Category Archives: WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND?

WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND? MEASLES

MEASLES

by Bobbe Vernon

Last week, my 22-month old great-grandson Carter erupted in an itchy rash, head to toe.  He was miserable!  And I immediately thought about measles.   He had had his first measles shot, but two are required, and he is not yet old enough for the second shot.  And how would such a young child contract the disease these days anyway?

Unfortunately, today, more American children are contracting mumps, measles, and rubella than they have for decades.  And one reason seems to be  the misguided, incorrect belief of some parents that vaccinations can cause autism.

This episode reminded me of my own experiences with measles. When I was in the seventh grade, my younger brother Stevie came down with measles.  I caught it from him, and so did our mother, even though she had had measles as a child.   And despite being sick, she got out of bed to scrub the entire bathroom before our beloved pediatrician Dr. Green made that house call.  Even he couldn’t understand how she could have contracted the disease after having had it as a child.

A year later, Stevie contracted measles again.   Dr. Green said he wouldn’t have believed it if he hadn’t seen my brother’s first case with his own eyes.  At the time, I was in the eighth grade, and, as a serious student, I did not want to be quarantined with my brother.  So that I wouldn’t miss school, I stayed at my Aunt Clara’s house while Stevie was ill, but Dr. Green warned, in no uncertain terms, that, if I felt that I was getting sick, I was to go straight home instead of to my aunt’s house after school.  Yup, that happened!  Mommy, Stevie,  and I were the only people he had ever heard of who had measles more than once.   I still feel guilty that his son Dicky, who sat next to me in school, caught the measles from me…

At any rate, it turned out that my great grandson Carter did not have the measles after all, and he is back at his Montessori school, where he probably contracted his itchy virus in the first place.  We can now stop worrying that baby Tucker, who is one month old, will catch the measles from his big brother!

BOLLI Member (and long-time Scene-iors player) Bobbe Vernon

“18 months after my husband passed away, I heard about BOLLI and decided to try something new .  That was in 2008, and I have been taking classes and enjoying new friends at BOLLI ever since. In the past, I have been a dressmaker, a math teacher, and, since 1976, I have been with Mary Kay Cosmetics (driving my Mary Kay pink Buick!), still not ready to stop making people feel great about themselves.”

 

WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND? THOUGHTS ABOUT THE UNITED STATES

THOUGHTS ABOUT THE UNITED STATES AND ITS HISTORY

By Mark Seliber

I took 12 weeks away from BOLLI (and the rest of my regular life) this spring and traveled all around the United States.  If I were writing a detailed book about my journey, it’s working title would be:

     America: the Beautiful, the Stolen, the Resourceful,                            and the Generous

Here is a brief summary of what I gathered from my trip.

THE BEAUTIFUL

This is a great-looking country, and I’m glad I got to see so much of it in person.  The 48 contiguous states have land area similar to Europe, Canada, China, Brazil and Australia but, I suspect, more diverse terrain and features than all of them.  The mountains, canyons, plains, deserts, lakes, rivers, and coastlines are amazing.

THE STOLEN

A couple of years ago, I read an op-ed that attributed a large portion of this country’s historically great economic production to two thefts: land from the indigenous peoples and over two centuries of labor from African slaves.  I certainly saw much evidence of this in my travels.  The latter, from a long list of civil rights sites I visited – in particular, the Underground Railroad Center for Justice in Cincinnati, which laid out in great detail the history of the slave trade in North America, going all the way back to the first group of slaves sold by Portuguese traders in Jamestown Virginia in 1619.  The story of European and later United States appropriation of the ancestral lands of our first inhabitants also started in Jamestown.  I followed this thread throughout my travels–the French and Indian Wars and conflicting loyalties during the Revolutionary War; the Trail of Tears as native tribes were sent west of the Mississippi once the new United States expanded beyond the Appalachians; the further relocation of most of the tribes to Oklahoma Territory when the Homestead Act made the land in the Great Plains valuable; and finally the discovery of gold in the only remaining sovereign native land (the Black Hills of South Dakota), which led to Little Big Horn, Wounded Knee, Indian reservations, and boarding schools for native children where their culture and language was forbidden.

THE RESOURCEFUL – NATURAL RESOURCES AND GREAT INVENTIVENESS

The land of the United States certainly was blessed with abundant natural resources–salt, coal, iron ore, natural gas, oil, the fertile soil of the Great Plains, abundant forests for timber, gold, silver, copper, uranium, borax, and all kinds of other minerals.  And the American people quickly learned how to use all of these to their economic advantage.

A partial list of the great ideas invented or further developed by the ingenious and entrepreneurial minds of our countrymen and women includes:

The steamship, the cotton gin,  canals (like the Erie), the railroad, mechanical farming, mining, anesthesia (at Mass General), the telegraph, electricity, the telephone, the phonograph,  automobiles, assembly lines, airplanes, radios, radar, nuclear power (for better or worse), television, space exploration (including, of course, that moon landing we’re commemorating this month), and just about everything related to computers, the world wide web, the internet, smart phones, and artificial intelligence.

THE GENEROUS

In the last hundred years, as the most powerful nation on earth, the United States has been generous in supporting democracy around the world.  Entering World War I helped end the stalemate on the Western Front.  The United States supported Great Britain’s solo stand against Nazi Germany through the Lend-Lease program in 1940-1941 and then, of course, joined World War II after Pearl Harbor, helping to turn the tide in Europe with the D-Day invasion of 75 years ago.  Then after the War, the Marshall Plan enabled war-ravaged Europe to rebuild itself, and NATO and the United Nations managed to end the first Cold War.

But I witnessed the benefits of great things that our government has done to improve our lives over our history.  Again, here’s a list:

Public education (starting with my two alma maters, Boston Latin School and Harvard), land-grant colleges and universities, the Homestead Act (not so good for native peoples but good for settlers heading west for economic opportunity and independence), the transcontinental railroad, our national parks, canals and dams, and all the building done by the Civilian Conservation Corps as well as the WPA during the New Deal, Social Security and Medicare, the GI Bill for Education and low-cost housing loans after World War II, and the Interstate Highway System.

Individually and collectively, the people and government of the United States of America have done amazing things in the last nearly 250 years.  I remain confident that we have many more wonders in our future.

BOLLI Member Mark Seliber

Mark, a native of Boston, worked as an actuary for 35 years and retired in 2017.  He immediately joined BOLLI with his wife Rachel and has thrown himself into classes, performing in the theatrical productions, and writing presentations.

What’s On Your Mind? Lois’s Birthday Dream

MY BIRTHDAY DREAM

By Lois Sockol

It is the morning of my 86th birthday, and I open my eyes to a shower of  sunshine.  ‘Tis early.  No need to rise yet. Sinking still deeper into my pillow,  I close my eyes.  I’m walking in a forest, down a path awash in light.  Ahead of me is a giant oak. It is not until I approach that I notice that it’s bowed crown is draped in unseasonably yellowed leaves.  Deep, letter-like gashes mark its trunk R-O-N.  I wrap my arms around its bole and feel it pulsing.

Circling the venerable oak are four clusters of pines.  At the center of each is a strong regal twosome overlooking less mature pines. Letters are etched into the base of each.  I know their names.  It is a heartwarming, comforting site, the four clusters jointly surrounding, guarding the elderly oak.

I hug each before I continue, almost skippingly, down the path.  A bit further, to my right, stands an arch of trees reminiscent of a Temple. A powerful stream of light flows my way.  More tree clusters, all shapes and manner, surround me.  I peer more closely, stroking each trunk. Tall and firm stand my friends, a lifetime of playmates, companions, and soulmates.

Suddenly, a clearing appears.  A large lake, its translucent water shimmering before me.  I peer into its silvery blue surface. From its depth float figures, reaching almost to its surface.  My mother rises, her large blue eyes shining, her laughter bubbling up.  Beside her, his strong arm about her shoulders,  my father waves to me with his free hand.  He, too, is laughing.  But how can that be?  “No, no wait, don’t go,” I cry, my eyes locked to the spot as my parents sink back into the depths.  Almost immediately, my dear sister Ellen appears, taken from me too soon, before I had a chance to tell how much I loved her. She , too, now  laughs and reaches out to me. I lean forward to take her disappearing hand.

Within a breath, everything disappears.  I lose everything–my family, my friends, the forest, the lake, all gone.

I pull myself up from the floor where I lay next to my bed. Unhurt, just a bit achy. Why, why had my mind concocted such a fantasy?  What is my subconscious trying to tell me?  That surely we would meet again? That there is time to change the things I want to change?

The sound of the phone cuts through my thoughts.  Both phones, my cell and land line, calling to me simultaneously.

“Happy Birthday, Mom. We love you.”  Repeated again.  “Happy Birthday, Mom, we love you.”

All through the day, a bouquet of calls from grandchildren and sons. And I embrace them all.

Before night falls, I drive to my favorite walking spot, Cutler Park, where a forest of trees surrounds a large fresh water lake.  I smile. 86, like any age, new beginnings, new ending, choices.

BOLLI member (and Current Events SGL) Lois Sockol

Lois says, “I’ve been blessed with a marriage of 65 years.  We raised four boys we are proud of and  enjoy the reward of 9 grandchildren. Professionally, I taught public school for 25 years, published an instructional manual to aid teachers in teaching children who are high risk for learning to read, and conducted seminars on the teaching of reading. I have been active in my town of Needham as a Library Trustee and a Town Meeting member for 36 years.  And now, I have the joy of being a member of BOLLI!

 

WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND? BOLLI Matters

WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND?

Our BOLLI Matters blog provides opportunities for all BOLLI members to share thoughts on the issues of the day, memories of issues of other days,  stand-out BOLLI moments, favorite Lunch & Learn speakers or programs.  You can recommend books, television shows, movies,  and more to your fellow BOLLI members.  Just write about whatever is on your mind, in your own voice–the way you’d talk to your friends.

In addition, it offers “showcase” space in which to try your hand at writing–creative nonfiction, memoir, fiction, poetry.  It gives you a gallery for sharing your photography,  drawing, painting, print making, weaving, furniture making, glass, mosaics…or whatever your particular creative venue is.

You might be surprised to find out how much your fellow BOLLI members appreciate and enjoy your efforts.  And, who knows?  You might surprise yourself and find that you enjoy the process as well–there could be a regular feature or column in your future!

Send items to me, Sue Wurster, at susanlwurster@gmail.com.  I am happy to help by making suggestions for strengthening your work and doing some judicious editing.

And if you have ideas for features or columns that you might like to see in BOLLI Matters, please pass them along!

BOLLI Matters blog master, Sue Wurster

Known in some circles as “Wurster, the Wily Word Woman,” I have happily worked on all things word related–public speaking, acting, writing, working on newsletters and newspapers, editing literary/visual art journals–since creating “The Maple Street Gazette” at age 8…

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND? THE PONY RIDE by Barry David

THE PONY RIDE

By Barry David

The ring was oval-shaped, and we stood about midway on one side watching the ponies.  It was a glorious fall day. We were in no rush.

My granddaughter held my hand.  She had not yet decided about having a ride; it’s scary to try something new.  So we waited as she carefully appraised each pony as it passed by with its mounted child.

There were brown ones and black ones, some with mixed colors, and others with patterns.

I wondered what she was thinking.   Was she intimidated by them, simply afraid, or was she considering what color pony she’d like to ride?  What goes through a four-year-old’s head?  Lots!

“Would you like a ride?” I asked her.

“Yes,” was her reply, and there was no question about it.

“But I don’t want to ride on a big pony.”

“Okay,” I assured her.

“But I don’t want a small pony.”

“Oh,” I mumbled.  Where was this outing going?

In silence, we watched a few more go by and then, she said, “Papa, I want to ride on a medium pony.”

“Okay!”

A medium pony.  Not too big or too small.  Moderation.  And, given the times we are in as a nation, not too far left or right.

The extremes we deal with each day can make most of us uncomfortable whether in a pony ring or in politics.  Whether we are four or eighty-four, white or black, male or female, conservative or progressive, we are all simply part of the human web that connects us.

When faced with complex choices, compromise most often points the way to a lasting solution.   Sounds pretty basic, and it is.  Not rocket science, if egos are parked at the door.

Too many of our leaders need to get off their donkeys or elephants and mount a ring full of medium ponies.  If they just go on pony ride, they will help us all get “there” faster and “fairer.”  If not, we need to send them home on their donkeys or elephants, never to return.  We can’t allow any leader’s ego and dated ideology to screw up what can be a good pony ride for America.

And, oh, yes!  The pony ride—on a medium, light brown and white pony—was a great success.

BOLLI “Matters” contributor Barry David

Barry says that he and his wife Liz began taking courses at BOLLI “almost from the beginning while winding down my career in the computer field as GM of ADP.  Love taking subjects that I’ve not had exposure to before.  Being snowbirds, we’re delighted that spring semester is build the five-week offerings.  BOLLI has been and remains an important part of our life.”

 

 

WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND? ALLEGIANCE by Eleanor Jaffe

ALLEGIANCE

By Eleanor Jaffe

During Thanksgiving, I told my four Salt Lake City grandchildren about the lives, challenges, and sacrifices of my parents’ generation.  My mother, their Great-Grandma Fannie, had just died four months earlier.  I showed them documents and photographs of her grade school and high school graduations, my parents’ courtship,  and their young children, including me, their second of four.

I also told them about the generation that preceded my parents, the children’s great-great grandparents.  All four of them had emigrated from Poland/Russia.  All four of them suffered poverty and persecution, fear of conscription into the czar’s army, and traumatic family separations.  They had, in fact, survived the hardships of most Jewish immigrants to the U.S. at the turn of the 20th century.

I tried to impress on the children that we are all incredibly more fortunate to have grown up in the U.S. than in Eastern Europe.  Or even more to the point, the Holocaust would have ensured our deaths and the end of our lineage.  Their survival made our fifth generation possible.  We owe these great-great grandparents our gratitude.

They listened…

When the visit ended, my husband and I flew east across the vastness that is our country, and I thought about “allegiance,” loyalty to these great United States that enabled our five generations to not only survive but be educated and thrive.  I thought about my cousins, on both sides of our family, and realized–as if for the first time–that five of my sixteen first cousins had left the U.S. to live elsewhere.  One married a Frenchman and has live din Marseilles for almost fifty years.  One married a Japanese woman and has lived in Tokyo for twenty-five years.  Three female cousins, who grew up just blocks away from my home, moved to Israel.  In fact, two of my aunts and one uncle followed their children and are buried in Jerusalem.

What happened to their “allegiance” to the United States, their gratitude for what this nation made possible for our family?  What happened to their first language, English?  Was it supplanted by the languages of their adopted countries?  In what languages do they dream?  Are their attachments to the stories of what their grandparents suffered, the summer camps they attended, their colleges, and their loyalty to the land where three of their fathers served in World War II still strong?

I recall that, when I was young, the romance of becoming a “sabra,” a pioneer in the new land of Israel seemed heroic, almost compelling.  It seemed to be the Ultimate in Leaving Home–I could go without being challenged.  And yet, after all that day dreaming, the ties that bind me to the U.S. have held tight, and I have stayed.

Today, huge political divisions assail our country.  Nevertheless, my sense of allegiance, of loyalty, to the land that made our family’s survival possible and democracy’s hopes still percolate within me.  They animate me to take political action because I can no longer take our freedoms for granted.

We cannot know what effects these family stories will have on our children and their children, but I hope that they are filled with awe and gratitude for those who came before them.  I hope their allegiance motivates them to make this country as great as it may yet become, almost as great as our grandparents hoped it would be.

Frequent BOLLI “Matters” contributor Eleanor Jaffe

“As I grow older,” Eleanor says, “I am more interested in the conditions, changes, services, culture, and even politics affecting me, my husband of over 50 years, and my friends.”  To that end, she has led BOLLI study groups focused on aging, immigration, and more.  In addition, along with Elaine Dohan, she chairs BOLLI’s political action special interest group.

CONTINUING CARE COMMUNITY OR WHAT?

Continuing Care Community or What?

by Liz David

Recently, Barry and I received the phone call we had been looking forward to and dreading from a Continuing Care Community in our area.

Our name has been on their list for two years.  The marketing representative told us about a unit that was available that met most of our specifications.  We agreed to meet the next week.

Upon arrival, I asked whether the unit was empty or occupied (with furniture). The only way “suites” become available is when the resident dies. She responded that it was occupied.  It is in the North wing on the first floor with easy access to the main common areas.

Upon entering, we discovered that the daughter of the deceased occupant was there with another person who was sporting a clipboard. I surmised that he and she were deciding what to do with  her mother’s belongings.  The place was cluttered with stuff. There were spots on the carpet, kitchen utensils and dishes on the counters–all signs of a former life,  well lived or not.  Who knows?

She showed us around the “suite.”  If we didn’t linger, it would have taken five minutes.  The space is compact–a master bedroom that would fit a queen bed; another single small bedroom; a small but  efficient kitchen; a living/dining area; two full  baths, a walk-in closet and one other.   The unit doesn’t get the sun, and the patio faced a parking lot.

As we were leaving, I thanked the deceased’s daughter for allowing us to see her mother’s home.  She became animated and made it a point to show us the electric fireplace she had installed for her mother. She switched it on, and we saw the warm glow that emanated from the coils. It is a nice feature. Our marketing person suggested that we install recessed lighting around the living room to brighten things up.

After leaving the unit, we learned that another couple who are ahead of us on the waiting list would be looking at it the next day.  What a relief!  We hope they like it!

It was a stressful, depressing experience!  Believe it or not, we’ve never lived in an apartment; well, maybe once!   Since coming home to our eleven room “castle,” we’ve talked and talked and talked.  By the way, we declined the unit.  It turns out that being in a section where there is sunshine coming in through the windows is a must for us.

Of course, there are other factors involved with such a decision.  We are already giving away “stuff” we’ve accumulated over the years that we don’t need or can bear to part with; all those things that we may use “someday”, especially my clothes and Barry’s files of papers. The local shredder has been working overtime!  And then there are the books, books, books;  Native American artifacts, jewelry, jewelry, jewelry; my grandmother’s and my bone china tea cups, sculptures, art work, etc, etc, and so forth.   Get the picture?

Then there are the holidays. Recently, for Thanksgiving and Hanukah, we hosted our family of nine, sometimes ten, sometimes twelve, occasionally fourteen. After dinner, the kids, as always, went downstairs to the basement playroom while the rest of us schmoozed.  Those precious gatherings will not be possible in the same way in a “suite” of 12/13 hundred square feet.

Barry and I have 83 and 84 years of life experience and are in decent shape for the shape we’re in.  So, when it comes to continuing care–

To be continued.

BOLLI “MATTERS” contributor Liz David

Liz is a familiar face at BOLLI having been an active participant in both courses and committees as well as an SGL and a writer for the blog. 

 

 

WHAT’S ON LARRY’S MIND? FEAR

FEAR

By Lawrence Schwirian

Fear is perhaps the most primal of all human instincts…we are, all of us, brought into this world pre-programed to react to perceived threats by fleeing or fighting. Our initial response to a perceived threat might mean the difference between success or failure or even life or death. Fortunately, in this modern-age, many threats are not so immediate that our health and well-being are in instant jeopardy. But that does not mean dangers that are more protracted or abstruse should be regarded as any less menacing. Fortunately or unfortunately, fear itself can be used by those who brandish power to bend the will of their followers for practical benefit or protracted harm.

Consider and contrast the presidencies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Donald J. Trump. In March of 1933, in his first inaugural address, President Roosevelt sought to assure the nation that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” This was at a time when the USA was experiencing an unemployment rate of roughly 25% during the heart of the Depression. Over the next seven years, with the help of the New Deal, the unemployment rate would continue to decline until the US entered World War II in December 1941 when unemployment became a non-issue. In contrast, Donald J. Trump, in a campaign event in Texas, recently sought to instill fear into his loyal base by lying to his constituency that there were many middle-easterners, terrorists, MS-13 gang members, drug dealers, and rapists in a migrant caravan now making its way from southern Mexico to the US border. This at a time when the unemployment rate in the United States is at a historic low and migrant workers are needed in many parts of the country.

Clearly, Mr. Trump’s comments were intended to energize his base and not meant to unify the country, by pacifying disparate raging political dialog.  The recent bombing attempts of Trump opponents by an ardent Trump supporter as well as the recent mass murders at a Jewish Temple in Pittsburgh are clear examples of how crude, baseless remarks meant to generate “fear and hatred” can result in real-life tragedy.  This current president is the antithesis of FDR; his methods and objectives are more in keeping with historical precedents set by unscrupulous demagogues like Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler.

My greatest fear is that our democracy is slipping away…that those who believe in compromise that results in positive change will not be sufficient in number or have the force of will to rise up to confront those who fight to maintain the status quo and who believe that winning is everything…even if it stands for nothing.  I, for one, plan to fight and to keep fighting until I am too weak to fight any longer.

Frequent “BOLLI Matters” contributor Larry Schwirian

Architect Larry Schwirian  has been an active BOLLI member for nearly three years–taking a variety of classes, leading architecture courses with his wife Caroline, co-leading the Writers Guild, and serving on BOLLI’s Journal committee.  

 

WHAT’S ON DENNIS GREENE’S MIND? HUMILITY…

HUMILITY

by Dennis Greene

When things are going great and I feel smugly pleased with myself, I try to remember the famous words of Golda Meir:  Don’t be so humble–you are not that great.

And, because I save stuff, I have the documentary evidence to remind me just how not great I am.

In 1969, five years after compiling an abysmal academic record at Lafayette College, I decided to stop being a mediocre engineer and become a lawyer. I took the LSAT, did reasonably well, and applied to most of the best law schools in the country. Two of these schools, Harvard and Columbia, each required a recommendation from the applicant’s undergraduate institution. I had no contacts at Lafayette who might remember me favorably, but I nevertheless forwarded the forms to Dean Chase with a letter acknowledging that he might not remember me but nevertheless requesting that he complete and return the required recommendation forms. I had been one of only seven students in my class on the Dean’s List in our first semester, and I hoped that he would notice that and overlook that, later, I was on both academic and disciplinary probation. But nothing slipped by Dean Chase, and he replied as follows:

Contrary to the first paragraph in your letter, I do indeed remember you. In fact, I  remember writing to you a letter, perhaps it was prior to your sophomore year,  explaining why it was not wise for a student to have an automobile. I believe I  pointed out that academic difficulties often arose when this became the case.

In light of what happened to your academic record at Lafayette afterwards, I am  appalled at my success as a prophet. While I am sorry I was accurate in your case, I can only wish that my track record were as good with everybody else.

These somewhat garbled comments were followed by rejections from Harvard and Columbia. I also received rejection letters from Stanford, Penn, NYU, Berkeley, and  Michigan. The Stanford letter, received only weeks after my application had been submitted, was the most crushing.

I am aware that we have not yet received all the documents required to      complete your application…. however, the Admissions Committee… acts on  applications whenever in its judgement the information available is sufficient to  permit a decision to be made.

I had received an “early decision” rejection years before such actions became routine.

Happily (and luckily), I was admitted to BU Law School, but just barely. My application for financial aid was denied. When I met with the Dean of Admissions to discuss this decision, he informed me, with little warmth, that I should feel fortunate to have been admitted at all, as I had the lowest undergraduate GPA of any student who had applied that year.  He then repeated, with emphasis:  I don’t mean the lowest who was admitted, I mean the lowest of anyone who applied.

I asked if I could defer admission for a year so that I could  earn enough to pay tuition, and he coldly informed me that he would not recommend it.  I would be required to re-apply, and the way the BU applicant pool was improving, my board scores might not be enough to gain me admittance again.

I accepted admission in the class of 1973 and figured out how to make it work.  I finished the first year near the top of my class, worked hard,  got some breaks,  and have had a wonderful life, so far. But I might just as easily have ended up spending my life scraping the barnacles off the hulls of rich people’s sailboats.

I’m not that great.

Prolific “BOLLI Matters” writer Dennis Greene

Whether it’s pop culture, sci fi, memoir, or whatever is on his mind at the moment, Dennis provides us with his own blend of humble humor–which is, of course, great!

 

 

 

WHO CARES ABOUT THE ADA?

WHO CARES ABOUT THE ADA?

By Cindy Wentz

Who cares about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?  I do, and you should as well.  OK, OK–perhaps it’s not as pressing as flipping the House or whether Kavanaugh gets confirmed… or is it?  I maintain that it touches many more aspects of our daily lives than many events of the day.  Moreover, it is influenced by all three branches of our government.

Did you know that 20% of Americans have some type of disability?  I have seen a figure as high as 35% for seniors.  Under the ADA, the term ‘disability’ refers to a physical or mental impairment that significantly limits one or more major life activities regardless of whether said impairment is current, is part of the individual’s history or record, or is a perception by others.  Hence the disability may (use of a walker, blindness) ) or may not (mental illness, hearing loss) be visible to the casual observer.  Do YOU have a disability?  What about your family members?  What about your fellow BOLLI learners?  It has been said that disability is the only minority group to which one can gain membership at any time.  So, if you don’t have a disability now. . . just wait. . . or maybe not.

The ADA is a fairly straightforward civil rights act for people who just happen to have disabilities.  It was signed into law in 1990 by then President George H. W. Bush.  I will defer to Josh Mendelsohn, our October 9” Lunch & Learn” speaker, to provide more specifics.  Josh, an attorney, has worked for the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and currently heads up the Community Living Division at the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission.  Josh happens to be Deaf.

Instead, I will attempt to convey what the ADA means in my life.  As some of you know, I have very poor vision.  I can’t read print, can’t see traffic lights, don’t understand those scenes in movies that lack dialog, and encounter challenges in a hundred other commonplace activities.  Under the advent of the ADA, the subsequent Telecommunications Act of 1996, and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (amendments 1998), I can now expect to be able to use the ATM at my local bank branch by plugging in a headphone and having the information on the screen read to me.  I can hope that those traffic lights have audible signals indicating when the light has turned green.  Increasingly, I can access audio description for current films and, sometimes, even for theatre productions.  BOLLI will make any class handouts available to me in an electronic format so that I can read them using VoiceOver.  Most course readings can be downloaded to be read in large print or listened to in human or synthesized speech.  Most importantly, the ADA has contributed significantly to changing my perceptions.  No longer do I regard these fairly simple accommodations with gratitude as I rather apologetically request them.  No!  I have a right to them.  It’s the law, and I utilize them with dignity and pride.

What about you?  Do you or a fellow BOLLI student encounter any difficulty in hearing he SGL, in maneuvering your walker or wheelchair around the BOLLI space, in seeing/hearing those audiovisual presentations?  Do you have any other need caused by a disability?  If so, speak up!  Your tuition payment is as good as the next person’s and you need not shortchange yourself.  I assure you that Avi, Megan, and Lily are ready to assist as am I (BOLLI’s Inclusion and Disability Liaison).  And do come to “Lunch & Learn” on October 9 for a more in-depth look at the ADA.

BOLLI member and Advisory Council Inclusion & Diversity Liaison Cindy Wentz

Cindy’s  passion for and  her commitment to disability rights and independent living led to a 40 year career in rehabilitation.  Though happily retired,  she has found  gigs that allow her to continue to contribute to her professional interests.  In addition to BOLLI, Cindy enjoys traveling, hiking in the fall,  attending local theatre productions, and countless other pursuits–some of which she hasn’t even yet discovered.