Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sybil Feldman 1940-2012

Sybil and her PCA at the Adaptive Recreation Fair in
Boston in June 2011.
I was saddened to find out in the past week of Sybil Feldman's death last November. I knew her as someone who loved outdoor recreation and saw her regularly through the years at adaptive recreation programs and events. In her obituary and other public announcements, she is heralded as a disability activist with the nickname "Sybil Disobedience". Sybil was seventy-two years old when she died of pneumonia.

Sybil had cerebral palsy and spent over twenty years living at the Fernald School, an institution for people with disabilities that was unfortunately known for human rights abuses and poor quality of education. She fought her way out and came to live in her own apartment with the support of personal care attendants.

Sybil at far left in her wheelchair, with BCIL members.

Sybil was a steady presence at disability events in Boston for decades and also traveled to places as far away as Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Orlando to support the rights of people with disabilities. She was arrested six times in political actions that helped lay the foundation for national change and better programs and services. She also promoted disability rights to the Massachusetts state legislature, governor, attorney general and U.S. Congress by testifying in hearings and telling her story at public meetings.

As Bill Henning of the Boston Center for Independent Living said, "Her life after Fernald was a dramatic shout in the face of those who would isolate, demean, and deny people with disabilities."

And I say, thank you Sybil for your indomitable spirit, for your lifelong fight to improve the lives of people with disabilities and for taking the time to get out and play!

Thanks to Bill Henning, the Executive Director of the Boston Center for Independent Living (BCIL) for permission to share the information in his article "Passing of a Disability Rights Champion" in the Winter 2013 issue of Disability Issues, a publication of the Spaulding Rehabilitation Network.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Ski and Play Hockey with Nancy!

Is there someone in your community who excels at helping others have fun? In any community there are usually fun-loving individuals who often work hard to raise the quality of life for those willing and able to participate. In the realm of adaptive recreation in western Massachusetts, one such individual seems to rise above all others in the endeavor to create fun for everyone - Nancy Bazanchuk.

Nancy and a young friend at a recent adaptive
skating program in Holyoke.
I've known Nancy since 1995 when she attended one of our very first adaptive rowing programs on the Connecticut River. When I asked her if she needed assistance to get into a rowing shell, she politely answered "No thanks!", then cartwheeled out of her wheelchair onto the dock, ambled over to the boat and got in, forever changing how I perceived people in wheelchairs. Over the years we've collaborated on adaptive cycling as well as witnessed and promoted each others programs year round.

Nancy and Marcy skate together
keeping an eye on participants.

I spoke with Nancy last weekend at our adaptive skating program in Holyoke and she reminded me that she just wants to make sure that people today get the same great opportunities to play that she has had. Her monthly newsletter from the CHD (Center for Human Development) Disability Resource Program, where she works in Springfield, offers an astounding array of opportunities.  Wheelchair basketball, power soccer, dance, bowling, goal ball, and swim lessons are just some of the regular activities. In winter she also manages two sled hockey teams and organizes downhill skiing trips. Year round she has a limited selection of adaptive recreation equipment (handcycles, skis, beach wheelchair, etc.) that can be rented for those who would like to recreate on their own.

Nancy inspires me through her deep community connections. She seems to know everyone personally and links people to each other and new possibilities continuously. People who come to her programs return again and again. This level of personal commitment to others over many years truly enriches the quality of life for everyone, for the whole community. Thanks Nancy - for all you do!!!

If you live in western Massachusetts and want to get out and have fun with Nancy, here are two winter opportunities not to miss!

Downhill Skiing - Join an upcoming trip to Mount Snow in West Dover, VT or at Pico in Killington, VT. The program includes all types of adaptive skiing, with equipment provided by either Abilities Plus (Mount Snow) or Vermont Adaptive Sports and Ski (Pico). The group carpools to the location, then skis for the day with a one-hour lunch break. $55 per person covers the lift pass, ski rental and instructor. Family members and friends are welcome to ski but the cost may vary for them. Upcoming dates are February 17 at Pico, March 3 at Mount Snow, and March 17 at Pico.

Sled Hockey - The Western Mass Knights are an adult team and the Springfield Sliders are a junior team. Both teams practice at the Amelia Park Ice Arena in Westfield, where a major sled hockey tournament takes place in April with teams from all over the Northeast. Nancy is always looking for more players for this fast-paced growing sport, and you don't have to have disability to qualify. Junior players are especially needed for the second half of this season!

You can reach Nancy at 413-788-9695 or

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Fun Things To Do In State Parks This Winter!

Looking for something fun to do? Now is the time to plan an outing to break out of the house and enjoy the season! No matter what the weather, fun events are taking place around Massachusetts in state parks indoors and out. Here is a selection of some of the most accessible opportunities.

Eastern Massachusetts
Adaptive Skating and Games on Ice, Cronin Rink, Revere: Tuesdays February 19, March 12 and April 2. 11:30am - 1:30pm. Use your wheelchair, an ice sled, or conventional skates on the ice! Spin, slide, race, slalom, socialize and play gently competitive games with others! Ice sleds and conventional skates available. For more info and to attend program, call 617-626-1294 to register or email

Movie Nights at Breakheart Reservation, Saugus: Fridays January 18, February 1 and February 15. 7-9pm. Come to the park for a free family friendly flick - bring the kids dressed in PJs and spread out on a cozy blanket for a fun film. Free parking. Call 781-233-0834 for more information. Call on the Friday prior to find out what movie will be shown. The Visitor Center is wheelchair accessible.

Georges Island Winter Fortress, Boston Harbor: Saturday, February 16. 11am-2pm. Looking for an outdoor adventure for the whole family? Look no further. Come check out Georges Island in the winter! If it gets too cold outdoors, warm up in the brand new Visitor Center and enjoy our short film as well as exhibits about the history of the island. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for kids. Reservations strongly recommended, as space is limited. Be sure to call in advance if you use a wheelchair - easiest access at the docks will depend on tides. For reservations call 781-770-0040 x 102 or visit:

Tracks, Scats and Nests - Interpretative Program at Borderland State Park, Sharon. Thursday, February 21. 1-2:30pm. Animal signs tell stories if we know how to read them. Watch an interactive slide show in the Visitor Center and guess who made the signs. Afterwards, we will enjoy a hike outdoors searching for wildlife and the signs they left behind for us to discover. Please dress in warm clothes and winter boots. Program meets at the Visitor Center at 259 Massapoag Street in N. Easton. Rain, snow storm, or very icy conditions will cancel the outdoor portion of the program. Program is free; there is a $2.00 per car parking fee. Please call (508) 866-2580 x 162 for more information.

Cape Cod
Interpretative programs during winter break week at Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Mashpee:

Skeletons Inside and Out - Tuesday, February 19: 10:00-11:30 am.
Learn all about skeletons and exoskeletons by examining, skulls, bones, X-rays and molts and discover fun facts about arthropods, crustaceans, birds, mammals and more. Together we will explore the beach and woods in search of animal artifacts then create a skeleton craft to take home and share. 

Bunny Trails and Cottontails - Thursday, February 21: 10:00-11:30am.
Meet a live bunny and enjoy stories, crafts and hands-on activities to discover the secret lives of local rabbits. Discover the rare New England Cottontail that researchers are studying within the Reserve and learn how you can help.

Meet at Reserve Visitor Center, 149 Waquoit Highway in Waquoit, MA. Program is free and open to the public. Reasonable accommodations available upon request. For more information, call (508) 457-0495.

Central Massachusetts
Adaptive Skating and Games on Ice, Fitzpatrick Rink, Holyoke, Sundays January 20, February 10 and March 10. 1:30 - 3:30pm. Use your wheelchair, an ice sled, or conventional skates on the ice! Spin, slide, race, slalom, socialize and play gently competitive games with others! Ice sleds and conventional skates available. For more info and to attend program, call 413-545-5758 to register or email

The Holyoke Merry-Go-Round at Holyoke Heritage State Park is open weekends, holiday Mondays and school break weeks from 10am-4pm. Great place to go with the family, with several kid-friendly and educational attractions in the same downtown courtyard. Tickets for the Merry-Go-Round are $2 each or 6 for $10. The Visitor Center at 221 Appleton Street is wheelchair accessible. Call 413-534-1723 for more information.

Western Massachusetts
Comet! Visit Western Gateway Heritage State Park in North Adams where you can learn about the history of the railroad and exhibits and programs take on a monthly theme. January's theme is astronomy - culminating in a program about comets on January 26. February's theme TBD. The Visitor Center is located at 115 State Street, Building 4. Winter hours are Thursday through Monday from 10am-4pm. Call 413-663-6312 for further information.

Check here for other programs and events offered by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). For any state park program, it is advisable to call ahead if you have accessibility needs or concerns. For a full list of DCR's Universal Access Program's outdoor winter opportunities, check tab at the top of Everyone Outdoors or click here.