Boston University’s “Project Team” is recruiting for their spring program

The barrier could be as simple as getting through a crowded room using a wheelchair or as complex as getting across a crowded city street using a wheelchair, using public transportation (using that same wheelchair) and navigating to the counter of popular city coffee bar to order your favorite cup of joe.

Whether the barriers are (seemingly) simple or obviously complicated, people with disabilities (those who use wheelchairs or those who don’t), face barriers in their everyday environment that many of us who do not have the same disabilities do not recognize as barriers. And that’s okay – as long as we listen when we are informed of the barriers and move to action to help eradicate said barriers.

My daughter Marianne recently participated in a program, called Project Team, that was designed to help people with disabilities advocate for the removal of barriers they encounter in their daily lives.

Project Team was developed by Jessica Kramer and her team at the Boston University Department of Occupational Therapy to work with young people with intellectual or physical disabilities to name barriers in their environment that keep them from reaching their goals and to be proactive in making changes so that the barriers are removed. The participants, aged 14 to 21, meet twice weekly for 8 weeks with peer mentors and team leaders to name barriers that they confront and to create game plans to change the environment. The goal is for these young people to learn to externalize challenges so that the obstacles can be removed – rather than simply giving up on one’s goals because it’s easier.

Marianne, who is 14 and uses a wheelchair, participated in Project Team this fall in Newton, and let me assure you, she is using her newly-developed advocacy skills daily!

There will be a group running in the Dedham/Sharon area after the February public school break, and if you are a young adult with developmental disabilities or know one who could benefit, please contact Jessica Kramer to find out more information. Both Marianne and I recommend Project Team highly.

Click here for more information on the spring recruitment: Recruitment Flyer_Trainee_v1.1

What empathy is and why it matters

Rarely, if ever, does an empathic response begin with ‘at least….’ says Dr. Brene Brown in this video.

Brown, a researcher and professor at the University of Houston, speaks here on the difference between empathy and sympathy, and why empathy connects us but sympathy creates distance.

We all search, at times, for the “right” thing to say when someone shares their vulnerability or pain with us. Sometimes there is nothing to say (reaching out to hold their hand or just nodding, “Ahhhh….” can be more than enough). But trying to find a silver lining (the “at least….” comment) never makes things better and can only create distance and anger on the part of the listener.

Dr. Brown says that in Texas, a common (sympathetic NOT empathetic) response to someone’s sadness or worry is “Bless your heart.” Her imagined antidote to that comment is a t-shirt emblazoned with this: “If you bless my heart, I’ll punch your face.” I can empathize with that sentiment, having heard many variants of “bless your heart” in my lifetime.

Accessible lodging options in Mad River Valley, VT

The Yellow Farmhouse Inn is a bed and breakfast in Waitsfield, VT – in the beautiful Mad River Valley – with high Trip Advisor ratings and an ADA-accessible room (the Morgan Ashlee room).  Mad River Valley has a host of all-season activities, including two ski areas: Sugarbush Resort and Mad River “ski it if you can” Glen.  I have not been to this inn myself, but I have spoken with the owner and it’s on my “to go” list.  They currently have a special ski package being offered through Trip Advisor.   Prices start at $219/night.

Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports runs accessible ski programs through the Mt. Ellen Base Lodge, at Sugarbush Resort in Waitsfield, VT.  We plan to check it out with Marianne this January and will let you know how it goes.

Sugarbush Resort does have some ADA-accessible condos for rent at their luxury, ski-in/ski-out Claybrook Residence.  These units are in a hotel-like set-up (general entrance is through a main lobby, and the units are accessible by elevator) and individually owned.  They are very pricey, starting at $880/night on a non-holiday weekend for a 1-bedroom condo unit (which sleeps 4).   Because the units are individually owned, they do not meet standard ADA requirements, and so although I was assured doorways were wider and there were grab bars in the bathroom, none of the units have a roll-in shower.  The fitness center, in the building, is accessible and has accessible, roll-in showers.  There is an outdoor heated pool, but there is no lift for pool access.