own websites and Facebook pages. Where do you go for your information? Do you go online or are you more comfortable speaking to knowledgeable people on the other end of the phone?

We’ve recently had a vacancy in the position of Director of the Bergen County Division of Disability Services. If you were looking to hire a new director, what qualities and experience would you want this person to have and why?

Let me know your thoughts on these topics! Email austincornerhip@gmail.com

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The volunteers from St. Peter the Apostle Church bring holiday cheer to many hip consumers.

The volunteers from St. Peter the Apostle Church bring holiday cheer to many hip consumers.

From left to right: Mary, Joan  Bob, Patty, hip’s Trish and Martha.

These last several weeks leading up to the end of the year have been very active for us at hip. We’re racing deadlines for reports, grant applications and program reviews while hosting meetings and arranging special events. Add the shortened holiday shopping season due to a late Thanksgiving and it can be a recipe for stress.

Well, any stress that we’ve been feeling at hip was wiped away on the morning of December 18 when our friends from St. Peter the Apostle Church in River Edge appeared with four carloads of gifts. Each year they consult with our Independent Living Specialists and ask them to collect wish lists from consumers and their families who may not be able to have gifts for the holidays. They have certainly outdone themselves this year lining our entire office space with bags stuffed with beautifully wrapped presents. All the shopping bags are grouped by number for our own Hudson hip elves to arrive and spend the day distributing the gifts and spending time with the families.

Earlier in December the agency participated in the Bergen County Volunteer Center’s “All Wrapped Up” program and our Bergen staff delivered gifts to folks in their caseloads. 

It’s a great hip tradition that has been coordinated by VP/CFO Trish Carney since it started, and it continues to grow.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the many generous people who contribute to making the Holiday season merry and bright and to all of you who make hip a great place to work. 

Happy Holidays,


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