Wednesday, August 9, 2000
By JOSH GOHLKE
CLIFTON -- When Cathy Boseski carried a torch along the last few yards of a cross-country journey marking the 10th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act on Tuesday, she made the trip by wheelchair.
To travel any significant distance, though, the 47-year-old Clifton mother with multiple sclerosis uses a Volkswagen Eurovan fitted with a motorized wheelchair lift, courtesy of Gensinger Motors, the dealership where the relay ended. Without the adapted vehicle, Boseski said, she depended on family members to leave the house, because she needed considerable assistance to use a car.
"I wouldn't really be able to get out," she said.
On the strength of the community's support for Boseski -- which besides the van has included thousands of dollars in donations -- Clifton on Tuesday became the 25th city in what was originally a 24-city torch relay, meant to bring attention to issues affecting the disabled a decade after the landmark federal legislation that gave them sweeping rights to public and workplace accommodations.
Signed into law in July 1990, the ADA requires that businesses and governments provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities. It also requires new public buildings to be handicapped-accessible.
The American Association of People with Disabilities, the group that sponsored the torch relay, and other advocacy organizations generally agree that the ADA remains a legislative milestone for their members. The issues today revolve around how the law will be realized and enforced.
Recent Supreme Court decisions, for example, have tended to narrow the ADA, while a pending case questions whether states can be sued under the law.
The American Association of People with Disabilities was founded in 1995, partly with the mission of speeding ADA implementation. Its torch relay recognizing the act, sponsored by Volkswagen of America, began in Houston two months ago and was set to finish in New York City on Monday.
But the local dealership's gift to Boseski made Clifton an ideal last leg, said Pete Kasper, a Gensinger Motors representative who persuaded organizers to stop in Clifton. Kenneth Gensinger Sr. initially planned to give away a Beetle to commemorate his dealership's 50th anniversary, but then he heard about Boseski.
Boseski was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1983, but the disease went into a long remission. Only in recent years has she begun to suffer the loss of muscle function that's typical of the disease. Since 1997, she has had to use a wheelchair.
"Each exacerbation left me a little less mobile," said Boseski, who is married with three children, ages 11, 15, and 21.
Boseski's friends this year began raising money to help cover the cost of adding a wheelchair-accessible bathroom and ramps to her home. In February, a fundraiser at the Clifton Boys and Girls Club brought the total donations to more than $25,000. That's when Gensinger learned of the effort and decided to give the family a 2000 Eurovan, with a lift added by the Fairfield company Drive-Master.
"The support in the community was just overwhelming," she said.
Staff Writer Josh Gohlke's e-mail address is email@example.com