"What I did on my summer vacation"

This blog wraps up summer here in Massachusetts, and marks our first year as New England residents since leaving New York State. Photos taken by Maggie Sinocchi, unless noted.

After 35 years of paralysis due to spinal cord injury and a work career of nearly 40 years, I have tried to live as “normally” as possible.  But living in an “ablebodied” world has presented challenges and restrictions hindering full participation in society for people like me. As you know, that’s what this blog is all about.   

Because I put myself in situations or events where disabled people are not expected or cannot participate due to physical limitations, I either have a good time without incident, something unexpected happens, or I get into trouble. This is the essence of living with a disabiliy.

The Bay State is disability friendly based on my personal standards

So far, I have found Massachusetts mostly “pro-disabled” and “disability friendly.”  My disability standards, however, are not as rigid as the Americans with Disabilities Act standards. I look for reasonable accessibility and common courtesy.   

For example, if I can’t get into an establishment or folks are rude, I take my money and that of my family and friends, and go elsewhere. I’ll also file complaints with the Massachusetts Office on Disability if establishments are non-compliant, if they discriminate, or demonstrate rude and obnoxious behavior.  

A good barometer of being “disability friendly” is, for example, when automobile drivers are courteous as I attempt to cross streets where I live or visit. "Hey, this is a big deal for me.  Try doing that in New York’s midtown Manhattan!"

By courteous. I mean drivers stop when they see me waiting at a crosswalk (with or without Veronica, my service dog) and allow me to wheel my power chair across the street.

We also found restaurants, department stores and Fenway Park disability-friendly. Most recently, these included Boston Medical Center, Cameron’s restaurant, Hallmark Cards, Jared jewelry, Kay’s Jeweler's, Macy’s, Monponsett Inn, Olive Garden, Red Robin, Target, The Olde Hitching Post, and Walmart.

And, the movie theaters in the towns of Hanover and Kingston, Massachusetts, are quite good. I have yet to be turned away from any establishment in this State due to my disability.

When you can’t walk on water roll on sand

Riis Beach, from Yelp
Many of the beaches I visited this year, about a dozen, are fairly accessible and allow me to enjoy the venues to the extent I can. They all fall short of allowing me to wear my “Speedo” as I did when I was a 17-year-old surf guard at Riis Park Beach in Rockaway, Queens, New York. But, unfortunately, I can no longer wear my 30-inch waist Speedo anyway, so that’s a moot point.

Nantasket Beach
Many of the pedestrian crosswalks, walkways and sidewalks, however, need repair or regular maintenance. I was able to overcome many of the obstacles presented as I traveled with my wife because I use a power wheelchair and she guided me over rough terrain.  Non-power or “push” wheelchair riders would face more difficult challenges given water damage to asphalt walkways, “broken ramps,” and very bumpy terrain.

The Cliff Walk is a 3.5-mile walkway. 
View from Cliff Walk.

I found these conditions at beach locations at the State’s most impressive sites such as Duxbury Beach, Easton Beach and the Cliff Walk, Rhode Island, Nantasket BeachWollaston Beach, and Coast Guard beach on Cape Cod.

Scusset Beach, which is on the northern side of the Sagamore Bridge as you head to Cape Cod, had an impressive wooden boardwalk that transversed a sand dune to the beach and shoreline. 

Beach wheelchair behind guard tower at Scusset beach.
Once over the top, a wooden-planked seating area is set aside for wheelchair riders. This section had me less than 1,000 feet from the water.  From here, a “beach wheelchair” is made available by the State of Massachusetts for those who can transfer onto the chair, with assistance, and then be able to sit on the beach or venture to the shoreline.    

Sitting in the wheelchair section at Scusset beach , I still scan the water as I did when I was a lifeguard at Riis Park Beach, in New York.

The horse with no name

In late August, on our way back from Wollaston Beach in Quincy, which is just south of Boston, we stopped at Briggs Stable, a working farm for more than 100 years. The farm was hosting an equestrian event that evening. The Briggs farm billed this event as a “Mini Show.” 

Horses and riders were impressive. Photo from Briggs website.

I had never witnessed this type of event first-hand. The farm was just a mile away from my condo, so we decided to drive in and have a look.

Because we were on a ranch, with no designated parking spaces, we pulled up alongside side some pickup trucks and their respective horse trailers. Others did the same. We watched as some riders mounted and rode their horses to the exhibition area. 

This seemed to be a women’s equestrian event, and the riders ranged in age from under just under 10 years of age to adult. Surprisingly, I was certain I saw a rider with down syndrome - - my eyes teared up with emotion. I was impressed that the disabled were afforded the opportunity to ride.

My wife asked me if I wanted to get out of the van. I looked at her as a New York City boy would, and said, “No, I don’t want the wheelchair to spook the horses, ruin the show and kick me on my head.”  Maggie laughed.

Taken from our iphone at Briggs Stable.

I soon realized that some of these trailers had not finished unloading their horses, and I suggested we move the van. I was getting nervous. “But we have a good spot,” she said. I nodded tentatively.

Illustration of unloading (bitsandbytesfarm, web).
We sat a few minutes more and watched three young women unload a beautiful black horse out of the trailer on the driver’s side of my van. I couldn’t take my eyes off the huge tail and the horse's “ass,” its tail swaying.

As the horse backed down the short ramp, it turned its head toward us, and bucked, kicking the front of my silver Toyota van with its legs. 

We were both startled and jumped in our seats.The women quickly calmed the horse down, and apologized. They also offered to cover the slight damage. We declined the offer and left the event. We figured the mare was just "horsing around." 

Newport Vineyards

 Maggie and I visited the vineyards and enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine. I also bought a bottle of  "Port" and brought it home.
After the Cliff Walk tour, mentioned above, we visited the Newport Vineyards, which was originally planted in 1977 on a hill overlooking Rhode Island Sound.

I bought a bottle of port.

 Since the original plantings in the 1970s, the vineyards, under the ownership of John and Paul Nunes, has grown to 60 acres.The vineyards, in addition to fine wine, now house the Brix Restaurant, The Marketplace, the addition of Fatulli's Bakery & Deli, a new Tasting Room and Tank Room.



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