Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Salem Commission on Disabilities, March 2009 Unofficial Minutes: Maureen McKinnon Tucker

Salem Commission on Disability March 2009 resized

(This month’s minutes have been split into two posts.)

The March meeting of the Salem Commission on Disabilities was held March 17th, 2008 at 4 PM.  Attending:  Jack Harris, chair, Charlie Reardon, co-chair, Debra Lobsitz, Jean Harris, David Martel, David Moisan, David Tracht, Andrew J. LaPointe, Michael Taylor, Jean Levesque, Assistant ADA Coordinator and Mike Sosnowski, City Council liasion. 

We had two guests today:  Maureen McKinnon Tucker, Paralympian sailor (gold medalist in “her hobby”) and member of the Marblehead Commission on Disabilities, and Bill Legault, of the Salem Y.

Ms. Tucker runs a sailing program for people with disabilities in East Boston and is in charge of Sail Salem, a new sailing program being established at Winter Island (behind the airplane hangar) for youths and adults. 

She’s running two clinics at Winter Island this summer, using the same type of boat she used in China last year.  Her boat can be steered by anyone with a disability, using only one bicep or one tricep for anyone with limited upper-body strength.  Maureen is also looking for more prospective blind and visually impaired sailors.

Dates are July 18th, 19th and 20th, and August 14th, 15th and 16th at Winter Island.   This is a 3-day clinic that will certify participants in the U.S. Sailing Sailboat Certification.  People with visual impairments will get tested verbally.  There’ll be a morning and afternoon session and the class is limited to 8 people.

Maureen promises it’ll be an exciting use of Winter Island. [Yes!—DM] 

Jack:  It’s unusual, sailing is one of the few sports that is completely integrated into the disability community.  Maureen agrees it’s a team sport that uses and takes advantage of everyone’s strength, making it nearly perfect for people with disabilities.

Maureen described what the boat would look like:  "It’s sexy!”  It’s shaped like a kid’s paper airplane and people sit along the center of the boat.   It’s a fast boat, built especially for people with disabilities.  [Maureen tried to get a picture of the boat and some video for me but through a miscommunication on my part, it didn’t happen.  Sorry—DM]

Maureen:  Other communities, like Gloucester and Swampscott are very interested, but the main program for disabled sailors is in East Boston.  It’s a grassroots effort, with no big sponsors involved.


Maureen applied for a grant from Access America for Salem.  Access America gives awards to cities that have made strong efforts to make themselves accessible for people with disabilities.  There could be some easy fixes with employment and tourism opportunities that would make Salem a great candidate for this grant.

Dave Martel:  There needs to be more coordination.  Maureen:  There is no way for a disabled visitor to know of all of the accessible restaurants and recreation areas and how to get to them.  Dave M. suggests “the blue line of accessibility” on the tourist map, to go along with the red sightseeing line that already exists.  Dave M. wants to collect that information and pass it on to the Chamber and the Mayor’s office, and the city website.  

Jack:  Education.  We could do better.

Maureen:  Emergency preparedness is another easy win since we’ve done the preparation, but haven’t shown it.

Charlie Reardon strongly advocates this and is in violent agreement with Maureen.  Salem has many more curb cuts and is much more inviting to the disabled than many other places.

Jack made a strong suggestion that Andy LaPointe sign up for the sailing class, after Andy’s previous experience in a kayak (it flipped on him and he lost his cell phone!)  [True!—DM]

Jack reminds everyone the Salem Ferry is accessible to people with disabilities.  [The ferry will run again in late May—DM]

Andy asks Maureen if anything else needs to be done to get the grant:  Answer:  Just work harder on our marketing with the Chamber and the Mayor’s office and get things in place by September, when it’s time to apply.  Maureen is working with Shaugnessy to get a matching grant. 

Maureen’s email:  

Thanks to Maureen for coming.  The Disability Commission is very proud of what you’ve done for our country and our community and we’ll help out in any way we can.

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