Nysha Recent News

On Smithsonian-centric Three-day Trip, Universal Access for Forshay IRA Tourists

September 9, 2015

By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette

For Hamaspik of Rockland County Group Residence, All the World’s Like Home

Bet even the authors of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) didn’t envision this.

But some 25 years after its landmark passage, a three-day vacation to New Jersey, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia by the gentlemen of the Forshay Briderheim was a breeze thanks to the ADA.

Granted, that Hamaspik group home is equipped with all the accessibility it needs to accommodate its residents—and right in the middle of a residential community.

But out and about in the world at large, one might think things might not be that comfortable.

However, as it turned out, the ADA has more than left its mark.

On Monday, August 10, the residents of Forshay, accompanied by three devoted staff members, departed Monsey, New York for a three-day whirlwind tour of south Jersey, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Their first stop was the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, New Jersey, where all entranceways at that museum of marine life were fully disability-accessible.  Whether the fascinating Shark Tunnel, the thrilling live hippos at the West African River Experience or the exotic frogs in the KidZone venue, the exhibits allow people in wheelchairs to get up close, just like everyone else.

The gentlemen also enjoyed the whales, penguins and dolphins—especially the aquarium staff in diving gear tending to the dolphins.

A visit to a Cherry Hill restaurant following that likewise found no obstacles to getting in the door, with the gentlemen easily entering and getting seated around the tables.

That accessibility experience was repeated at their final stop for the evening: The Hilton Homewood Suites in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, where diligent Home Manager Mrs. Sarah Fischer had secured several accessible suites on the 2nd and 3rd floors allowing breezy entry and egress—sliding doors, elevators and all.

Tuesday, August 11 saw the Hamaspik group rising for traditional morning prayers, followed by fresh breakfast prepared by Mrs. Fischer and served by staff.  Then it was off to Washington, D.C.—not just the nation’s capital but the country’s driving force for disability equality.

Small wonder the museums they visited widely welcomed people with special needs.

The 22 exhibits at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum were all open to touring by Hamaspik’s special requirements, allowing the gentlemen to stroll or roll through history from the Wright Brothers’ first flight to the first man on the moon and beyond.

Telling is the fact that the entrance to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History is located on Constitution Avenue—underscoring the ADA’s chief accomplishment of ensconcing disabilities accommodations as full-blown American rights.

Following their few hours of touring those two national treasure-houses, the young men repaired outdoors for a picnic lunch at a public park where grassy fields posed no entry problem.

Driving back to Baltimore in its lift-equipped Hamaspik Transport Vans, the group made its way down a highway where only a generation or so ago, people with disabilities were hardly if ever seen due to the institutionalization of old.  Ditto for dinner at Baltimore’s Dougie’s kosher fast-food restaurant, where the doors were open, both figuratively and otherwise, for the Forshay guests.

The accessible hotel, ramps and all, was waiting for them upon their return to their Mt. Laurel “home based” hotel quarters for the night. 

The next day, the group hopped across the nearby Delaware River to tour historic downtown Philadelphia.

Due to a last-minute scheduling change, the group instead rode a Duck—an amphibious vehicle that takes visitors around the City of Brotherly Love’s historic locations, both on land and on the Delaware river water.

The fact that a wheelchair-accessible Duck was not available due to the last-minute request was no problem to sturdy and strong-armed boat staff, who were only too happy to help Hamaspik hands carefully and safely carry Forshay resident Eliezer “Lazer” Friedrich onto the boat and secure him in his seat.

The highlight of Forshay’s Philadelphia visit, perhaps understandably, was an encounter with the legendary Liberty Bell, whose call of liberty and justice for all especially resonates today for people with special needs.

And, equally, for those who serve and love them.