Independence. It’s what the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, www.ada.gov gave to so many, and what service pets provide to those who need them each and every day. Thank you Mayor Mike, for taking the time to celebrate that fact, in perfect New York style.
New York City’s 2010 Mayor’s Awards honoring the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act was held August 10 as a summer barbecue on the sprawling 11-acre lawn of Gracie Mansion, built in 1799 and home to many mayors including Mayor Mike Bloomberg since 1942.
As we made our way during rush hour on an MTA bus, we paused to allow a wheelchair bound passenger motor up the special platform. He was apologetic about delaying other passengers. As the bus driver strapped in his wheelchair, he whispered with assurance, “you are the priority here — don’t you worry.” Once the bus arrived at Gracie Mansion, he deftly navigated the line to enter the event.
Brightly colored picnic tables were scattered on the lawn with ample room for the wheelchairs and physically challenged. High-topped tables featured children’s pottery from the VSA New York City.
The event reminded me of the hard work of my colleagues, Ed and Toni Eames at the Dog Writer’s Association, who traveled the world with their guide dogs and ultimately published a book “Partners in Independence”, to celebrate the dogs and those whose lives they enhanced. Ed was a native New Yorker and would have loved the event.
The hot, humid August evening was also not about to deter Karen Eisenstadt and her service lab Jessa. We met Karen at one of the picnic tables while her dog Jessa sat quietly under her feet. She was blind, she was alone, but strikingly independent. Jessa was 8-years-old and had come from Guiding Eyes for the Blind. As the crowd patiently stood in line to get a photo with Mayor Mike, the line was cut off just as Karen’s turn came. No matter she said, don’t fuss over her, she would just sit with Jessa until the line started again. Independence did indeed define the moment.