Edith Prentiss: A Disabled Hero to the Disabled

On Thursday October 30, Concepts of Independence honored individual with disabilities at the Brooklyn Marriott. The mission of Concepts of Independence is to administer and advocate for consumer directed personal assistance which will permit chronically ill and/or physically disabled individuals receiving medical assistance in New York to live the community with INDEPENDENCE, AUTONOMY and greater freedom of CHOICE. Concepts acts as a fiscal intermediary to receive Medicaid funds on behalf of a recipient and then distribute those funds to the caregivers in the form of wages, differentials and fringe benefits. Concepts has been able to save the New York State program millions of dollars by providing services through independent living. Concepts and its affiliate Concepts of Independent Choices serve over 2,000 consumers, who employ 4,000 personal assistants in the five boroughs of New York City and sixteen counties from Long Island to the Canadian border.

As a person with a disability it meant a lot to me to see not only the disabled but their personal assistants honored. I was lucky to have my near deafness mostly corrected with bilateral cochlear implants. During the period 1997-2012 I had to depend on others to compensate for my hearing loss. Most notably my very close friend John Phillips who attended events, attractions such as museums, political and animal rights events and joining me on trips provided great help. John and his life partner Chris Ward were with me when I had my second cochlear implant in 2012 and when it was activated and I could hear again. Everybody needs help. It is not always easy being there for a person with a disability. The role of the personal assistant is key to the independence and comfort of the disabled. Personally I give them a hand salute. Being an educator for those with disabilities my deafness turned out to be a very meaningful experience. It made me cognizant of what the disabled go through every day of their lives.

I was thrilled to see as one of the honorees my long time friend Edith Prentiss. Edith was presented with the Sandra Schnur Advocacy Award for her tireless and most effective efforts which have led to a wonderfully large increase in accessible taxis in New York City. Edith is Vice President for Legislative Affairs of Disabled in Action (DIA) of Metropolitan New York. She is also Chair of the Taxis for All Campaign and a leader of many other groups for the disabled in New York and in Washington Heights and Norwood communities. She is President of the 504 Democratic Club. The award memorializes Sandra Schnur who was severely disabled quadriplegic. She overcame her disabilities and wrote several position papers on how individuals with disabilities have the capacity to manage their own personal assistance services. In 1980 she became President of Concepts of Concepts of Independence and served in that capacity until her death in 1994. Her husband Marvin Wassermam flew in from California to present the award to Edith. Marvin himself is a known activist for the disabled. He served as Executive Director of The Brooklyn Independent Living Center and as President of the 504 Democratic Club.

Awards were also presented to Firefighters Lawrence Hollingsworth and Damion White, two members of our FDNY for their service in saving the lives of the disabled, personal assistants Carmen Aviles, Khadijah Bleasdell and Jalen Glenn, and to Crystal & Co.

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