Disability and Elderly Issues

Transcript of my preliminary hearing where the Court found enough evidence to try me in Commonwealth Court

The Chabad religious service is entirely in Hebrew and Aramaic where men and women are separated during prayer. In August, this was the only synagogue service available to me. This (with the exception of women being separated from men) is the service with which I am most comfortable. Under the rules of the sabbath codified in Arabic in the Twelfth Century by the great Rabbi Maimonedes, one is not permitted to work on the Sabbath. Today that is defined as not driving a car, exchanging money, turning a light switch on or off, etc.


Raw unedited transcript of my preliminary hearing



VS :



BEFORE: Thomas Jordan, MDJ

DATE: August 15, 2018

PLACE: Centre County Courthouse Courtroom No. 3 102 South Allegheny Street Bellefonte, PA 16823


FOR THE COMMONWEALTH: Amanda Chaplin, Esquire Assistant District Attorney

FOR THE DEFENDANT: Patrick  Klena, Esquire Assistant Public Defender

NOTES BY: Patricia A. Grey, RPR Official Court Reporter Room 208, Centre County Courthouse 102 South Allegheny Street Bellefonte, PA 16823 814-355-6734 OR FAX 814-548-1158







Gregory Brauser

Andrew Sim


Joel Solkoff










THE COURT: This is the Commonwealth

versus Joel Ezra Solkoff. Mr. Solkoff’s case is

identified by OTN No. X 198324-0.

Does the defense waive the reading of

this complaint? MR. KLENA: Yes, we do.

THE COURT: Is the Commonwealth ready to


  1. CHAPLIN: Yes, Your Honor.

THE COURT: All right. Then you may go

ahead and call your first witness.

  1. CHAPLIN: Lieutenant Brauser.



was called as a witness and having been duly sworn, was

examined and testified as follows:



  1. Lieutenant, could you please state your

name and then spell your last name for the record?

  1. Yep. It’s Gregory Brauser,

B-r-a-u-s-e-r. I’m a lieutenant with the State College

Police Department.

  1. And were you — what are your duties as a



lieutenant at the State College Police Department?

  1. I’m currently in charge of the community

relations division of our department.

  1. Were you working back around August the

9th of 2018?

  1. Yes, I was.
  2. Are you familiar with the defendant in

this matter, Joel Solkoff?

  1. Yes, I am.
  2. Do you see him in the courtroom here

today? A. He’s seated next to his defense attorney.

THE COURT: I’ll note that he identified

the gentleman to Mr. Klena’s right.

  1. CHAPLIN: Thank you, Your Honor.


  1. And can you describe for the Court what

your involvement with Mr. Solkoff has been leading up to

the events that occurred on August 11th of 2018?

  1. Yeah. I was made aware by our chief of

police that on the 6th, which was the Monday, that

Mr. Solkoff was at the borough council meeting that

night and was complaining about the condition of the

downtown sidewalks and the inability that he was having

with his electronic scooter to get around downtown and



that the borough was not making proper accommodations

for him to be able to get through the downtown. He at

that point had requested the chief arrest him during his

arguments in council. The chief declined to do so

stating that Mr. Solkoff was just exercising his rights

of free speech. Mr. Solkoff was very insistent on being

arrested and informed the chief that he was going

downstairs to get arrested.

He subsequently, Mr. Solkoff, rode his

device out into the middle of Beaver Avenue at the

intersection of Allen Street and blocked that

intersection for vehicular traffic. Our department

responded to that report from civilians that the roadway

was blocked by Mr. Solkoff. Officers on scene spent

approximately 15 to 30 minutes trying to convince

Mr. Solkoff to leave and securing an ambulance for him

to be removed from the roadway.

As a result of that, we later in the

week — I believe it was Thursday — were contacted by a

defense attorney representing Mr. Solkoff who wanted to

inform us of Mr. Solkoff’s wishes that we be aware that

on Saturday, the 11th, he was planning to repeat the

blocking of Beaver Avenue in protest for better access

for persons with disabilities on downtown sidewalks.

As a result of that notification, I was



assigned to reach out to Mr. Solkoff and his attorney.

I did so and on Thursday of that week, I spent

approximately an hour with Mr. Solkoff going over his

concerns about the sidewalks down there. I informed him

that in the time between the notification that his

attorney provided us and speaking to him that I had

arranged for free public transportation for him to reach

specifically religious services that he was going to get

  1. I had reached out to CATA bus services, the Centre

County transportation services, and his synagogue to

arrange those — free transportation for him to get to

and from services.

I also provided him with an alternative

route if he wished to still take his own means there.

Instead of coming out of his building and heading east

on Beaver Avenue, he could turn west to go half a block

and basically continue the exact same route that he

would have taken and avoided all the construction. He

advised me that that was not his wish; that he was at

this point protesting and demanding to speak to the

secretary of transportation for the Commonwealth of

Pennsylvania in order to bring light to his cause and

insist on State Route 26, Beaver Avenue, be converted to

a pedestrian walkway either in whole or at least the

right travel lane being shut down and converted to a



pedestrian walkway.

Like I said, I spent pretty close to an

hour with him and also a little bit of time with him and

his attorney during that time trying to convince him to

either protest peacefully on the sidewalk, even

mentioned I think going to Bellefonte where their office

was and protesting there, or using our alternate means

of transportation. And Mr. Solkoff was very polite

stating that those were not options that he wanted, just

being that he was very set on doing his protest in the

roadway and blocking traffic and very insistent that he

was to be arrested.

During the police’s first encounter with

him on the Monday prior, he was actually not arrested.

He was taken to the Mount Nittany Medical Center for an

evaluation to see if it was something that he was a

danger to himself or others for. He was very upset that

that was the process that was taken on Monday and

adamant that he wanted to be arrested and put in jail.

  1. Okay. So, alternative means to reach his

destinations were provided?

  1. Correct.
  2. And alternative venues to protest were


  1. Yes.



  1. But he refused those?
  2. Yes, he was very adamant that he didn’t

want that. He wanted to be arrested and put in jail.

  1. Did he ever obtain a permit from State

College Borough to protest in the street or to close

down the street?

  1. He did not obtain a permit from anybody,

borough or PennDOT, to block the roadway.

  1. Is that the extent of your involvement in

this case?

  1. No. In preparation for his planned

protest, I actually reached out to the jail and made

them aware that this was a potential person coming in

with disabilities so that they would be prepared for

that. I contacted the District Attorney’s Office and

spoke to the district attorney about appropriate charges

for the case and actually pre-typed a criminal complaint

with the charge on there to provide to the day shift on

Saturday to expedite the removing him from the roadway

so that it was less of a safety hazard for himself and

the general public.

That information that I typed up was

provided to the day shift supervisor and officers

working for that Saturday where the protest was planned,

and we had arranged with Centre LifeLink EMS to



transport for us so that it was a more comfortable

transport for him and his electronic device.

  1. You say electronic device. Can you

describe it for the record?

  1. He has a motorized scooter that he uses

to get around town. That’s seated right next to him.

  1. Were you involved at all on October (sic)

11th or is your involvement everything before?

THE COURT: What day? It’s August.

  1. CHAPLIN: August.

THE COURT: I thought she said October.

I’m paying attention actually. August.

  1. CHAPLIN: I think I did say October.

THE COURT: All right.


  1. August?
  2. After the incident on August 11th, I

actually secured the video from the patrol cars and

brought those into evidence and also took still shoots

from the downtown cameras that showed the defendant in

the middle of the roadway.

  1. So there was video and still shots?
  2. Yes. I also had some follow-up with the

office of the aging. He has a caseworker with them to

try and see what services we may be missing to provide



or that they’re able to fill in the gap. That was one

other resource we reached out to.

  1. CHAPLIN: I don’t believe I have any

further questions for this witness.

THE COURT: Mr. Klena, would you like to

ask the lieutenant any questions?

  1. KLENA: Briefly.



  1. Lieutenant Brauser, in terms of his

charges, is he charged under Title 18 the Crimes Code

obstructing highways and other public passages, correct?

  1. Correct.
  2. Because he persisted on or this wasn’t

the first time, that’s what makes that offense a

misdemeanor of the third degree, correct?

  1. I believe it’s because of the order from

the police at the day of. It doesn’t have to be a prior

incident. Just consistent or continued after being

ordered by police to leave the roadway while being

provided an alternate venue.

  1. Okay.
  2. So, there’s two sections. There’s a

misdemeanor and a summary section.

  1. Now, did Mr. Solkoff express that the



alternative route was not satisfactory or essentially

nonexistent? Did you have that conversation with him?

  1. It wasn’t satisfactory to him. It was

completely existent.

  1. And you would agree that the condition of

downtown State College in terms of the sidewalk does

prevent him from traveling his route to his synagogue,


  1. No, it does not prevent him from getting

to that location. It prevents him from getting on

Beaver Avenue to that location, but there’s alternate

routes that he can take.

  1. Did he express to you that the sidewalk

of the alternate route is dangerous?

  1. He did, and I traveled that route and

verified that it is not. The route going down Beaver

Avenue to Allen Street, Allen Street down to Waring

Avenue and Waring Avenue across, every one of the

sidewalks has been replaced at the corners by the

borough to be ADH compliant with handicap ramps and

anti-skid plates on each one of those sidewalk corners.

  1. Lieutenant Brauser, when he went out into

the roadway the — I guess the second incident — and

that was on the 11th; is that correct?

  1. Correct.



  1. The phone call received from his

attorney, that would be Matt McClenahen, that was on

August 9th that both these things, correct?

  1. Thursday, correct.
  2. He went out onto Beaver Avenue; is that


  1. Correct.
  2. What location on Beaver Avenue? What

would have been one of the side streets?

  1. On the first one or the second one?
  2. The second one?
  3. It would have been mid-block in the 100

block directly across from Uncle Eli’s.

  1. Okay.
  2. He basically came right out right of

Addison Court and right out into the roadway from their


  1. At that time did you receive any

complaints from the public that Mr. Solkoff was making

Beaver Avenue impassable?

  1. I wasn’t working that day. He actually

pulled out directly in front of an unmarked police car

which was able to stop at that point and turned his

lights on to alert traffic that he was in the middle of

the roadway.



  1. Did he have any signs with him or

anything — to your knowledge, did he have signs with


  1. The video didn’t show any signs.
  2. Mr. Solkoff is 70 years old?
  3. Correct.
  4. The issue with the sidewalks being

currently impassable, that’s not a permanent condition

or you don’t foresee that being a permanent condition,

do you?

  1. No, it’s a temporary construction issue.

The south side of Beaver Avenue in the 200/300 block is

under construction due to a building being rebuilt. The

north side is a delay. They initially started to

replace all of the street lights in the downtown area.

The borough obtained permits from PennDOT to rip those

up and after they took out the old ones, an inspector

came in I believe and determined that the new ones —

there was an issue with something they were doing which

delayed the process of getting the new ones immediately

installed. So, it’s on delay that’s causing the


  1. Okay.
  2. So, it’s temporary construction on both




  1. But for now they are impassable to

someone in Mr. Solkoff’s condition in terms of requiring

either a wheelchair or a motorized —

  1. I don’t know that they’re impassable.

They have taken up some of the blocks where there was

solid cement and replaced it with gravel.

  1. Okay. Well, you would agree that it

would be difficult —

  1. Inconvenient for sure, yes.
  2. — to navigate on gravel on a wheelchair?
  3. Correct. But there’s always a block

either direction that’s not being torn up at this point.

  1. Did Mr. Solkoff show you a video that he

had made?

  1. He did not. He had mentioned a video

that he had made during Arts Fest that he stated he

couldn’t get to some venues at Arts Fest. I had pointed

out that the construction was actually the opposite

direction from his house from where the Arts Festival

was. So, I was confused by how he couldn’t get to the

Arts Fest.

  1. You would agree that Mr. Solkoff, like

every American, has a right to express grievances

against their government, local, state, or national,




  1. Absolutely.
  2. You believe that was ultimately what

Mr. Solkoff is doing here by his going out onto the

roadway? He had a grievance and this is the way he was

going to bring attention to it; is that your


  1. That was what he stated his purpose was.
  2. You have no reason to believe other than

that?A. No.

  1. Did you have a meeting with the fire

chief with Mr. Solkoff?

  1. Not over this incident.
  2. KLENA: I don’t have any further

questions of Lieutenant Brauser.

THE COURT: Anything on redirect?

  1. CHAPLIN: No, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Thank you for your testimony.

THE DEFENDANT: May I ask some questions?

  1. KLENA: No, you can’t.

THE COURT: Well, you can’t now. I

excused him so. THE DEFENDANT: Well, that’s

unreasonable. The lieutenant made several errors of




  1. KLENA: That will be up to the jury

to determine whether or not his errors are fact.

THE COURT: You also have a right to

testify, too.

THE DEFENDANT: Can I testify now?

THE COURT: Well, that’s up to your


  1. KLENA: I would advise against it,

but if that’s what you wish to do, that’s your choice.

THE DEFENDANT: I want to testify.

THE COURT: Well then, we’ll wait until

it’s your turn, okay?


THE COURT: There’s a certain protocol.

THE DEFENDANT: I’ll be glad to follow.

THE COURT: We’re going to allow the

Commonwealth to present additional evidence. It appears

they have additional evidence.

THE DEFENDANT: That’s fine.

THE COURT: We’ll let them present their


THE DEFENDANT: That’s fine.

THE COURT: And let you, if you choose,


THE DEFENDANT: Okay. Thank you.



THE COURT: Officer.



was called as a witness and having been duly sworn, was

examined and testified as follows:



  1. Officer, could you please state your name

and then spell your last name for the record?

  1. Andrew Sim, last name is S-i-m.
  2. Where are you employed?
  3. State College Borough Police.
  4. In what capacity?
  5. Patrol officer.
  6. What are your duties as a patrol officer?
  7. Calls for service, investigations,

traffic patrol.

  1. Were you working back on August 11th of

2018? A. I was.

  1. And on that date did you have occasion to

come into contact with the defendant in this matter,

Joel Solkoff?

  1. I did come in contact with him.
  2. Do you see him in the courtroom here



today? A. I do. He’s sitting with defense counsel.

THE COURT: I’ll note he identified

Mr. Solkoff.

  1. CHAPLIN: Thank you.


  1. Can you describe for the Court how it is

that you came into contact with Mr. Solkoff?

  1. I was actually told ahead of time — this

is out of the ordinary way things work. — that

Mr. Solkoff had already or his attorney had made our

department aware that he was going to block Beaver

Avenue as I understood he had done earlier in the week.

And we were given a time of 9:30. At 9:15 I drove to

that location going up Calder and then the alley that is

perpendicular to Beaver Avenue facing Addison Court

where I knew his residence was. I was made aware that

this would happen in the area of Unde Eli’s, which is on

that half block.As I pulled up there, I saw Mr. Solkoff

was already in the roadway and an unmarked car of ours

which was driven by Captain Fishel blocked the right

lane which Mr. Solkoff was in the middle of. I went

ahead and parked on the alley and walked across to make

contact with Mr. Solkoff.



  1. You say he was in the middle of the right

lane? A. Middle of the right lane, correct. Right

eastbound lane. That’s a one-way eastbound highway.

  1. Okay. Can you describe for the Court

East Beaver Avenue? Is it a public roadway or highway?

  1. It’s a public roadway. As I said, it’s

one-way eastbound. It’s State Route 26 that goes

through the heart of the Borough of State College. It’s

the business district.

  1. And is that an area that sees daily


  1. A lot of vehicular traffic on that being

the main thoroughfare. There are also a lot of

pedestrians that cross that roadway.

  1. And when you arrived there, was he, in

fact, blocking the roadway?

  1. The right lane, correct.
  2. So, were vehicles able to use the right

lane of East Beaver Avenue?

  1. Yes, vehicles could use the left lane.
  2. Were they able to use the right lane?
  3. I am sorry. No, they could not use the

right lane. In fact, after he had it blocked, like I

said, for his safety, a patrol car had pulled up there



to also block that lane while we dealt with him.

  1. Is that so he wouldn’t get hit by —
  2. For his safety and officers that were

going over there since we knew this was happening in


  1. Were there cars on the road while this

was going on?

  1. Yes.
  2. I guess, what did you do once you got

there and saw this?

  1. I spoke to Mr. Solkoff. I told him that

I understood that he had a protest and that he had the

right to protest but that he could not block, obstruct

the roadway; that he would have to move off the roadway.

He told me — and he did give me a name. I don’t

remember or know who the person is but he gave me the

name of the secretary of transportation I believe of the

State of Pennsylvania and said that he was blocking the

lane and he would like to speak to the secretary of

transportation of Pennsylvania. This is a female name.

I do not know what it was.

THE DEFENDANT: Leslie S. Richards.

THE WITNESS: Okay. I told him I was

unable to do that for him and asked him again to get off

the roadway, and he said that he would like to be





  1. Do you know how many times he was asked

to leave the roadway?

  1. I said it specifically to him twice. The

one response was to speak to the secretary of

transportation. The second one was to be arrested. And

following that Lieutenant Smail walked out and greeted

Mr. Solkoff. I believe they shook hands and

introduced — he introduced himself to him. He asked

him to leave the roadway and then read a prepared

statement to Mr. Solkoff which indicated that the

borough and police felt that they had taken measures to

accommodate him and he needed to leave the roadway or

would be arrested. I was there. I didn’t hear

everything read, but I know that he read from the


  1. So, would you consider Mr. Solkoff being

in the roadway a hazard?

  1. It is. At the time the right lane was no

longer a hazard because we had it blocked off for his

safety and the safety of officers dealing with this

incident. He is in a motorized scooter which at any

time he could have pulled into the only lane that was

available and so, yes, it could have been a hazard for




  1. Would you consider it a hazard for

oncoming traffic for a person to be sitting in the


  1. Anybody. Even for officers that were

dealing with it.

  1. Did all of this occur in Centre County?
  2. It did.
  3. I guess, ultimately did he refuse to

leave the roadway?

  1. He did. We even, Officer McDannel at one

point — when we had initially determined to use the

LifeLink ambulance, we were made aware that they brought

a van specific for a mobility device. And

Officer McDannel offered for him to go over to the

Addison Court parking lot to pull into that and

Mr. Solkoff did not stating he wasn’t leaving the

roadway. He did comply once they pulled the van onto

the roadway. He went unassisted posing no problems into

that vehicle once he was told he was under arrest.

  1. Did he have alternate areas where he

could have made this protest?

  1. Right off the roadway where he was where

I believe is his residence, there’s sidewalk area there

where he could have, without even blocking the sidewalk,



made any speech that he wanted to give. I don’t know

what other areas where provided to him but, yes, he

could have made a speech nearby.

  1. CHAPLIN: No further questions at

this time.

THE COURT: Mr. Klena, would you like to

ask the officer any questions, sir?

  1. KLENA: Briefly.



  1. Just to clarify for the record, Beaver

Avenue in downtown State College is a two-lane one-way

roadway, correct?

  1. Yes, sir.
  2. And the speed limit in downtown State

College is what; 25 miles per hour?

  1. Yes.
  2. He never went into the left lane. He

stayed solely within the right lane during this protest?

  1. Yes, Your Honor — I’m sorry. Yes,


THE COURT: You just got promoted.

  1. KLENA: Maybe some day. Who knows.

THE COURT: Just not yet.

THE WITNESS: Can you strike that?



THE COURT: No, leave that in there.

Patrick wants that in the record.


  1. He was — and in your interactions with

Mr. Solkoff, he was pleasant, polite but insistent upon

his grievance about the sidewalks and wanting that

situation corrected?

  1. The grievance per se wasn’t so much given

to me as it had been done prior to other officers. The

demand to me was that he wanted the right lane open or a

lane of Beaver Avenue open and he wanted to speak to the

secretary of transportation.

  1. His goal was to have at least one of the

lanes made into a pedestrian — for solely pedestrian


  1. That is my understanding, yes.
  2. There was a potential for danger had the

police been unaware of this occurring beforehand; would

you agree with that statement?

  1. There could be.
  2. But with kind of the planned protest

through Attorney McClenahen contacting, saying this is

the date and time that he was going to be entering onto

the roadway, State College Police were able to take

preventative measures to stop any incident from



happening either to motorists or Mr. Solkoff; would you

agree with that?

  1. We tried to make it as safe as we could.
  2. The street was closed off at the point

where he was ultimately then taken into custody on the

11th; is that right?

  1. Just the right lane.
  2. Just the right lane. The left lane was

still — there was still vehicular traffic in the left

lane? A. Vehicles were permitted to continue in

the left lane.

  1. No one was — at that point you didn’t

take the keys out of his motorized scooter or anything

like that, correct?

  1. I did not. I will say I have a lack of

familiarity with them but I did not.

  1. In your opinion he could have backed it

up or drove it forward right into the left lane of


  1. Yeah. He was facing that open lane at

the time when we were dealing with him. He was

broadside to the lane he was in.

  1. KLENA: I don’t have any other




THE COURT: Any redirect?

  1. CHAPLIN: One question very briefly.



  1. Would his position in the road have

hindered public transportation or emergency vehicles in

the event of an emergency?

  1. Yes.

THE COURT: Follow up?

  1. KLENA: No questions.

THE COURT: Thank you, Mr. Klena.

You may stand down, officer.

Does the Commonwealth have any other


  1. CHAPLIN: No, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Commonwealth’s closed their

case. Does the defense have anything?

THE DEFENDANT: I want to testify.

  1. KLENA: Mr. Solkoff wants to testify.

THE COURT: I’m going to let you testify

from there, sir. I’m not going to make you take the



THE COURT: I do have administer the oath

to you though. And I’m going to ask Mr. Klena if he



would pull that microphone closer.



was called as a witness and having been duly sworn, was

examined and testified as follows:

THE COURT: Are you going to direct him,

Mr. Klena?

  1. KLENA: Yes.



  1. Mr. Solkoff, you have expressed your

desire to testify. You understand what you are charged

with, correct?

  1. Yes, I do.
  2. Why do you believe that you shouldn’t be

charged with this offense?

  1. I believe that neither the Commonwealth

nor the lieutenant are correct in there having been

provided to me any alternatives. CATA was not an

alternative. I was planning on praying, (inaudible) and

it’s a term that comes instantly to mind as Hubad, which

is an orthodox Jewish service. The reform service which

Lieutenant Brauser made contact with my rabbi did not

have a service at 10:00 o’clock in the morning on that

Saturday morning. The only service that was available



was at Hubad which is an orthodox congregation which

follows the 12th century ritual established by

Maimonides in Cairo in Egyptian, in Arabic. And in

which the entire service is in Hebrew and in which men

and women are segregated and where no automobile traffic

is permitted. Going on CATA and going off CATA would

have been an offense to my synagogue.

And as to the notion that Allen Street is

passable, I have many videos of impassable streets and

the problem with Allen Street was that before the cross

street there where there is, in fact, a tree the

sidewalk was all cut up.

As for other side streets, Pugh, for

example, I have gone on the crosswalks. The street cuts

is what they’re referred to as. On Pugh Street and on

one occasion my scooter went one way and I landed on the

floor. It is true that in many cross areas that is to

say, for example, at the corner of Allen and Beaver, the

cross streets — the street cuts there are in absolutely

perfect condition and they have added to them because —

I mean, I’m a disability advocate, voice of America

citizen disability advocate. I have been a disability

advocate for the 24 years I have been a paraplegic.

Cross street — street cuts these days

also have little rubber things on the bottom if you’ve



noticed them and, therefore, the blind or the visually

impaired so that if, for example, you’re there with a

white cane you don’t go falling down because suddenly

there’s a street cut. But in the interim in the middle,

for example, in the middle of Pugh when you’re going

down Pugh in the direction of Guacamole and Days Inn,

those street cuts are in a situation of considerable


The week before I met at the — at the

borough council. I met with Tom Fontaine who is in

charge of the borough council and is a wonderful person

and we discussed the situation. Now the reason that I

pulled Leslie S. Richard’s name out of the hat is that

she’s the secretary of transportation and she is in

charge of PennDOT and PennDOT owns Beaver Avenue and the

sidewalks on both sides of Beaver Avenue. And they are

in tragedy when it comes to simple issues such as making

Arts Fest available and such as making it possible for

me to go to synagogue.

What I did on the Monday at the meeting

of the borough council was I showed the borough council

the route I took to synagogue a couple years ago when I

went to Rosh Hashanah service and I showed the borough

council the way it is now. And it is not possible to

get from here to either Hubad or to my shul on Hamilton



Brit Shalom in any way that is safe.

And it is my — and to further add insult

to injury, I attempted to celebrate my 70th birthday.

70th birthdays are regarded biblically as matters of

considerable import especially since based on the notion

of threescore and ten in the Solomon’s. I attempted to

celebrate it with my daughters, each of whom are

vegetarians and a new restaurant opened up on Beaver

Avenue called Cafe Vere which is not wheelchair

accessible but complied technically with the — with the

rules in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania which requires

that 20 percent of the money be spent on

disability-friendly repairs. So as a consequence the

bathroom in Cafe Verve is wheelchair accessible but the

entrance is not. One reason the entrance is not

accessible is because —

THE COURT: I’m going to stop you here.

We’re way off point about the restaurant. Let’s stay

focused on the street.

I have a question for you. Where is


THE WITNESS: Hubad is on Weaver.

THE COURT: Weaver?


THE WITNESS: Waring. It’s a small —



LIEUTENANT BRAUSER: Bottom of highlands.

THE COURT: Where at?



LIEUTENANT BRAUSER: Between University

Drive and Garner Street.

THE COURT: Okay. I just wanted a


THE DEFENDANT: I was there a year ago.

I celebrated Shabbat there with my friend, Elliott


THE COURT: I appreciate that. All

right. So I don’t need to hear any more about the

restaurant. That’s another issue. That’s an issue that

you can take up with — not with this Court, with

another entity. THE DEFENDANT: Okay. All right.

THE COURT: Are you satisfied that you

got to say what you wanted to say about the traffic


THE DEFENDANT: Well, two things I wanted

to say.

THE COURT: Let’s hear them. Go ahead,


THE DEFENDANT: Lieutenant Brauser and I



didn’t just meet on this issue. Which — and this issue

may make it sound like I’m somewhat rattled in terms of

driving my scooter out into the highway and so on.

Lieutenant Brauser and I met at the fire department with

Steve Bair and we were there to protect — to institute

procedures to protect the 89 people in Addison Court.



  1. When did that occur prior to this?
  2. Three months ago? Two months ago?
  3. It’s your recollection.

LIEUTENANT BRAUSER: Last fall I think.

THE WITNESS: Last fall. And then —

THE COURT: This was some time ago?

THE DEFENDANT: But earlier this year,

two months ago, the mayor and the police chief and

Lieutenant Brauser and I were all in the social hall at

Addison Court handing out earplugs.

THE COURT: Okay. All right.

THE DEFENDANT: So, you know, it’s —

this is — I mean, I understand that you don’t want to

talk about anything other than the street and I

appreciate that. But PennDOT is responsible for major

injury to the elderly and disability community that is

on Beaver Avenue and this particular issue, namely



depriving me of the right to go to synagogue finally got

my goat as it were. And there was certainly, you know,

the officer was correct in everything he said. But, you

know, this was a planned arrest. There was no danger at

all to me or anybody on the highway when I went out into

the middle of the road with two police cars here, an

unmarked police car there which I knew was an unmarked

police car, and several officers there, and an ambulance

over there.

I mean, you know, I’m not — I am not

certifiable and proof that I’m not certifiable is that

the police chief and an officer sent me to the hospital

to try to certify me and they wouldn’t do it so.

THE COURT: Point taken.

THE WITNESS: I’m done, unless you have


THE COURT: Dare I ask if you want to


  1. CHAPLIN: Very briefly.



  1. Just for the record, it was your intent

to block the roadway that day, correct?

  1. Oh, yes.
  2. You did block the roadway on the right



lane? A. Well, no, my van. You know, there was a

right side and there was a left side. The unmarked

police car was on the right side. I knew it was an

unmarked police car. I wanted to block the roadway but

I didn’t.

  1. They were blocking the roadway because

you pulled into the roadway?

  1. Because I told them I was going to get

arrested and I didn’t want to get killed because I have

a granddaughter who’s about to be born any day now.

  1. It was your intent to be arrested that


  1. Yes.
  2. You didn’t get a permit to protest in the

road? A. Well, no, I had gotten permission to

protest on Valentine’s Day.

  1. But not on August 11th?
  2. No, I didn’t.


THE WITNESS: I did not.


  1. You can protest in an alternative manner

out of the road?



  1. Assuming that it didn’t do any good.

Martin Luther King protested in Birmingham, Alabama.

  1. Okay. We’re not here about —

THE COURT: We’re way off course here.


  1. You did repeatedly tell the police that

the only alternative was to be arrested and that was —

  1. The only alternative other than to get

Leslie J. Reynolds there was to get arrested.

  1. CHAPLIN: I have nothing further.


Mr. Klena, do you have a closing

argument, sir?

  1. KLENA: To the extent that the left

lane was still open on Beaver Avenue, I would argue it

didn’t meet the definition of obstruct in terms that it

made it impassable.

THE COURT: All right.

Ms. Chaplin, do you have a closing


  1. CHAPLIN: Well, Your Honor, I think

that for today’s purposes of a prima facie case the

Commonwealth has met its burden on the misdemeanor

charge. The statute says a person, who having no legal

privilege to do so, intentionally or recklessly



obstructs any highway whether alone or with others and

that if he persists after warning by law officer, it is

a misdemeanor of the third degree. I think all those

elements have been established. I don’t think it’s any

questions that the right lane did have to be closed down

because of his protest. I would suggest that does meet

the definition of obstruct because everyone then had to

be moved into the left lane. It did shut down an entire

lane of traffic. THE COURT: Safety is really not even an

element here. It’s whether or not he blocked traffic,

he obstructed traffic, and whether he was officially

told not to do that, and he was. The elements of the

offense are met. Therefore — it’s not my authority

today, Mr. Solkoff, to determine guilt or innocence.

It’s a preliminary hearing, sir. I simply need to

decide whether an offense was committed and whether you

were the person who could have committed the offense.

That’s the burden of proof.

So for today’s purposes, the Commonwealth

has met its burden. I’m binding you over to the Centre

County Court on the obstructing highway and other public

passage charge. Your case is bound over to the Common

Pleas Court. All right.

  1. CHAPLIN: Your Honor, if I may ask a



question about bail. I know you had changed it from —

THE COURT: Bail is ROR right now. He

refused to sign the bail bond but he is released on his

recognizance and if he’ll sign the bail bond today, I’ll

have him sign it. If he doesn’t want to, I’m not going

to force him — I can’t force him to sign it. But bail

— I was involved in this issue yesterday and bail has

been changed by Judge Lachman who was the issuing

authority who granted the complaint to ROR.

  1. CHAPLIN: Okay. I guess, I was just

wondering is the condition that Judge Lachman had put in

the original bail paper to not go back into the roadway,

is that still — THE COURT: That is not a bail condition.

There are no non-monetary conditions on an ROR bail


  1. KLENA: That would be a new offense,

Ms. Chaplin.

THE COURT: That’s right.

  1. KLENA: If that occurs, then I

imagine the police will respond accordingly.

THE COURT: We cannot — we cannot issue

a non-monetary bail condition on ROR bond.

  1. CHAPLIN: Thank you for the clarity,




THE COURT: My pleasure.

We’re adjourned.





I hereby certify that the proceedings and

evidence are contained fully and accurately in the notes

taken by me upon the hearing of the within matter and

that this copy is a correct transcript of the same.

Date Patricia A. Grey, RPR Official Reporter




I hereby certify that a copy of this

transcript was made available to counsel of record for

the parties, advising they had until

in which to file any

objections or exceptions to the same. That time period

having elapsed without recording of objections or

exceptions, the transcript is therefore lodged with the

Court for further action.

Date Patricia A. Grey, RPR Official Reporter




Upon counsel’s opportunity to review and

to offer objections to the record, the foregoing record

of proceedings is hereby accepted and directed to be


Date Pamela A. Ruest President Judge







Challenges a Mobility-Disabled Resident Encounters Renovating for Independent Living

Figure 1. “Middletown, A Study in Modern American Culture” (published in 1929) is the first of a series of studies on the inter-relationship of basic human requirements so a selected community can function in a healthy manner.

The authors of Middletown, Robert S. Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd, were distinguished sociologists who taught at Columbia University. They studied Muncie, Indiana (to which they originally assigned the name “Middletown”) using cultural anthropological technique. [2]

“Middletown” is widely regarded in academia as a classic example of sociology as a science (in the tradition of Émile Durkheim. [3] The paper you are about to read models the Lynds’ work  as scaffolding to display relevant interrelated issues in State College, PA. Relevance applies to evaluating  renovation of existing  housing for the mobility disabled.  Success is achieved when the project  provides independence to the resident of the home being remodeled.   Two factors are key. First, accessibility within the home. Second, the appropriateness of the community where the house is located.


Émile Durkheim was a French sociologist who rose to prominence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Along with Karl Marx and Max Weber, he is credited as being one of the principal founders of modern sociology. Chief among his claims is that society is a sui generis reality, or a reality unique to itself and irreducible to its composing parts. It is created when individual consciences interact and fuse together to create a synthetic reality that is completely new and greater than the sum of its parts.

This reality can only be understood in sociological terms, and cannot be reduced to biological or psychological explanations. The fact that social life has this quality would form the foundation of another of Durkheim’s claims, that human societies could be studied scientifically. For this purpose he developed a new methodology, which focuses on what Durkheim calls “social facts,” or elements of collective life that exist independently of and are able to exert an influence on the individual.

“Émile Durkheim (1858—1917),” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, A Peer-Reviewed Academic Resource, Paul Carls, University of Montreal, Canada. [4]



This paper provides a generic understanding (for want of a better term) of the issues critical for successfully renovating existing housing to make it wheel chair accessible. Accessibility is only achieved when the resident is able to function independently. [A detailed definition of “Independence” appears later on in this paper.]

Success requires that one or more of the following users or user groups take a leadership role in directing the design of the renovation:

  1. The resident who is mobility disabled but who still has the physical and emotional resources to live independently.

2. The family and/or friends of the resident who may be called upon (in the aftermath of the emergency that caused the disability) to make critical design decisions functioning temporarily in effect as in loco parentis.

3. Relevant members of the architectural engineering and construction (AEC) community.


This paper is in effect a consequence of a work-in-progress: a technical paper  for the Pennsylvania Housing Research Center (PHRC). The technical paper “Renovating existing housing to provide individuals with mobility disabilities the opportunity to live independently” focuses on the requirements for renovating an existing house. My coauthor PHRC Director Ali Memari suggested this white paper might serve to help get the technical paper back on track.

Indeed, both papers are closely related. The technical paper describes a house that comports with criteria Dr. Memari has selected as being model useful  for obtaining the attention of the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) community. The technical paper focuses on such details as:

  • Ramps for entering and leaving the house
  • Redesign of specific rooms, such as the bathroom, to avoid dangers (most notably falls) that might result in the resident losing independence and being forced into a nursing home
  • Use of mobility devices, such as a scooter, which when used appropriately can be regarded as architectural tools. For example, a narrow relatively inexpensive scooter could save renovation costs by obviating the necessity to tear down walls.
  • Both papers emphasize the significance of preserving the resident’s independence and provide measures for avoiding the necessity of being forced into a nursing home. The technical paper discusses the prophylactic measures in room by room detail. This white paper (based on eight years of experience and observation) benefits from observing situations where a resident dies unexpectedly or requires intense health care from an assistive leaving facility.


This white paper provides guidance to a resident who has recently become mobility disabled. Understandably, in a rush to provide safe accommodations following an unexpected tragedy (i.e. losing the ability to walk), the focus often becomes the provision of a quick fix.

For example, the most dangerous room in the house is the bathroom. Providing a safe environment in which to bathe, go to the toilet, shave, or otherwise care for one’s hygiene and appearance, the solution focuses on safety. How does one prevent dangerous falls that might result in loss of one’s independence and thus being forced to relocate into an assistive living facility (commonly known as a nursing home)?

Figure 2. This device sends a beam to the resident of the house who is taking a shower. Were she or he to fall, the beam would detect (or fail to detect) the presence of someone taking a shower. An alarm (silent or otherwise) would sound. The house (anthropomorphized) would automatically dial 911 and a simulated voice message would tell emergency services that help is required.

I took the photograph above in 2012. It shows a safety feature in the bathroom of the Blueroof Experimental Cottage in McKeesport, PA where I lived for two weeks. I am a paraplegic incapable of walking at all. I can stand, but have to do so holding on to a fixed object for support.

The safety feature makes apparent the John Donne “no man is an island” perspective that is the central theme of this white paper. To respond to my hypothetical call, there must be Internet service to summon assistance from 911. There must be an ambulance to provide help and a nearby hospital equipped with trained personnel.

The expression “we sit on the shoulders of giants” is applicable. The specific giants are Robert Staughton Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd. The work in question is the cultural anthropology classic Middletown: A Study in Modern American Culture, published in 1929.

The Lynds objective in studying Middletown (an idealized construct they had preferred to be anonymous but was Muncie, Indiana then a town of 30,00) was “to present a dynamic, functional study of the contemporary life of this specific American community in the light of trends of changing behaviour observable in it during the last thirty-five years.”

The objective of this white paper is to codify the research I have done on being mobility disabled since I first lost the ability to walk in 1994 to now 2017. The Lynds struggled with the notion of objectivity as I do now. They wrote of “the danger, never wholly avoidable, of not being completely objective in viewing a culture in which one’s life is imbedded [sic], of falling into the old error of starting out, despite oneself, with emotionally weighted presumptions and consequently failing ever to get outside the field one set out so bravely to objectify and study…”

For the Lynds, what made their study a cultural anthropology classic was their ability to approach Muncie, Indiana with the dispassion one associates with an anthropologist studying a remote tribe in the Sandwich Islands. For me dispassion was made possible by my there-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I self-preservation perspective that has made it possible for me to live in an independent living facility for the past eight years that houses 93 people on eight floors.

The Borough of State College, PA (where I live) with a population of 40,00 is comparable in size to the community the Lynds studied in the 1920s. The isolation of an independent living facility housing the elderly (a minimum age of 55 an actual age considerably older) and the disabled (physically and emotionally) makes clear the contempt society at large has for those of us who make the triple error of being elderly, disabled, and of low-income.

As with the Lynds, I had researchers assisting me. Unlike the Lynds, my fellow researchers have been neighbors and friends many of whom have died or been relocated to even more isolating warehouses (i.e. independent living facilities).

Figure 3. This is an all too frequent view from my apartment window.

Below is a photograph of Terry Stuart, a resident of Addison Court, the independent living facility where I live, who died in his bed this summer at his eighth floor apartment.

Figure 4. This photograph of Terry Stuart is by Greg Brown, who owns the copyright. Published with his permission.”










Terry’s sister told me the cause of death was a heart attack. She said the physician indicated that severe dehydration caused the stress on his heart that led to the attack. I suspect  Terry would be alive today if he resided in a place where he were not isolated from the community at large and if the residents of the Borough of State College cared whether he lived or died.

The principles for avoiding a nursing home are in part a consequence of my reflection on how Terry’s death might be avoided. In Terry’s case I suspect that an informed understanding of wellness might have made a considerable difference in outcome. Consider: “Health and Wellness (as defined by the World Health Organization): a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Figure 5. Lilian Hutchinson was my neighbor and friend for over eight years. She is shown here shortly before her 90th birthday. The cast is from a fall she took in her kitchen.

This white paper discusses other principles that if followed might have prevented Lilian Hutchinson shown above from an a situation where she had no choice but to go to a nursing home. It would be easy but incorrect to point to the independent living facility in which we live and assign blame. The reality is that Addison Court does an excellent job of maintenance.

Nevertheless, landlords here and throughout the Borough would benefit from guidance and community support to assist residents continue to remain independent.  Upon examination, I am convinced that other friends and neighbors who no longer reside at Addison Court would benefited had the principles I have generated for the technical paper on renovating existing housing had been applied to their circumstance.


The Lynds write: “A clue to the securing both of the maximum objectivity and of some kind of orderly procedure in such a maze may be found in the approach of the cultural anthropologist. There are, after all, despite infinite variations in detail, not so many major kinds of things that people do. Whether in an Arunta village in Central Australia, or in our own seemingly intricate institutional life of corporations, dividends, coming-out parties, prayer meetings, freshmen, and Congress, human behavior appears to consist in variations upon a few major lines of activity: getting the material necessities for food, clothing, shelter; mating; initiating the young into the group habits of thought and behavior; and so on. ”

The organization of this white paper follows the organizational arrangement of Middleton which follows the six main-trunk activities listed below.

The Lynds write: “This study, accordingly, proceeds on the assumption that all the things people doing this American city may be viewed as falling under one or another of the following six main-trunk activities:

  • Getting a living.
  • Making a home.
  • Training the young.
  • Using leisure in various forms of play, art, and so on.
  • Engaging in religious practices.
  • Engaging in community activities.”


Following the Lynds’ model:

Getting a living

While an effort will be made to make clear at certain points variant behavior within these two groups [professional and working class], it is after all this division into working class and business class that constitutes the outstanding cleavage in Middletown.

The mere fact of being born upon one or the other side of the watershed roughly formed by these two groups is the most significant single cultural factor tending to influence what one does all day long throughout one's life; whom on marries; when one gets up in the morning; whether one belongs to the Holy Roller or the Presbyterian Church; or drives a Ford or a Buick; whether one's daughter makes the desirable high school Violet Club; or one's wife meets with the Sew We Do Club or with the Arts Students' League; whether one belongs to the Old Fellows or to the Masonic Shrine; whether one sits about evenings with one's necktie off; and so on indefinitely throughout the daily comings and goings of a Middletown man, woman, or child.

Income or more specifically the absence of adequate income is the primary reason this paper exists at all. It would be an oversimplification to say that were income not a question, a room-by-room guide to renovating existing housing for a mobility disability would not require amplification. The amplification provided here is the understanding that renovation is not adequate if it does not encompass the neighborhood in which the renovated house is situated.


In 2000, I moved into a brand new apartment complex in San Jose, California. It was in the Japantown section. The grocery across the street sold fresh octopus.

Unlike 90 percent of new housing in the US my apartment was wheelchair accessible. I could scoot to the 100 year old Buddhist temple two blocks away.

To pay the expensive rent, I worked for three start up companies. Initially, money was flowing like water. At one there were elaborate nightly Indian dinners. Then the bubble burst. One hundred percent Hawaii coffee became Columbia. None of my employers –established to produce software produced anything. To use the term vaporwear would be unfair. To call the albeit demanding work anything else would be untrue. As the bubble burst, my landlord raised the rent. Bye bye yellow brick road. Bye bye San Jose.


Figure 6. In my 20 years as a paraplegic, the most appropriate housing within an accessible neighborhood was San Jose, California. [Note my appreciation of the Financial Times, which may very well be the best English-language newspaper in the world Additional copyright information forthcoming.]

This is the source for my income.



Isadora Duncan entered my life in the late 1990s. This was a period of significant change. I lost the ability to run; then walk, as a result of spinal damage caused by radiation treatment that cured me of cancer. While my physicians were deciding on a form of treatment (that did not work), I tripped over my feet and fell against the sofa dislocating my right shoulder. At the same time, the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina, where I lived, suddenly moved from prosperity to dearth, and I could not find work as a technical writer.


Making a home.

Background: Let us start with renovating one’s dwelling place with the clear understanding that what may be required is renovating one’s neighborhood and beyond.


This is the house in which I lived when I lost the ability to walk in 1995.


This is the house where I lived when I lost the ability to walk in 1994.


Suddenly in 1994, I lost the ability to walk. I tripped over my toes dislocating my shoulder. This photograph taken in 2016 shows permanent damage to my right shoulder. Had my residence been renovated appropriately to accomodate my mobility disability, I would not have experienced 23 years of pain with limitations on my ability to use my right arm. Alicia J. Spence, physical therapist at Phoenix Rehab, State College, PA says failure to stretch this shoulder on a daily bais could result in the loss of my ability to dress myself. Photograph by John Harris.

Training the young.



Using leisure in various forms of play, art, and so on.

Note: “So on” is a euphemism for sex.


Engaging in religious practices.

Psalm 146King James Version (KJV)

146 Praise ye the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul.

While I live will I praise the Lord: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.

Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.

His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.

Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God:

Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever:

Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. The Lord looseth the prisoners:

The Lord openeth the eyes of the blind: the Lord raiseth them that are bowed down: the Lord loveth the righteous:

The Lord preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and widow: but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down.

10 The Lord shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye the Lord.


Engaging in community activities.”


Demographics: The special nature of the “Baby Boomer” generation

Regardless of age, there is a housing crisis for individuals with mobility disabilities. This crisis also includes elderly residents of existing housing desirous of continuing to live independently (popularly referred to as “aging in place”) who are concerned about the likelihood of developing a mobility disability.

Dr. Stanley K. Smith, Professor of Economics and Director of the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida, writes: “A survey of Americans aged 45 and older found that nearly one-fourth of the respondents thought it likely that they or someone in their household would have difficulty getting around in their homes within the next five years.”

The nature of the current housing crisis from a disability perspective is four-fold.

  1. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Census estimated there were 35 million Americans aged 65 and older.
  2. Since 2010, the first members of the largest generation in U.S. history has begun to retire—the “Baby Boomers” born after World War II—and there are 76 million of them. They are currently retiring at the rate of 10,000 a day for the next twenty years.
  3. Over 90 percent of U.S. housing stock is not wheel chair accessible making independent living especially difficult for the nine percent of the American people currently with mobility disabilities and the considerable increase in mobility disabilities expected as the population ages.
  4. Current independent living housing stock has already been limited even before the Baby Boomers began retirement. The alternative to independent living; namely, currently overpopulated assistive living in, for the most part nursing homes, results in considerably higher health care costs and limits the ability of residents to develop their talents


Chapter One: Introducing Housing Renovations for Individuals with Mobility Disabilities focuses on what appears to be the ideal situation; namely, involving the clients directly in the process of making the critical decisions about renovating their own homes. The authors decided the most helpful example of the kind of home to be remodeled would be a single or two-story detached residence for one individual or for a family. The photograph below used throughout this report shows what is intended to portray the “generic home.”

This home was chosen because it is representative of much of the housing stock in the United States. As a consequence of the “Baby Boom” following World War II, the U.S. experienced dramatic demographic changes. By 1970 most of the population shifted from cities to suburbs. As a consequence, suburban detached housing such as the one depicted here provides a familiar representation of the kind of residence a significant number of U.S. residents own when the issue of mobility arises.

The ideal situation for renovation is for the individual who becomes disabled or plans for the future to make the critical renovation decisions for oneself. Within the architectural, engineering, and construction (AEC) community it is commonplace to take direction from the client. In doing so, professionals in the building industry present clients with information useful for making decisions. Certainly, if one plans to live in a redesigned residence for a number of years, it is preferable to live in a residence that suits one’s own requirements and taste.

All too often reality interferes with that ideal. Yes, there are individuals who plan for the future who do serve as clients and this report is directed to them. Unfortunately, all too often plans to renovate come as a consequence of a disabling injury or a disease event. A caregiver, who may be a may be a family member or a social worker, or someone else, must make the decisions normally reserved for the client. In addition to clients, this report is also directed toward caregivers. [Involved in disability renovation are a wide-variety of stakeholders including disability equipment and access specialists, building contractors, architects, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) counselors, and healthcare officials.]

Chapter One begins with an overview of available housing for disabled and elderly individuals in the United States before discussing the specifics of renovating existing housing which is the central theme of this report. These specifics include:

  • the magnitude of decisions involved with renovating existing housing
  • the long-term impact on clients of decisions that must be made
  • how caregivers can most effectively obtain input from clients
  • guidance for evaluating whether the client’s residence can be effectively remodeled for a multi-year period of independent living or whether a new housing environment would be preferable.

Chapter Two: Guidelines for Renovation focuses on how to evaluate the priorities involved in making renovation decisions. Involved throughout this kind of renovation are such issues as avoiding falling (transferring, for example, from bed to wheelchair can pose a significant risk) and obtaining access both within the house and without. Here readers are encouraged to evaluate renovation priorities including issues related to trade offs (between what is realistic given budgetary and other considerations).

The remaining chapters take the reader from outside the house to within all the rooms, including when the residence has a second floor. Readers are encouraged to think of these chapters as the core of this report which is essentially a how-to-do-it guide using photographs and text, for example, on how to access the second floor.

Appendix One provides recommendations on future studies. Appendix Two lists resources helpful in the renovation process, such as a listing of suppliers of ramps and grab bars.

The report incorporates significant findings in peer review literature such as a disability study on the grief process after one loses the ability to walk. This has significance because all too often grief may result in limited input from the client during a period when critical decisions are being made by proxy. The report also incorporates the work of relevant institutions such as the Fall Prevention Center of Excellence.


The authors provide readers with access to a range of experience from the details of disabilities to a broad perspective on the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) community. Co-author Joel Solkoff, research assistant at the Department of Architectural Engineering of The Pennsylvania State University, lives in an independent living facility for the elderly and disabled and provides his expertise on how to live independently and be unable to walk at the same time.

Co-author Dr. Ali Momari is Chairman of the Pennsylvania Housing and Research Center. As the Bernard and Henrietta Hankin Chair of Residential Construction, Department of Architectural Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Memari’s course work includes building envelopes. Indeed, Dr. Memari is Director of the Building Envelopes Research Laboratory. Dr. Momari’s focus on issues of significance to the AEC community provides a macro view of the housing industry.


Defining Mobility Disability

Residents requiring a house that allows them to live independently may have differing levels of functionality. At one end, the resident may have difficulty walking but does not find it necessary to use a cane. At the other extreme, the resident may be unable to move from bed to wheel chair without the use of a crane that lifts her or him off the bed (toilet, etc.)

The following video displays the value of expert assistance in mastering independence.


Aging in Place

This white paper focuses on the euphemistic academic term “aging in place.” It discusses the issues involved. Certainly, it appears to be desirable to die in the same house one has lived in for a number of years. Doing so, may be a luxury given the paucity of adequate housing stock (most especially in central Pennsylvania) and the broader issues a disabled resident faces in the United States where the majority of Baby Boomers, the most relevant demographic, reside. The majority of Baby Boomers reside in the suburbs as do most of the U.S. population. In the aftermath of World War II and the concomitant prosperity that resulted, the country shifted the concentration of its population from cities to suburbs.

A large majority of suburban residents are dependent upon driving their own automobiles to maintain the quality of their lives. For many of the physically disabled driving an automobile is out of the question or soon will be. Urban areas offer public transportation not always available in suburbs.


Two Useful Concepts

Two concepts are requisite for designing a home in which a resident with a physical disability can live independently.

Experienced-based design

  1. Architectural design must be implemented employing “experience-based design principles.” These principles codified in academic literature have swept the architectural community. Increasingly, architects [enshrined with American Institute of Architecture (AIA) credentials] have evolved from the iconographic concept of architect as genius, perhaps best personified by Frank Loyd Wright.

Wright eschewed the notion his clients should determine architectural designs for which they paid him a fee. Wright was noted for regarding his client’s homes as his own. Years after his homes had been constructed, he continued the practice of barging in –reproving the residents for living in their homes in a manner he regarded as reflecting poorly on his aesthetics, and forcing them by the power of his personality to change the way they lived.


“Evidence-based design, which bases design decisions on the best available current research evidence, is gaining traction among architects. Expanding the field from its origins in healthcare to other building types such as education, criminal justice, commercial, industrial, and places of worship, this book introduces design professionals to the concept of evidence-based design and its use in the creation of high performance environments. It focuses on the methods by which design professionals and their clients can create better buildings by critically interpreting the implications of credible research and careful observation of completed projects. Drawing a direct link between evidence and application, the authors provide examples of credible research that supports evidence-based design are presented, as well as specific applications and case study examples.”
–Christine McEntee, Executive Vice President/Chief Executive Officer, The American Institute of Architects


2. Medical brain research and aging. Recent medical research indicates that medical acuity can continue to be productive despite traditional and mythological theories relating to the disabled and attributing senility in the aging process. Dr. Norman Doidge has popularized the research in The Brain’s Way of Healing and other work. Dr. Doidge asserts that for the disabled and the elderly the keys to keeping one’s brain alert are a combination of physical exercise and learning new subjects (as opposed to such practice as “coasting” on what one has learned.



Audience for this white paper and related genres, e.g.: Technical paper readers, Builder brief readers

Today, the architectural community has become seemingly more modest in its aspirations. Meanwhile, it is useful to focus on the client base for redesigning existing housing to make a home a locus for independent living for the physically disabled.

My generation born after World War II is the largest generation in U.S. history.

“As everyone returned home from the war, the housing situation was not merely tight, it was a crisis,” writes Pulitzer Prize winner David Halberstam in his landmark book The Fifties.

“Some 50,000 people were reportedly living in Army Quonset huts. In Chicago it was so bad that 250 used trolley cars were sold as homes. Estimates placed the number of new houses that would be needed immediately at over 5 million. A federal housing bill was rushed through….The stored up energy of two decades was unleashed. In 1944 there had been only 114,000 new singles houses started, by 1946 that figure had jumped to 937,000; to 1,118,000 in 1948, and 1.7 million in 1950.”

The shift from the population from cities suburbs created a great need for automobiles because living in the suburbs required such transportation. Detroit’s auto industry flourished. When the kiss took place, the price of a gallon of gas was 21 cents. In 1972, I paid 25 cents a gallon for gas. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “The projection for the average retail price in 2015 is $3.38 per gallon.”

1970, the demographics of the United States had changed substantially. No longer did most of the United States population live in cities. By 1970, most of our population had shifted to the suburbs to detached one and two-story homes. Two cars were essential for a working couple with children involved with activities all over town—soccer, baseball, dramatic clubs.

A subtheme of this white paper is the importance of destroying the suburbs. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist David Halberstam describes in The Fifties the significant changes that have taken place in my lifetime—changes that anyone in the architecture, engineering, and communications community must take into account because these changes, for reasons I will continue to reiterate in future columns, must be reversed in a massive demographic shift not seen since 1945.

From all available evidence, the AEC community seems oblivious to this reality and the benefits to U.S. and global society.

Let’s take a sample from Halberstam’s account on how we as a population made the dangerous mistake of moving to the suburbs, dangers to be elucidated:

“What was taking place was nothing less than the beginning of massive migration from the cities to the farmland that surrounded them. Starting in 1950 and continuing for the next thirty years, eighteen of the nation’s twenty-five top cities lost population. At the same time, the suburbs gained 60 million people. Some 83 percent of the nation’s growth was to take place in the suburbs.”


I. The Experience I Bring as a Paraplegic to Housing Design

A. Is desirable achievable?

There is much discussion in academia regarding “aging in place.” Clearly, since we all die, it is desirable to expire in a place where one feels at home. The first principle for designing an aging in place home is to move.  I will explain at length below because knowing how to renovate is as important as appraising the economic value of doing so and recognizing that where the disabled and elderly reside requires is requires a larger view of the community where the home is cited.


B. Home Community Relationship

In October I celebrated my 69th birthday in the hospital. I also celebrated my 68th birthday in the hospital.

Relevance to housing:


After a three-year effort, I finally was able to control chronic pain without medication. The effort to have a spinal stimulator surgically implanted was the final answer to the critical question: Would I be able to avoid being forced into a nursing home?


C. Priority: Avoid being forced into a nursing home

How to avoid being forced into a nursing home is central to understanding the concept of aging in place. I have been co-authoring with Dr. Ali Memari a technical paper on how to design independent living housing for the mobility disabled. The paper will be published (fingers crossed) on the website of the Pennsylvania Housing Research Center. Here:


Key question

At what point does an independent living house become a realistic expenditure of resources or not?


C. Independent living: Dangers

Most people die in hospitals and nursing homes—not in the houses they lived in before their physical bodies failed them and were redesigned to meet their disability requirements.

The signs that independent living is no longer achievable are:

• Frequent falls
• Incontinence
• Infections that cannot be treated at home
• Failure to take one’s medication
• Inability to prepare meals or feed oneself
• Malaise that exceeds one’s ability to control

How to deal with these issues is the central problem to the question: How do I design my home so I can age in place?
Fortunately, I have thus far “mastered” [arrogance thy name is Joel] the lesson learned 22 years ago when I lost the ability to walk. Twenty-two years ago, in denial that I could not walk, I fell frequently. After dislocating my shoulder and becoming a candidate for surgery, I learned how to stop falling.

In the past three years the other issues bullet-ed here have been the focal point of my personal and academic concerns. Most especially this was the case when I found myself in diapers and wondered how long could I maintain an independent living presence?

Fortunately, I persevered

In the interim, I have obtained academically respectable allies in the form of physicians, nurses, occupational and physical therapists. Following surgery in October, for example, my nurse at Medi-Home Services provided guidance on how to avoid bacterial infections.

Last year, I nearly died from a contagious MERSA infection originally a consequence of being in a hospital. Now MERSA contagion is a consequence of residing in facilities for the elderly.

My chapter on the kitchen has been enhanced by occupational therapists—primarily my occupational therapist at HealthSouth Physical Rehabilitation at Pleasant Gap.

HealthSouth has been a major resource—not only for incorporating activities of daily living into kitchen design. It also has provided guidance on how to handle medication. Failure to take medication is the primary cause of hospitalization.

Meanwhile, my home medical care occupational therapist has been helpful in suggesting appropriate equipment for physical exercise—indispensable for maintaining independence. Also indispensable is the ability to earn income.

The absence of money is the root of all evil I have become convinced.

For the elderly and disabled, the cost of vitality is beyond the means of our savings or health care plans. Most significantly, Medicare does not pay dental costs. Our hospital emergency rooms (Mount Nittany Medical Center included) are filled with patients experiencing uncontrolled pain as a consequence of being unable to see a dentist.

Inadequate dental clinics for the poor (including the one in State College area) are incapable of providing even basic care. Private dental care is expensive. A resident in an independent living facility must earn extra income or face the loss of independence—not only dental but other costs of maintenance.

Hence, the house I would like to renovate contains office space. Here in central Pennsylvania high-speed Internet service may be difficult to come by. Without adequate Internet service, public transportation, and other amenities, the first rule for renovating a house when one becomes disabled must be: Move.

D. Independent living: Encouragement

Only recently did the last ingredient missing from my work to date appear.

It is not enough merely to avoid falls, incontinence, infection, and other sorrows. There must be a positive reason for living–something that lifts us—most especially the disabled—from the difficulties of day-to-day.

For some it is spirituality for others music and art. Whatever, the problem academically is incorporating that perspective appropriately.

Fortunately, a friend brought to my attention this peer review article.
Primary author Heather Stuckey (a Penn State medical researcher) begins with a United Nations definition of wellness that is critical. Her observations regarding the role of music and art to help avoid sickness and malaise is critical. I will be writing Heather Stuckey shortly for advice on incorporating her findings into the PHRC technical paper.

Also in this category accentuating the positive is love including physical.

“Cancer and its treatments can have an impact on your sexual health, whether you are a man or a woman. These changes can affect people physically and emotionally, decreasing interest in sexual activity as well as self-confidence.

“To help you take action and address sexual health issues related to cancer, Memorial Sloan Kettering offers personalized, multidisciplinary support services and therapies for men and women. Our team of doctors, nurses, social workers, and psychologists is experienced in treating the specific sexual health concerns triggered by cancer and its treatments.”

“Sexual health is important at any age. And the desire for intimacy is timeless. While sex may not be the same as it was in your 20s, it can still be very fulfilling. Discover which aspects of sexual health are likely to change as you age — and how you and your partner can adapt.”


II. Overview: Wheel-chair Access in the U.S.




Related photographs and videos at first posted here prior to order being established


On Tuesday, July 12, 2015, Leyla Skeylar, my physical therapist, took this photograph of me. An independent living home requires suitable


Occupational Therapist Diann Dougherty helps me understand how ADLs can be useful in my writing a chapter on designing a kitchen. Shown here the wheel chair accessible stove at HealthSouth’s Rehabilitation Hospital at Pleasant Gap, PA. The specially designed lower burners make preparing meals considerably easier.



III. Academically respectable guidance



IV. Designing a Home for Mobility Independence

Who is in charge of the design?

You are.




Kitchen design based on activities of daily living

[Appreciation to Dr. Sonali Kumar, who provided coffee.]

“A usage narrative, or just narrative, is a concrete scenario that reveals the motivations and intentions of various actors. It is used as a warm-up activity to reading or writing use cases.

“In requirements writing, scenarios are sometimes written using placeholder terms like ‘customer’ and ‘address’ for actors and data values. When it is necessary that these be distinguished from concrete scenarios, they can be called general scenarios.”

–Writing Effective Use Cases[1]


Usage Narrative: Making Coffee

Actor: Disabled resident

Location: Kitchen area of apartment.

[Subset of Apartment inside; subset of Apartment inside and out.]


  • Preparation of meals:

1)      Breakfast

2)      Lunch

3)      Dinner

Breakfast consists of providing:

  1. Coffee
  • Coffee actions:

1)      Coffee pot

2)      Coffee pot sits on counter

3)      Water

4)      From water faucet

5)      Coffee

6)      From cabinet

7)      Cup

8)      From cabinet

9)      When ready, put coffee pot and cup on dining room table.

10)   Replace coffee to cabinet.

11)   Wipe counter clean.

  1. Juice
  2. Toast
  3. Eggs
  4. Potatoes

After breakfast cleanup involves:


  1. Dishes
  2. Coffee pot
  3. Pans

Return to storage areas.



  1. On June  3, 1922 Winston Churchill created the genre known as “white paper” with this publication:
  2. Paul Carls
  3. Writing Effective Use Cases by Alistair Cockburn






Doidge, Norman (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself, Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science. New York, NY. Penguin Books.

Durkheim, Émile (1897; 2006 translation). On Suicide. Trans. Robin Buss. London, England. Penguin Books.

Gratz, Roberta Brandes (2010). The Battle for Gotham, New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs. New York, N.Y. Nation Books.

Hamilton, D. Kirk & Watkins, David H. Watkins (2009). Evidence-Based Design for Multiple Building Types. Hobokin, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Jacobs, Jane (1961). The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York, N.Y. Vintage Books.

Keesing, Roger M. (1976). Cultural Anthropology, A Contemporary Perspective. New York, N.Y. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

Kottak, Conrad Phillip (20080. Cultural Anthropology, Twelfth Edition. New York, N.Y. McGraw-Hill.

Kunstler, James Howard (1993). Geography of Nowhere, The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-Made Landscape. New York, N.Y. Simon & Schuster.

Lynd, Robert S. and Lynd, Helen Merrell (1929). Middletown, A Study in Modern American Culture. New York, N.Y. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Riesman, David; Glazer, Nathan and Denney, Reuel (1950). The lonely crowd : a study of the changing American character. New Haven, CT. Yale University Press.

Solkoff, Joel (1981). Learning to Live Again, My Triumph Over Cancer. New York, N.Y. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.







Internet citations




Joel Solkoff, Adjunct Research Assistant, Department of Architectural Engineering, Penn State, University Park, PA, [email protected]  814-689-9363