Celebrate With Us In Boston This Wednesday: 25 years of the Americans With Disabilities Act

“My hope is that every place will be wheelchair-accessible” (Marianne Mahoney’s quote on the paper link she created for the Easter Seals paper chain project, Spring 2015.)

There’s nothing that Marianne likes more than family get togethers, and fortunately for her, we’ve got a large, and mostly local, extended family.  Last spring, we all planned to meet in a Boston-neighborhood restaurant that is completely wheelchair-accessible, with designated accessible street parking, curb cuts, and a ramp.  There are wide doors and a wheelchair-accessible bathroom.  There is clear access through the restaurant…. oh, wait.

Because on that day, there wasn’t.    Restaurant management had put a dinner table right in front of the handicap-accessible entrance, and our route to our family – seated in the next room – meant that we had to uproot an entire table of people.  As we stood there, an awkward pause ensued, during which I inwardly fumed that yet again, Marianne’s way was barred when it needn’t have been.   Graciously, the group of six noticed us, stood up, smiled, and made way for Marianne, and the hostess rolled her eyes at me and said, “I keep telling ‘them’ (management) that you can’t put a table here!”

So, okay, the people who were sitting there moved and were nice about it.  The hostess validated our issue.  But really, should Marianne/we have been made to feel grateful or to say, “sorry, excuse me”?   Should we have felt that we importuned an entire table?   Or felt the attention of all those seated nearby?  No.  It’s Marianne’s right to roll into a public restaurant and garner no more attention than me, or the guy behind me, or the kid behind him, and get to her reserved table with no more thought than someone who is able to walk without assistance.

Easter Seals Youth Leaders have coordinated groups throughout the state to create paper links like Marianne’s (with a statement of how the ADA has changed their lives or a wish for something that would make a difference still in the life of someone differently-abled).  These paper links will be joined together this week to commemorate the strides – and the work yet to be done – in the area of disability rights.

On Wednesday, July 22, from 11 am to 3 pm, you can be part of this civil rights movement by celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) on Boston Common. Hosted by the New England ADA Center, the day will include a parade, speakers and family-friendly events.

“Accommodating a person with a disability is no longer a matter of charity but instead a basic issue of civil rights.” (from The History of the Americans with Disabilities Act, by Arlene Mayerson, 1992)

Yes to that.

To Marianne, and to all who recognize this as a civil rights challenge:  keep on keeping on. We can all play a part to further the rights of those whose civil liberties have yet to be fully realized.




Armenia Without The Plane Trip

Maybe you knew that sumac is an edible spice.  I only learned this recently, and I just ate some.  (Disclaimer: I bet you can’t go and pick the sumac off the tree in your backyard and roast it.  But then again, maybe you can….my friend Lauren cooks with grape leaves she picks from a parking lot near her house.)IMG_4177


Seta’s Cafe, Belmont

Seta’s Cafe opened in 2013 on Belmont Avenue in Belmont (right on the border of Watertown), and although I’ve only had one dining experience there, I’m already planning my return trip. Lunch today was Luleh Khorovats, which is ground lamb and beef, grilled with onion and spices (yes, sumac), served on homemade lavash bread.  Seta serves brunch, lunch and dinner, and caters.  This is an accessible place: parking lot behind the restaurant, ramped door, space between tables, room to place your order, and an accessible bathroom.  I must return soon for brunch, because I cannot resist the allure of Foul Mudamas.  (Isn’t language a beautiful thing?)IMG_4169

To round out your dining experience, you could visit the nearby Armenian Library and Museum of America (review coming next week).   Tickets are on sale now for “Women of Ararat,” at the Arsenal Center for the Arts in Watertown on March 28th and March 29th.  “Woman of Ararat” is a love story of a young couple, William and Julie, which also tells the story of Julie’s family, four generations of Armenian women living in Watertown.  Later this spring is a centennial commemoration of the Armenian Genocide:   on April 23rd, Trinity Church hosts a memorial service and on April 24th, there will be a procession leaving from the Massachusetts State House to Armenian Heritage Park.


The Labyrinth, Armenian Heritage Park, Boston, MA

Side note: I had no idea where the Armenian Heritage Park is, but I found out and look forward to going.  With Marianne.  Just as soon as the ice and snow melt.   It’s on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway (the website claims the Greenway is fully accessible), near Faneuil Hall Marketplace and Christopher Columbus Park.  World Labyrinth Day on May 2 might be a good time to visit, as the labyrinth looks beautiful and accessible.

In “About Us” on her website, Seta says “My baba (my father)…..would hand me a piece of the dough and say ” This is what the dough should feel like once it’s done” and so I learned to bake bread my grandfather made at his bakery in the Armenian Quarters in Jerusalem.”

I’d say she learned well.   Dining at Seta’s cafe is an inviting, and accessible, first step into Armenian culture.

A Good Day At The Boston Athanaeum And A Bad Cup Of Coffee

A really old book bound in human skin AND a wheelchair-accessible venue near the Freedom Trail and the Boston Common in downtown Boston.  What more could you want for a day’s outing?

DSC03627The Boston Athanaeum, 10 1/2 Beacon Street in Boston, was packed to the gills today, at the first open house they’ve had in years.  Five-plus floors of books, art and reading and writing space comprise this National Historic Landmark building.  The library, founded in 1807, is private, although anyone can join by paying an annual membership fee  (individual or family, varies from $200 to $320).  The Athanaeum is accessible by ramp from Beacon Street, and every floor available to members is accessible by elevator.


Park Street station is about a five-minute walk from the Boston Atheneum.

There are a couple of ADA-parking spaces around the corner on Park Street (outside the Paulist Center), although I imagine you are more likely to win the lottery than land one of these downtown parking spaces.  The Park Street MBTA station is wheelchair-accessible, and the short walk or roll up Park Street and around the corner to the library is accessible.  Beware, though, you’re in for a bumpy ride on these Beacon Street sidewalks:  DSC03639

Old Pat The Independent BeggarThe library offers regular guided tours on Tuesdays and Thursdays; reservations are required.  You might see us tucked into a cozy nook called the Deborah Burnheimer Room….along with two, inviting red leather arm chairs, an enchanting view onto the Granary Burying Ground, and “Old Pat The Independent Beggar” gazing mournfully upon us from his gold-embossed frame on the wall.



Just don’t try to begin or end your day with a coffee from the Thinking Cup, serving Stumptown coffee, on Tremont Street.  Technically the cafe is wheelchair accessible – you can roll in from the street entrance – but once inside you’re trapped in a narrow path that ends in a logjam for wheelchairs at the register and take-out counter.  And yes, there’s a hip vibe, but the coffee is unreliable.  I’ve had one great latte there and then today, one terrible one (that found its way into the trash at the Park Street T station).  I am thinking that at their prices, every cup of coffee at the Thinking Cup should be a superb one AND that the owners need to re-think their accessible traffic flow.

Massachusetts Historical Society: Making History Accessible (If You Can Get There…)

John Adams and John Quincy Adams were members.  So were Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  John F. Kennedy was too.

DSC03565Members of what? The Massachusetts Historical Society, which has a scholarly, sombre reading room (in which I know that even I could pen a masterpiece) and a research room (from which David McCullough and Nathaniel Philbrick have gathered information for their literary works).  The Society also offers lunch seminars (many are free and open to the public) and provides enrichment to K-12 history teachers throughout the area.

Recently, I attended Barbara Berenson‘s lecture on how Boston’s abolitionists (think William Lloyd Garrison, Theodore Parker, William Cooper Nell, and Frederick Douglass) fueled the flames leading to the Civil War.  Berenson, a compelling Civil War historian and speaker, side-lines as a senior attorney at the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.  She has written both a guide to the Freedom Trails Walking Tours of Civil War Boston and a book, Boston and the Civil War: Hub of the Second Revolution.  Berenson also leads walking tours – when I take one, I’ll let you know how accessible they are.  In the meantime, she is more than worth listening to, if you are interested in Boston’s Civil War history.

The Historical Society is accessible by outside ramp, although you must be buzzed in to gain entrance).  There is an accessible bathroom on the first floor and an elevator to the exhibits and seminar room on the second floor.  The research and reading rooms on the first floor are accessible.  I’d say parking is the biggest issue here, as it is on the end of Boylston Street near the Fenway (right next door to Berklee College of Music), and the parking garages are spread out.  Sidewalks are plenty wide to accommodate wheelchairs and giant-musical-instrument-toting scholars;  there are ample curb cuts (on most every corner of Mass Ave save one, weirdly) and pedestrian lights (although be prepared to hustle as they’re fast-changing).

If you manage to get this far, then next door, you have your pick of after-research venues in which to look as cool as you possibly can (do bring your cello along), or at least to people-watch: Pavement Coffeehouse and Berklee Book Store, to name but a few.


Don’t take the train though:  the green line stop at Hynes Convention Center is NOT accessible.  According the to the MBTA website, all buses are accessible.   I mapped a trip using  the T’s trip planner, and taking a wheelchair-accessible bus route from Newton Corner to the Hynes Convention Center involves four bus changes and is estimated to take 74 minutes.  I’m not sure what to say about this, except that I probably would only undertake this excursion if I were writing what promised to be a real blockbuster of a book.

Good Lord.  The Massachusetts Historical Society is cool but kinda hard to get to, if you use a wheelchair.  Maybe stick to the Boston Public Library.  At least the T stop has been updated here.


*If you do decide to make the journey, noteworthy upcoming events include:

-“Cocktails with Clio, featuring David Hackett Fischer” (author of Washington’s Crossing, a must-read for Revolutionary War fans) although, um, I just realized how expensive this is. I guess Fischer is a big deal.

– “Forgotten Drinks of Colonial New England” with Colin Hirsch; our ancestors were serious tipplers. This one is free. There’s probably no food, no drink, and no Fischer.

– “Making History: King Philip’s War” – hey, Natick residents, this one’s for you.

– “Water Rights in the American Southwest” – I don’t know what you think, but I think this is a prescient topic.

– “So Sudden an Alteration: The Causes, Course & Consequences of the American Revolution” in recognition of the 250th anniversary of the Stamp Act

More Tea, Please

DSC03386Where can you enjoy a scrumptious tea AND view an ancient cuneiform tablet?

The Boston Public Library’s main branch, that’s where.


The McKim Building of the Boston Public Library was built in 1848 and has been named a National Historic Landmark. These cloisters surround the garden.

Marianne and I enjoyed the best tea yet (we’ve been sampling; see here) at the library’s Courtyard Restaurant.  At $32 for full tea (that includes sandwiches and desserts), this is more or less on a par with the other high teas we’ve encountered in the Boston area, but the food is a solid 4 out of 5 (which out-ranks The Langham and Rowe’s Wharf, in our book).   I will admit that a menu list that includes assam tea (as this one did) merits extra points from me.  Assam, used in Irish Breakfast Tea, is rich and malty and welcomes a cube of sugar and splash of milk.   Ideal for mid-afternoon tea breaks.  But I digress.

The wait staff were attentive and responsive, and Marianne scored more macaroons for the road when we complimented the chef on their delicious-ness.  The marble windowsills, black iron window grates (is that a gargoyle peering at me?), heavy candles squatting under over-sized bell covers, and black-and-white historical photos gracing the walls give off a kind, warm, and gothic sensibility.  Enchantment.  I can’t think of a better place to lose myself with a book for an hour.DSC03384

DSC03441If you take the T and use a wheelchair, there is an accessible stop at the library, and the Johnson building entrance, on Boylston Street, is accessible.  It’s best to look at a map before you go, so that you identify workable entrances.  It’s a big building to circumnavigate if you don’t have to do so.  It’s also old, so be prepared for creaky lifts (or, as Marianne more aptly stated, “creepy” lifts).

DSC03367I can’t help you if you drive.  I parked in what might be the city’s most expensive garage (the Copley Square garage) because I could see the library from there, and I identified the curb cuts and walk lights we needed.  There were a lot – really, a lot –  of handicap parking spaces near the library but they were all taken.  I found that somewhat suspect, but that’s an article for another day.

DSC03405The Leventhal Map Center at the library is accessible, and although small, has beautiful images and is near the Courtyard Cafe.  The museum has published a virtual brochure called Walk To The Sea, showing how Boston doubled over the centuries.

DSC03417The Special Collections Room, on the third floor, is accessible by elevator.  The librarian we encountered is a treasure trove of information.  You must call or email in advance if you wish to see something from the special collection – George Washington’s Congressional medal perhaps? – but just standing amidst John Adams’ personal letters and books can be thrilling enough (Marianne might argue this statement).DSC03415

The marionette collection, housed in an enclave right near the Special Collections Room, is a small but chilly family you don’t want to miss.DSC03434DSC03423DSC03426

Still need one more reason to visit the library?  The main branch, as well as many others (like the Newton Public Library), offers museum passes.  You have to call in advance to reserve the passes.    Like me, you might find some interesting places to explore in the winter months ahead.   The Griffin Museum of Photography, anyone?

View from Boston Public Library's 3rd floor

View from Boston Public Library’s 3rd floor


Having Tea in Boston

DSC03386Boston, MA has a long history with England, as you most likely know.   Although we freed ourselves from her rule over 200 years ago, we have kept some of our legacy from across the pond, most notably perhaps, our predilection for tea (notwithstanding our equal and abiding love for Dunkin’ Donuts coffee).

This past summer, Marianne and I set to work reviewing high tea venues in Boston.  It’s hard work, but someone’s got to do it.

DSC03244Tea at The Reserve at The Langham Hotel is an elegant affair, served in a small, modern area off the main lobby, with ample space for a wheelchair to maneuver.  Tea is served between 2-7 pm, which makes it easy to meet friends after work for something other than a drink (although they do serve a champagne tea, too, should you so desire).   I found my tea weak, and I thought the selection was lacking.  $34 does get you a fairly good selection of sandwiches, very good scones with clotted cream and lemon curd, and desserts, as well as a pot of tea.  I’d give the food a solid 3.5 out of 5, 5 being the best.  The restroom had big heavy push doors (no electric door openers).  Moreover, the wheelchair-accessible stall was tight and awkward, although technically, it worked (except for the trash barrel, which was short and was opened by stepping on a foot pedal – not helpful if you use a chair).  If you enter from Franklin Street, there are handicap-accessible electric door buttons.  Parking is by valet, and the doorman was kind enough to let me leave my minivan right by the other hotel entrance.  Again however, as in the bathroom, the doors  are big and heavy – and have no electric openers.  You’re not far (less than .5 mile) from Faneuil Hall and their Boston National Historical Park’s Visitor Center, should you decide to make a day of it.

A late-summer afternoon tea at Rowe’s Wharf is a treat.  Tea is served at 2:30 pm inside, although we ordered ahead and my husband was able to eat what he described as one of the best lobster rolls he’s ever had (high praise coming from a connoisseur years in the making), while Marianne and I sampled the tea.  The price tag is steep, at $39, and I’d say the sandwiches, scones and desserts are on a par with the The Langham Hotel (so a rating of 3.5 out of 5).  Fairly predictable, except that Rowe’s Wharf tea does include a lobster pastry – nice twist on the seaside theme.  The waitress and valet actually bumped the experience up quite a few notches:  they both went out of their way to make Marianne’s experience pleasant, from letting us park near the fancy Maserati and Mercedes out front to personally escorting us to the handicap-accessible bathroom.  (As at The Langham, there were no electric door buttons for those using wheelchairs, but at least the bathroom was spacious.)  Another plus is that before or after lunch, you can roll and stroll for miles along the Boston Harborwalk (you can download a map here) and check out the New England Aquarium.  The Aquarium can be busy, but it’s a family favorite and we find that you can enjoy quiet visits (call ahead and ask the front desk what they suggest for quiet visiting times).

There’s more tea to sample: The Courtyard Restaurant at the Boston Public Library,  the Four Seasons Hotel and The Taj (although I have some trepidation about this venue based on the precious Teddy Bear Tea advertised on the website).  Stay tuned.



Robotics That Change Lives: At The Abilities Expo, Boston

Imagine being thirsty but ALWAYS having to ask someone to get you a drink?

That’s how it’s been for Adrianna, until she had the chance to try out the Jaco Arm by Kinova, a Canadian robotics company.  We had a chance to see it in action at the Abilities Expo in Boston this past weekend;  you can check it out on YouTube here:


The Jaco Arm runs off the battery on Adrianna’s power chair, and has a range of motion of 360 degrees.  The articulation on the sinewy arm is like a snake – no jerky, robot-of-days-past movements on this product.  The pincher grip can pick up an M&M or a dog leash, and it shakes your hand with a firm but not-too-tight grip.  Something on the floor to be retrieved? No problem.  The Jaco Arm is long and can reach from a large electric wheelchair to a tabletop, floor, or closet shelf easily.

The price tag is hefty, at about $40,000, but what a game-changer this product is!

That wasn’t all at the Abilities Expo this year.   We met the engineer behind the Smart Drive, a power-assist device to manual wheelchair-users – the tool is about 8 lbs and easily attaches (and detaches) from a manual chair.  And then there’s the Go Grit chair, a lever-powered manual chair that was developed at MIT’s Mobility Lab and is changing lives in India and now the US.  Last but not least, new to us is the Roho seat, a “dry flotation technology” that reduces the friction a wheelchair-user experiences – and hopefully decreases pressure sore incidences!  Marianne was sold.

The Abilities Expo has come annually to Boston in recent years, and you can get on the mailing list here.  There are expos in the Bay Area in November, LA in March, New York in May, Chicago in June and Houston in July (not sure we’ll be making the road trip to Houston in July, but hey, someone will!).  I can’t say enough about the resources available at these expos:   medical products and wheelchairs, clothing, connections to outdoor programs, service programs, and workshops.



What’s The Fuss about Seasons 52?

Dined Monday night at Seasons 52 in Burlington, and I have to say, I don’t see what the buzz is about.

Yes, the flatbread is good.  It’s nice that the menu is seasonal.

It’s also really expensive for otherwise mediocre food.  I ordered the salmon;  I’ve had better;  same for the accompanying corn risotto.  My husband had the steak salad;  four small overcooked pieces of beef on a humongous mound of iceberg lettuce.  I happen to know that I could have had 5 glasses of wine for the price of the one that I had (because I love Mer Soleil and I know how much a bottle costs).   Marianne did give the lemonade two thumbs up, so that’s something.  I felt like I had entered a re-fashioned Red Fish or some other chain restaurant of that ilk, outfitted now for an older crowd with a higher budget.  Maybe it was the pop music playing (which certainly appealed to my 16-year-old), but it was incongruous for a restaurant presumably marketed to the 40+ crowd.

To top it off, it’s faux accessible.  Meaning that for a new restaurant, they’ve crossed some items off the list: accessible entrance, bathroom and some seating areas, ADA-parking spaces nearby.   But the tables are packed so tightly in the main dining room that it is an obstacle course to enter or leave.  (As witnessed by the very pregnant, very lovely woman who had to get back up – after just settling comfortably into her chair – so that Marianne could get by.)  The bar area, off to the right, is not accessible at all;  the tables are either high tops or are set onto platforms (so they are effectively high tops).

Seasons 52 Burlington feels like a mass-marketed chain restaurant with a lackluster, over-priced product and an uncomfortable space for a wheelchair-user.  I think we’ll spend our dining dollars elsewhere next time.



Allandale Farm is Boston’s “Green Acres”

Those of us within a certain age bracket will remember Green Acres, the TV sitcom wherein Lisa (Eva Gabor), a glamorous Hungarian socialite, unwillingly relocates from the NY society she loves to a run-down old farm in the country.  Her husband Oliver (Eddie Albert), a successful lawyer, has idealistic dreams of farm life.  Comedy ensues over the attempts of the two to fit into their new surroundings.

I know how Eddie feels.  Sometimes I long for the idyll I am certain exists on the farm.  When I — a life-long city girl — start dreaming out loud about moving to Maine and raising goats, my husband smirks and hums the lyrics to “Green Acres,” insinuating that I am more Eva than Eddie.  “Dah-ling I love you but give me Park Avenue!”  IMG_5436

Hmmph.  I do go once a week to pick up my CSA (community supported agriculture) and egg shares at Allandale Farm.  I wander for a while among the brightly-colored potted flowers and breathe in the dusty, earthy vegetables in the farm stand.IMG_5441  I imagine myself pottering about the farm:  digging up loamy carrots with their full green heads, arranging orange and red cut zinnias in an old glass spaghetti jar, filling CSA boxes with enticing/alarming (what to do with all that bokchoy!) vegetables.  The pond out back gives voice to throaty bullfrogs;  giant dragonflies skim and buzz across the surface of the water.  It’s usually hot, but I don’t mind the warmth and closeness of the old farm stand.  At least for a little while….

IMG_5445Allandale Farm, the last working farm in Boston, consists of 130 acres of land on the border of Boston and Brookline, and is the last working farm in Boston.  It has been managed by the Weld family (ancestors of Massachusetts’ former governor, William Weld) for about 200 years. I’m thankful for their careful stewardship of this precious land.   Some of the acreage is leased to the Boston Police Department’s K-9 unit, and the rest is managed by Allandale Farm.

Quick facts:

-IMG_5433 There are two ADA parking spaces and the stand is wheelchair-accessible, although the path into the stand is gravel and stone (and therefore bumpy and potentially muddy).  The farm stand itself has a level entrance and wide doors for entrance and egress, but the aisles are too narrow to allow a wheelchair-user to pass someone or even to turn around without knocking something off a shelf.

IMG_5449The farm uses organic and sustainable farming methods, and the CSA, egg and flower shares can be signed up for on-line (although 2014 CSA shares are now closed).  Prices for 20-week shares in 2014 are:  full share at $670; half share at $390; egg share at $120 and cut flower share at $110.  It’d be hard to get the shares from the garage out back to your ADA-parking space, but I bet they’d make it work if you told them your challenges.

- Allandale’s farmstand sells its own produce as well as other locally-produced goods (Salty Oats cookies; Humble Pie; Clear Flour Bakery breads and fresh Valicenti Organico pasta are some of my favorites).  You get a discount on items purchased in the store on the day you go to pick up your CSA shares.IMG_5451

– The stand is open from the end of March through Christmas Eve (think last-minute Christmas tree purchase).

– Weekdays hours are 9am – 6:30pm and weekends, 8am-6pm.

– The farm manages a blog with some pretty good recipes.  I also like the recipes on the website for 101 Cookbooks.

–  Allandale Farm runs a fantastic outdoor camp in the summer for kids aged 4-12.  Two of my kids were campers there for years.  I could never imagine my daughter Marianne navigating the camp with her wheelchair, but I think they’d willing work to make the camp manageable for kids with other developmental disabilities.

IMG_5453It’s easy to romanticize farm life.  Allandale Farm makes it easy to support a great community farm…and in the meantime, you get some of that farm fresh air and “land spreadin’ out so far and wide”  (Green Acre lyrics) — without leaving your city behind.  It’s not often you can have your cake and eat it too.




Haunted Boston Tour: Completely Accessible and Mostly Good

IMG_5428Everything about the Haunted Boston tour last night was accessible.  Jeff, our guide, was thoughtful, informative, engaging and entertaining.  He made a point of previewing with us how Marianne could position herself to best hear at each spooky spot on the tour.  After showing ghostly photos to the group, he made sure to show them to Marianne too.  The streets were all accessible and well lit, and every street crossing had ramps and pedestrian lights.  At about 90 minutes and one mile, the tour was just the right length.  There is nearby garage parking with ADA spots, or you can take the T to the group meeting spot at the Park Street Station.

The only fly in the ointment was that Marianne spent the last 20 minutes of the tour looking at a sea of tourists’ backs.  We were the last to pull up, and no one stepped aside so Marianne could get close enough to the front of the crowd to hear.  We assume the story of the Omni Parker House hotel haunting was good and scary, because people were listening intently.


Some people are short because they’re little kids;  others because they’re sitting in a wheelchair.   If short people are in the back of a crowd, they have pretty much no chance of hearing what is going on at the front.

I offer two completely different vignettes for consideration. The other day my sister-in-law posted on FB that now that she is visibly pregnant, other T riders routinely offer her their seat.  I love that!

I also recently offered my T seat someone in need:  a boozy, teetering Red Sox fan who clearly wasn’t going to be able to stand much longer.   My motivation was a rather self-centered one, as I was mostly concerned that the guy was going to fall on me.   But I got a slurry “Hey, Lady, that’s so niiiiiice,” and you know what? It really made me kind of like him, in all of his beer-y wonder, and I smiled.

Yes, Marianne and I could have asked people last night to step aside and make room at the end of the tour.   We chose to stay in the back.  But it would have been really, really nice for us if someone had noticed on their own accord, smiled, stepped aside, and made room at the front.