Disability and Elderly Issues

Silicon India Interviews Joel Solkoff

Joel Solkoff



Prized Accomplishment(s):

Following the details of Renzo Piano’s first New York City assignment The Morgan Museum and library. In my column and in YouTube style videos, I followed the project from creative vision through construction.

The Journey So Far:

I am a 66 year-old paraplegic who is a research assistant at Penn State’s Department of Architectural Engineering. I am also a columnist for e-architect-uk. My field of interest is housing for elderly baby boomers who may or may not be disabled and using virtual reality and BIM technology to reduce costs.

Career Profile:

As a columnist for e-architect, I receive nearly one million hits a day. As opposed to my academic position, I am writing for an international audience focusing primarily on U.S. architecture for readers who do not understand the U.S.

Other Thoughts:

When I worked at the California Silicon Valley as a technical writer many of my bosses were Indian. The subcontinent has provided the U.S. with a remarkable and badly-needed source of talent. Understanding how that talent was created and what can be done to make it easier for the U.S. to benefit from India-generated talent is a constant source of fascination. I much appreciate the work Silicon India is doing,

The Decisions That Matter

The most important decision is learning to trust my experience as a paraplegic who has not been able to walk for the past 20 years. Related to this is the recognition that computer technology in many forms including the intelligence for mobility devices does make it possible to lead a productive life with a disability.

Job Profile:

Currently I am using globally famous architects such as Zaha Hadid, Renzo Piano, and as a way of attracting my readers. Once attracted, I focus on the implications of the major demographic phenomenon involved when the largest population in history retires and requires housing.

Done Differently:

I would become an architect.

Advice For New Professionals:

Relax. Take the time for a large view. The focus today on details, data, and tools sometimes makes it difficult to understand how to use details, data, and tools. Read outside your field. Immerse yourself in educational experiences that are NOT digital. That way, the power of digital technology can then be applied with a more precise focus.

Professional Strengths:

The ability to write clearly, to describe complicated technology, and to provide readers with the nuances of life in the U.S. from the prospective of a native-born citizen who has visited 47 U.S. states and lived for at least a year in 7 of them.

Working Life Management:

I do not manage my work-life balance. To the degree possible, I try to follow, on a day to day basis, what interests me in the hope that in doing so I will accomplish my long-term goals naturally and effortlessly. I am not always successful at the act of balancing.

Family Background

My mother was a Hebrew school teacher. My father was an attorney. My father was 27 years older than my mother. The marriage was doomed from the beginning and divorce happened when I was three.

Contribution to the field

I have published three books–one on agriculture policy, the second a memoir on being cured of cancer, the third a book on housing. I lived for 17 years in Washington DC holding several relatively-high level positions in the federal government as a speechwriter and public affairs official. I look at my world from a utilitarian political perspective–focusing on whether the solution to a problem works rather than on the spin one can put to something that does not work.

Growth Strategy:

I am persistent. I read everything I can. I do not forget what I want to accomplish.

Changes In The Professional Environment:

The professional environment, as I see it, began 20 years ago when I lost the ability to walk. Between then and now, technology has made significant advances in providing access. Social barriers have come down. Productivity for disabled individuals such as myself still can be improved. Badly needed is the capital to invest in what are in effect human resources–hardware, software, disability vans, travel accommodations, and deservedly expensive specialized publications.

Plans For The Future:

Designing a multi-generation neighborhood for 100,000 individuals.




Architects for Change

“Television is a vast wasteland “applied to current efforts to limit Internet access; Woody Allen makes a guest appearance

In 1961 the FCC Chairman, Newton Minnow, gave a scathing speech at the National Association of Broadcasters Convention calling television “a vast wasteland.” Last week,  in the tradition of Newton Minnow’s “television is a vast wasteland” speech, the new and exciting Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Tom Wheeler delivered his visionary plan to ensure access for the poor to the Internet. TowWheeler Access to the Internet is a primary requisite for participation in the Information Age. If you cannot access the Internet

  • You job prospects decrease
  • Access to startling new healthcare, such as remote surgery is denied you
  • Communication with relatives and friends is more difficult.
  • Being part of mainstream society is DENIED.
"This picture is derived from Greek mythology, where the blind giant Orion carried his servant Cedalion on his shoulders." --Wikipedia
“This picture is derived from Greek mythology, where the blind giant Orion carried his servant Cedalion on his shoulders.” –Wikipedia

To get an understanding of the relevance of Wheeler’s ground breaking speech on the implications of excluding large numbers of people, especially, individuals in rural areas and the disabled and elderly, there are two Giants who come to mind instantly.

By giants, I refer to the phrase: “Dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants (Latin: nanos gigantum humeris insidentes) is a Western metaphor with a contemporary interpretation meaning “one who discovers by building on previous discoveries”.

“Its most familiar expression is found in the letters of Isaac Newton: If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” –Wikipedia


The two giants on whose shoulders Tom Wheeler is sitting are:

1. Marshall McLuhan and 2. Newton Minnow.


“Marshall McLuhan,  (July 21, 1911 – December 31, 1980) was a Canadian philosopher of communication theory. His work is viewed as one of the cornerstones of the study of media theory, as well as having practical applications in the advertising and television industries.

“McLuhan is known for coining the expressions the medium is the message and the global village, and for predicting the World Wide Web almost thirty years before it was invented.”



It is widely believed that John Kennedy became President by one of the narrowest margins in history because of his TELEVISION appearance in the 1960 Kennedy / Nixon debates described above. By 1968 (it is well documented) then candidate for President again Richard Nixon read Marschall McLuhan’s work very carefully. His top campaign advisors were sending memos back and forth with large excerpts from McLuhan’s Understanding Media, a very difficult book to read.

McLuhan had observed that people listening to the debate on the radio thought Nixon had won. I listened to the debate on radio and I thought Nixon had won. These debates marked a profound shift in the influence television has on our society.


Minow campaigned for President John F. Kennedy prior to the 1960 presidential election,” notes Wikipedia. “In 1961 he was appointed by President Kennedy to be one of seven commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as well as its Chair.

“Thereafter, it came as little surprise that after the election Minow eagerly pursued the position of FCC Chair. …Reportedly, Robert F. Kennedy, brother of John F. Kennedy, and Minow frequently talked at length about the increasing importance of television in the lives of their children during the Kennedy presidential campaign.

“Minow became one of the most well-known and respected — if sometimes controversial — political figures of the early 1960s because of his criticism of commercial television. In a speech given to the National Association of Broadcasters convention on May 9, 1961, he was extremely critical of television broadcasters for not doing more, in Minow’s view, to serve the public interest. His phrase, “vast wasteland”, is remembered years after the speech.”

Excerpt from Minnow’s Wasteland speech:When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite each of you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there for a day without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.


Back to the Present

Here President Obama announces the appointment of Wheeler to head the Federal Communications Commission.


As I write here in Rust Belt Pennsylvania in the center of the state of Pennsylvania, Internet service is limited to pockets of miles and miles of area where one cannot make a cell call because the infrastructure is not in place, let alone find one’s way to a Google prompt. ++++ What follows is the heart of Wheeler’s groundbreaking speech. As someone who works in the architecture, engineering and construction community, I am especially interested in the  effect access to broadband will have as the Baby Boom generation, as the largest generation in history retires and relocates. Essential to living in place is access to broadband.

This month, I became a columnist for e-architect uk.

My focus is on advice to architects on incorporating into their work consciousness about the requirements for elderly and disabled individuals. One clear lesson of Wheeler’s speech is that housing with easy access to broadband is essential coming  a close second, for those of us who are mobility disabled. to wheelchairs and ramps.


Prepared Remarks of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

The Ohio State University

Columbus, Ohio

December 2, 2013

“How we connect with friends and family, how our homes use energy; the efficiency of our transportation network; how we elect our public leaders and engage with government; all are impacted by our new networks.

“Here at Ohio State there was a dramatic example of how networks are changing old practices when Dr. Christopher Kaeding donned Google Glass to conduct a surgical operation that allowed medical students located miles away to see through his eyes.

“There is another aspect of the new networks that will differentiate the lives of the current crop of students at Ohio State.

“Historically, networks have been a centralizing force, pulling users closer to the place where the technology resided. The new network operates in an opposing manner, pushing activities outward to the edge of the network. The result is an explosion in individual opportunity – a re-birth of the entrepreneurial dynamism that characterized the pre-industrial era of our nation. “Enter the Federal Communications Commission.

“The FCC is the public’s representative to the ongoing network revolution. “The agency was created originally in 1934 to oversee the third-generation networks of telephony and broadcast and, eventually cable and wireless carriers.

“Specifically, Congress charged the FCC to protect – quote – ‘the public interest, convenience, and necessity’ of the nation’s networks. “In serving the public interest, the FCC has focused on dual responsibilities. “First, facilitating dynamic technological change to ensure the U.S. has world-class communications networks.

“Second, ensuring that our networks reflect our civic values, most notably our belief that communications networks should be accessible to all.

“Today, we find ourselves at a crossroads. The old monopoly telephone network is being replaced by new, more flexible and efficient digital networks. This is a good thing. The networks of the 21st century bear scant physical resemblance to the networks that defined the 20th century.”


Wheeler’s complete remarks, available at the FCC site,  includes Wheeler’s glee that his alma mater beat its arch football rival Penn State in football.  Here in State College where i live  WE ARE ALL PENN STATE.

Despite Tom’s position on the wrong side of football, I trust that Tom Wheeler is on the right side of broadband policy for the poor, elderly, and disabled.

— Joel Solkoff

Copyright 2013 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.

Alan Jackson’s startlingly effective video tribute to the victims of The World Trade Center Tragedy

The year the World Trade Center was bombed in New York, Alan Jackson won the Country Music Award for his song about the tragedy.


Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?

Before going to the entire lyrics, I was particularly struck by this small but startlingly effective selection:

I’m just a singer of simple songs
I’m not a real political man
I watch CNN but I’m not sure I can tell
You the difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God


These are the lyrics to the entire song:

Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?

Were you in the yard with your wife and children

Or working on some stage in L.A.?
Did you stand there in shock at the sight of that black smoke
Risin’ against that blue sky?
Did you shout out in anger, in fear for your neighbor
Or did you just sit down and cry?
Did you weep for the children who lost their dear loved ones
And pray for the ones who don’t know?
Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
And sob for the ones left below?
Did you burst out with pride for the red, white and blue
And the heroes who died just doin’ what they do?
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself and what really matters?
I’m just a singer of simple songs
I’m not a real political man
I watch CNN but I’m not sure I can tell
You the difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love
Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
Were you teaching a class full of innocent children
Or driving down some cold interstate?
Did you feel guilty ’cause you’re a survivor
In a crowded room did you feel alone?
Did you call up your mother and tell her you loved her?
Did you dust off that Bible at home?
Did you open your eyes, hope it never happened
Close your eyes and not go to sleep?
Did you notice the sunset the first time in ages
Or speak to some stranger on the street?
Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow
Or go out and buy you a gun?
Did you turn off that violent old movie you’re watchin’
And turn on “I Love Lucy” reruns?
Did you go to a church and hold hands with some strangers
Did you stand in line and give your own blood?
Did you just stay home and cling tight to your family
Thank God you had somebody to love?
[Chorus x2]
And the greatest is love.
And the greatest is love.
Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?

This intensely country music perspective on the Twin Tower Tragedy demonstrates the breadth of the Tragedy for the U.S as a whole. This is a tragedy equivalent in significance to the United States when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

Pearl Harbor convinced Congress formally to declare war and have the United States enter World War II as a critically important Ally.


Alan Jackson’s song demonstrates the breadth and death of the great grief throughout the United States.

Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning Graphic video


When you click on the arrow of this video you will be presented with startlingly vivid  detailed images of Ground Zero.

You will see the planes crashing into the Twin Towers. You will see the injured and dead. You will cry.

Be prepared.


If you are not a fan of country music, this video is worth watching in mute just for the graphic portrayal of the Tragedy.

I was reminded of this Alan Jackson song when I became interested in the rebuilding at  Ground Zero.

Now after years and years of bitter debate about rebuilding, Ground Zero construction is taking place.

The Master Planner for this massive architecture, engineering, and construction effort  is the architect Daniel Libeskind who is both a U.S. and Israeli citizen.

Wikipedia notes:

“Libeskind is perhaps most famous for being selected by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to oversee the rebuilding of the World Trade Center, which was destroyed in the September 11, 2001 attacks. He titled his concept for the site Memory Foundations.

I will will be publishing detailed accounts about Libeskind’s progress in rebuilding at Ground Zero at

You might like to see the biographical information on who I am and the articles and videos I have published on the e-architect site. The site receives nearly a million hits a day.

— Joel Solkoff

Copyright 2013 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.

December motto plus optional isolation

CanceroustumorsurroundingrightkidneyDr. Jeniffer Simon, a caring and experienced urologist, Geissinger Medical Center, State College PA showed me on her computer this image–a cancerous tumor surrounding my right kidney, referring me to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. “Unless you have surgery quickly, you will be dead in 10 years.” The date: April 5, 2013, 4 P.M. We hugged; I cried.

The order of this posting (typically presented in a hodgepodge of disorder):

  1. Motto
  2. Paraplegia and the recollection of previous cancers
  3. The last part of cancer therapy
  4. Optional isolation
  5. Joanna’s wedding
  6. This I believe


Make haste slowly is the motto.

Gold coin Emperor Augustus (63 BC to 14 AD) minted to display the symbol for his motto: "Make haste slowly."
Gold coin Emperor Augustus (63 BC to 14 AD) minted to display the symbol for his motto: “Make haste slowly.”

I first came across this seemingly contradictory expression when trying to learn Latin: Festina lente.

Unless one is in a situation such as mine, Make haste slowly appears to make no sense.

Speed and slow are opposites.

The last part of cancer therapy

My situation comes at the end of a difficult time.

The time began in April when I was diagnosed with kidney cancer and reached medical optimism after I left my home in State College, PA where the expertise to save my life did not exist.

This is my first "step" in getting to New York.
My first “step” in getting to New York.

I was referred to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City—a five hour car ride away. On August 8th, Dr. Paul Russo removed the cancerous tumor, saved my right kidney, and essentially prevented me from dying of kidney cancer. It was a gift of 10 years.


In The Canary Murder Case by S.S. Van Dine, Philo Vance—almost certainly the most obnoxious snob in the history of detective literature—is helping his friend the district attorney solve a difficult murder. The district attorney says, “’Well, well! So the case is settled! Now if you’ll but indicate which is the guilty one, I’ll arrest him at once, and return to my other duties.’”

“’You’re always in such haste,’ Vance lamented. “Why leap and run? The wisdom of the world’s philosophers is against it. Festina lente, says Caesar; or, as Rufus has it, Festinatio tarde est. And the Koran says quite frankly that haste is of the Devil. Shakespeare was constantly lamenting speed. ‘He tires that spurs too fast betimes.’”

Still from the 1929 film version of The Canary Murder Case
Still from the 1929 film version, The Canary Murder Case

Vance, whose name in 1927 became synonymous with private detective, goes on to quote Moliere, Chaucer and the Bible on the subject.

My energy level is sufficiently low and my acuity high enough I understand Vance’s point without citing the additional paragraph.


For the past 20 years, I have been a paraplegic unable even slowly “to leap and run.” Paradoxically, in high school I received a letter sweater for running 2 ½ miles regularly during cross-country competitions. My best record was clocked running two miles in less than 12 minutes, hardly the Olympics, but good enough for Cheltenham High School  in Wyncotte, PA.

Yes, I would like to leap and run. There are a lot of things I would like to do that I cannot.

What I want to do is live life to the full and in the process make a contribution along the path I have committed myself.

I certainly have done a lot of living in the past 20 years as a paraplegic. In one of my three trips across the United States from sea to shining sea, I took my battery-powered scooter and drove it around the rim of the Grand Canyon.

In California, I watched my elder daughter Joanna train a horse to jump a fence. As I watched, the horse did something amazing. After going over the fence for the first time, the horse did a double-take, shaking its head as if to say, “I do not believe I did that.” Joanna’s smile of accomplishment…

In Santa Cruz, one glorious day, Amelia my younger daughter and I boarded a ship and watched whales frolicking.


Isadora Duncan
Isadora Duncan

For a while, I chose the Isadora Duncan School of Dance rather than rehabilitation–both dance and physical rehabilitation have become an essential part of my doxology.

The brilliant physical therapist Alicia J. Spence at State College's Phoenix Rehab begins; it is time for me to return to her.
The brilliant physical therapist Alicia J. Spence at State College’s Phoenix Rehab begins; it is time for me to return to her.

In the Silicon Valley, I wrote a technical manual for KLA-Tancor on inspecting silicon wafers for defects. Often, I scrubbed down, putting on a white gown and hat; wheeling into the clean room where my readers would be using the documentation.

The recollection of previous cancers

After radiation treatment for cancer, I fathered my two children, published three books, and loved and was loved in return.

The experience of having cancer twice, first at age 28 then at 42—treatment which burned my spine and made me unable to walk certainly slowed me down. It did not stop me. Nor has the experience of having cancer for the third time at age 65 stopped me.


“The Roman historian Suetonius… tells that Augustus… thought nothing less becoming in a well-trained leader than haste and rashness, and, accordingly, favorite sayings of his were: ‘More haste, less speed’; ‘Better a safe commander than a bold’; and ‘That is done quickly enough which is done well enough.'”

Wikipedia continues, “Gold coins were minted for Augustus which bore the image of a crab and a butterfly, which was considered to be emblematic of the adage. Other pairings used to illustrate the adage include a hare in a snail shell; a chameleon with a fish; a diamond ring entwined with foliage; and, especially, a dolphin entwined around an anchor. Cosimo I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany had festina lente as his motto and illustrated it with a tortoise with a sail upon its back.”


Frequently, I suspect I have not learned from experience.

The same mistakes seem to repeat themselves in predictable order. This is most often the case with loss of energy. So often have I felt my body filled with power and enthusiasm that when the power disappears and getting out of bed becomes a chore, a dark cloud seems to hang over me.

The cloud is not there now.

Recovery from surgery has surprised me by its slow pace.

When I returned from New York in August, the combination of weakness and pain made me grateful to be alone.


One consequence of my receiving a cancer diagnosis in April of this year is that the telling provoked waves of  affection and attention not merely from those close to home.

A woman whom I had loved intensely in 1972 ( not seen or heard from since) read here on this site an optimistic account of my situation and responded with an e-mail followed by phone calls. We talked about the children we did not have together, the life we did not share, and the strangely odd and encouraging fact that affection untended continues despite the reality that it had its origins so long ago.

Friends appeared with whom I had lost contact for decades. My expectations of how good people could be to me were vastly exceeded by reality. I have emerged from surgery with the feeling of being cherished. Nothing I can say or do can ever repay my gratitude. You know who you are and yet you do not truly appreciate how much you have graced my heart.

Often I feel words used to describe me are wrong, just wrong. I do not think of myself as “brave” or “courageous” or a “fighter.” When I think of myself, which I do often, I try to stop—meditate and in my own fashion pray that the ego will dissolve and I will just continue, pursue the path.

Optional isolation

Late in August, back at my apartment, alone, feeling that strange happiness that comes when intense pain disappears, whoever I am is comfortable to me. By nature I am impatient. By nature, I am persistent. Then, the phrase make haste slowly serves as a comfort. I will do what I need to do when the time comes. I will be grateful for energy and understanding when I cannot do what needs to be done. If the sky falls and I do not have the strength to stop it, the sky falls. Such is life.

Joanna’s wedding

Before I scooted Joanna down the aisle, she drove me to New York for the surgery. My friend  Ben Carlsen drove from State College to New York to bring me back home.
Three months before I scooted Joanna down the aisle, she drove me to New York for the surgery. My friend Ben Carlsen drove from State College to New York to bring me back home.

Going to Joanna’s wedding in October appears now on the second day of December a miraculous event. Weeks before I boarded the plane, I did not believe the energy would return. I persisted. Giving away my elder daughter on a farm in Mebane, North Carolina produced euphoria that brought me through and carried me home on Delta Airlines.

Amelia was my caregiver at  the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge in NYC where we roomed together before, during, and after my surgery.
Amelia (right) was my caregiver at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge in NYC where we roomed together before, during, and after my surgery.

At the wedding it was a delight seeing Amelia again in North Carolina a seeming aeon away from New York , saying goodbye before she returned to Spain for her third extended trip.

I loved:

  • Watching my sister Sarah Leah Schmerler dance without inhibition after the intensity of being together at the hospital in New York


  • Revisiting my 12 year-old only nephew Asher Simonson with his unexpected moments of humor
  • Seeing his father Robert Simonson who had lugged my mobility devices around the Island of Manhattan
  • My son-in-law Jade Phillips and his firefighting colleagues who, when the festivities were over and the bonfire burned out, literally picked up my exhausted body and flung me into the passenger side of a truck


Then fatigue. Delight in being alone. Concern I would not finish the work I must finish. Optional isolation. Appearing outside my apartment only occasionally. Seeing as few people as possible. Avoiding crowds, large gatherings, and familiar places where I have been surrounded by affection.

Periodically, I receive calls, visits, e-mails and reports of those who ask with affection and concern “Where’s Joel?”


Life continues.

A dear friend becomes sick. Miles and often even a few blocks I do not have the energy to travel keep me from being where I would otherwise like to be.

I sit in my apartment and wait. A rush of energy and I find myself writing, as I am writing now, without stop, expressing while leaving dishes unwashed, my bed unmade, not yet able to complete rigorous academic writing—not quite able to pull together a large project.

Instead, I follow whim. I have been making You Tube videos—going off to a computer in the patient company of an expert in iMovie editing software, collapsing, returning, making slow steady progress as bills pile up, consistently refusing to think about the money I do not have and the energy I do not have to obtain it.

I have been reading Robert Alter’s The Book of Psalms, his introduction tracing the psalms’ origins back to the Bronze Age over 3,000 years ago, reciting his clear translation, going to the Hebrew, recalling my mother never left the house without a small Hebrew copy of Psalms in her pocketbook, dipping into David Halberstam writing about Elvis Presley, reading a paragraph here and there about architecture, engineering, virtual reality—not doing much for long, but doing and then in fatigue watching by choice vapid Netflix videos for hours.

The last part of cancer therapy

I hope to encourage others like me who are recovering to recognize our temporary limitations and persevere.

Most do not recognize the difficulties involved in recovering from cancer after the disease is gone but the energy has not returned.

[To be inserted here observations about suicide attempts by survivors. This issue I discuss in my book Learning to Live Again, My Triumph over Cancer available on this site].

While researching, I came across a footnote in a medical journal article. A young man with the most dangerous stage of Hodgkin’s disease had killed himself after being cured. The autopsy revealed no cancer was present in his body.

Surviving while still recovering can be a hard time unless one is willing to believe in the future. Henry David Thoreau should be an encouragement to those us living in situations such as the one I am now in. Thoreau wrote, “There is one consolation in being sick; and that is the possibility that you may recover to a better state than you were ever in before.”

My life seems to have been lived on the principle that best way to get from here to there is NOT to go in a straight line.

I have been watching You Tubes of Edward R. Murrow, my hero. This one caught my fancy yesterday at 2 in the morning.

This I believe

I believe:

  1. I am alive for a purpose.
  2. The attempt to achieve the purpose, which I choose to call my path in homage to Laozi, serves not only its own end but to unite all that is sacred to me; namely, my children (of course) who are adults and have lives of their own; my sister Sarah and my family, my friends who are family; my love for women (a woman were the right woman in my bed); the need to care for myself, be independent in body and mind, be a good citizen who embraces not only my country but my mother Earth, and the need to be the human being I strive to be who believes in the spirit that gives us life.
Clearly a fictitious image of Laozi. No one knows what he looked like. The story is Laozi appeared at a border crossing. The guard asked him to write a book of wisdom. Laozi wrote The Way, gave it to the guard who allowed him to cross. Laozi disappeared. This story and The Way are the only evidence of his existence.
Clearly a fictitious image of Laozi. No one knows what he looked like. The story is Laozi appeared at a border crossing. The guard asked him to write a book of wisdom. Laozi wrote The Way (The Path), gave it to the guard who allowed him to cross. Laozi disappeared. This story and The Way are the only evidence of his existence.

3. My chosen path is to help the elderly and disabled achieve their potential.

4. Along that path is the virtue of technology which makes it possible for me to go seamlessly from my bed to my kitchen out the door and into the world on scooters like the kind that my dear friend Al Thieme of Amigo Mobility invented which he refers to as Power Operated Vehicle scooters or POV scooters to distinguish them from toys. The technology mobility path includes power chairs and equipment being developed at an astonishingly rapid pace. The consequence of this technology is I do not think of myself as one whose disability prevents me from living life to the full. For individuals with hearing and visual disabilities technology has developed to the point where, for example, an individual blind from birth can drive an automobile specially equipped with laser scanning of the road;  the automobile provides the driver computer-voice simulated operated instructions.

Thank you Wired Magazine:
Thank you Wired Magazine

Totally blind drivers have passed tests on intentionally difficult driving courses. I believe in my lifetime the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will issue drivers licenses to individuals who are totally blind but who have proven their ability to drive sophisticated vehicles such as the ones already produced by the Virginia Tech’s Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory.

Amigo manufactures this narrow travel scooter shown here in a tight space in a tiny motel room as I traveled nearly 1,000 miles to my daughter Amelia's college graduation.
Amigo Mobility manufactures this narrow travel scooter shown here in a tight space in a tiny motel room as I traveled nearly 1,000 miles to my daughter Amelia’s college graduation.

5. My path is focused on what the architectural, engineering, and construction community refer to as the built environment. See, for example, my biographical information and published work for e-architect:

6. To rebuild the environment, the promise of virtual reality is real. Virtual reality is a promise my 30 year-old mentor Sonali Kumar introduced to me as I worked with her as a research assistant at Penn State’s Architectural Engineering Department to complete her doctoral dissertation entitled: Experience-based design review of healthcare facilities using interactive virtual prototypes. 


Sonali apologized when she used me as the model for this avatar. “I am sorry I put so much gray in your hair. You do have a lot of gray in your hair.”

Fashion aside, one of my contributions to Sonali’s animated three-dimensional model of an independent-living-aging-in-place home was the suggestion she replace the original bathtub with a roll in shower. As a paraplegic for whom being clean is vital, I have all too often been trapped in a bathtub–on one occasion it took me 45 minutes to figure out how to get out of the tub finally using my arms to push me out, pulling my legs after me as I landed onto a dirty bathroom floor.

7. Experienced-based design is essential. Experienced-based design is one of a number of academic terms meaning the best way to design an environment is to ask the person who will use it. The example that comes most readily to mind is an article I read about a new hospital in the Philadelphia area. The article complemented the hospital administration for asking patients at the previous facility what changes they would suggest making to the design of the new building to make the hospital more patient-friendly. The patients suggested making it easier to get from bed to bathroom by making the bathroom closer to the bed. The article praised the administration for the reduction in falls as a consequence. [I know. My instant reaction to that was Daaaaaaaaaaaahh.] Asking does matter. Ask experts like me, for example, or my neighbors at Addison Court (an independent living apartment building for the elderly and disabled) whom I arranged to view Sonali’s model wearing 3-D glasses at Dr. John Messner’s Immersive Construction Lab for Construction industry. The consequence is we have the experience to instruct the design of the environment around us so that it is more efficient. The result is not merely an exercise in odd-sounding academic words such as case studies, scenarios, and activities of daily living (ADL); it is also a good idea.


8. Self reliance should be encouraged. Shown here

[Note: Think of I believe in points 8, 9, and beyond as Coming Attractions.]

9. Knowing when to ask for help.

Color coded socks at Mount Nittany Medical Center, State College, PA. These socks indicate patient is at risk of falling.
Color coded socks at Mount Nittany Medical Center, State College, PA. These socks indicate patient is at risk of falling.

To be continued.

Meanwhile, here is Edward R. Murrow  interviewing then former President of the United States Harry S Truman on what Truman believes.

President Truman is followed by a bad video of an Alan Jackson song. I like the theme. I like the song.

–Joel Solkoff

Copyright 2013 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.