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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.
 

Sincerely,

Brian 

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 – May, 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.

Sincerely,

Brian 

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,

Brian

In Loving Memory Eileen Goff

Eileen Goff

In Loving Memory

By now many of you have heard that hip’s beloved founder and former President/CEO Eileen Goff passed away on August 3, 2019. The opening paragraph of her obituary stated that she was a woman of remarkable warmth, generosity, dignity and accomplishment. The funeral service was a wonderful tribute to her with the chapel filled with family, friends and local dignitaries all recounting how Eileen touched their lives in so many positive ways.

I first met Eileen when I was working as a Rehabilitation Counselor and we went for a visit to see this new program called Independent Living run out of Englewood. I was not only happy to see this new service starting in the community but I was totally impressed by this dynamic woman who was filled with ideas on how to reach a forgotten segment of society; people with disabilities.

Over the years we spent time together at many statewide events, seminars and meetings and she was always the person you’d want to sit with because she asked the best and most challenging questions. She also had great stories about her travels and escapades on the slopes and hiking trails.

Though she had been retired from hip for the past two years she kept in touch with the Board and staff members and shared several celebrations of her achievements like the Russ Berrie, Michael Lione and Celia Weissman awards in addition to being named a hip All-Star.

In our upcoming newsletter we will feature a tribute section so if you have a special recollection of Eileen please email it to me at bfitzgibbons@hipcil.org  Memorial contributions can be made to hip for the Eileen Goff Legacy Fund in care of Trish Carney.

Brian Fitzgibbons, MPA, CRC                                                                                                                                  
President/CEO

Brian

Letter – May, 2019

Letter – May, 2019

Greetings

The Memorial Day Weekend with its many parades and events honoring our nation’s heroes marks the official beginning of our summer season.  At hip we have several traditions that mark our summer and we want to make sure that you’re aware of them.

The 66 days of Summer Raffle tickets are being distributed and the drawings will begin on Monday July 1st at Noon.  That means that there is still time to order your tickets so you don’t miss the opportunity to win all summer long. This year we’ve changed the dates of the contest to start on July 1st and end on September 30th. We will post pictures of each drawing and the results on each Tuesday.

The Annual hip Picnic will be held on Tuesday June 18th at the Englewood Boat Basin in Englewood Cliffs. This is a great event that brings us all together for an evening of fun, food and friendship; not to mention that entertainment provided by the River Jam Band featuring Bill Jones and Company.

This summer will also mark the kick-off for our plans to celebrate hip’s 40th Anniversary in 2020. We will be having a gala celebration on May 1, 2020 at the Double Tree Hotel in Fort Lee.

At hip the summer also means that our Bergen Modification Access Project (MAP) is in full swing. The good weather is a perfect time to complete those outside projects. In Hudson, The Special Assistance for Independent Living (SAIL) program makes similar accommodations for those who need them.  Please consult the latest newsletter for a full list of all the programs that we provide.

Remember we’re open all summer and ready to answer your questions and direct you to the resources that you need. We’re always happy to hear from you.

Thanks!

Brian

Letter – October, 2018

Letter – October, 2018

Greetings:

It’s that time of the year when we can never predict the weather. We can start the day reaching for a jacket and end it by looking for the nearest air conditioner. And, I have never seen a calendar fill up more quickly with meetings and events to commemorate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the celebrations recognizing the achievements in the disability movement of individuals from both Bergen and Hudson counties and the hip Consumer Meeting on October 18.

With all of this happening I was delighted to be notified that hip has been awarded a Community Development Block Grant to fund our “Safe and Secure Solutions” project.

When money is tight for individuals with disabilities and seniors struggling to remain in their homes an unanticipated repair is often delayed or ignored. It seems that when door locks break or malfunction they go unrepaired. These funds will support:

  • A one-time visit by a locksmith to make the necessary repair;
  • The provision of a new lock (to be installed by the participant or a member of the BC Volunteer Chore Service); or,
  • The purchase of a lockbox to enable someone living alone to have a trusted friend or neighbor have secure access to the house keys to check on them.

We are scheduled to meet with the staff of CDBG to finalize the process and begin to promote it through our Care Managers.

Keep watching your mail for the Fall Edition of hip News. It should arrive later this month.

Thanks!

Brian

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