07/28/02 - Posted 10:56:37 PM
By Chris Gosier
RANDOLPH - It's been 13 years since Christine Schnorr lost her sight. Today, however, she sees some things more clearly than ever.
She sees what it's like to cope with a disability in a world that doesn't always accommodate it. She sees the special housing and transportation needs of the disabled in spread-out places such as northwestern New Jersey.
She also sees what it's like to retool notions of independence after being stricken by a disabling condition.
"I haven't always been blind, and now being blind and disabled, it has allowed me to see from both sides the importance of remaining independent," she said.
Schnorr and other members of a regional advocacy group gathered in Randolph on Saturday to mark the 12th anniversary of a landmark federal law that required a broad range of accommodations for the disabled.
The law, the Americans with Disabilities Act, is "vital to our members being able to live independent lives. It's the cornerstone of independence, really," said Carmela Slivinski, executive director of DAWN - Disabled Advocates Working for Northwest, meaning the northwestern part of the state.
The group's annual picnic at Hedden Park drew about 90 people with various disabilities, including hearing impairment, blindness and multiple sclerosis.
Slivinski drew applause when she spoke of the 12th anniversary of the ADA.
But she urged the crowd to support other proposed legal changes, such as a bill before the state Legislature that would require insurers to cover the cost of hearing aids.
One DAWN volunteer, Beverly Maline, said the deaf still face many obstacles, such as the lack of interpreters in doctors' and dentists' offices.
"Some of these people go to the dentist, and they can't communicate with the dentist the kind of pain they're having," she said.
Other problems include businesses without interpreters, and landlords who don't provide deaf tenants with smoke detectors that have flashing lights.
"There's many problems that the deaf have," she said.
DAWN, based in Wharton, serves more than 600 people in Morris, Sussex and Warren counties. Its services include counseling, support groups and help with legal matters or transportation.
Since she lost her sight, Schnorr said, the group has helped her find volunteer work to use her training in special education.
She now serves on Sussex County's Disabled Services Advisory Council and Human Services Advisory Council.
"I think it's helped give me things to do with my time," said Schnorr,
who lives in Wantage. "It's helped me to continue using the training I
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