How I Celebrated My Seventieth Birthday in Segregated State College, PA

 This is what a “wheel chair accessible” restaurant looks like in segregated State College PA.

 Video by Emily Hartsay

Cafe Verve received an operating license from Walt Schneider, head of code for the PA Centre County Council of Governments. To receive the license, the restaurant was required to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Specific enforcement of ADA in this instance was defined by Commonwealth building code which establishes public access requirements. As a restaurant seating 50 or fewer people, Cafe Verve was required to spend $4,000 to meet the disability-friendly requirements in the building code. The restaurant decided to spend twice that sum making the bathroom in the restaurant wheel chair accessible and paying for a sign saying so. However, the restaurant was not required to make the entrance wheel chair accessible.

After crawling into the restaurant, I required a wheel chair to get to the bathroom.

In February, I called Walt Schneider to ask for an explanation. On May first, I met him at a meeting of the Bellefonte Borough Council. There, Walt promised to get back to me in two weeks to explain why the Cafe received an operating license.

On August 17th, Walt finally got back to me with the answer. The answer is that the restaurant was required to meet Commonwealth and Borough of State College regulations on accessibility for public accommodation. However [repetition is good for the soul], while Cafe Verve was required to make accommodations, the restaurant was not required to make the entrance accessible. Exclamation point.

At that occasion, there was a still-ongoing Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission formal complaint against the seven “liberal” members of the Borough Council of State College [see Phil Ochs] for disability discrimination in public accommodations and housing, Walt promised to get back to me “soon” so I could institute a voluntary discussion with the owners to resolve the issue. I had hoped to negotiate with Freddie Irani, one of the proprietors (and with the others whose names he agreed to provide) so I could celebrate on October 12th my seventieth birthday as a mensch. Walt pulled a Waldo again.
Because the restaurant provided a wheel-chair accessible bathroom, the Borough of State College authorized Walt Schneider to issue an operating license. Had the seven members of the Borough Council been doing their job and had Walt Schneider done his, they would have requested the proprietor voluntarily put the horse before the cart and make the entrance accessible. Failing that, they would have requested the Commonwealth legislature to revise the statute to allow reason to prevail. I have requested Rep. Scott Conklin to correct this oversight.
 My plan was to celebrate my birthday with my two vegetarian daughters and my one-year old granddaughter in the new vegetarian restaurant that had just opened across the street from my apartment. Instead of driving my Amigo mobility device into the front door, the government of State College required me to crawl. Consequently, I adapted Lesley Gore’s classic and sang, “It’s My Party and I’ll Crawl if I Want To.”

–Joel Solkoff, Disability Advocate

ENRIQUE IGLESIAS plucks an adoring fan from the audience, sings with her on stage as she and he take cell phone photos


It is a two-hour and twenty-minute flight from Miami to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic,-69.9083572/1103+Biscayne+Blvd,+Miami,+FL+33132/@22.0713164,-79.5428848,6z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m8!4m7!1m0!1m5!1m1!1s0x88d9b41de240e5bb:0x48cccb2becbd415b!2m2!1d-80.186286!2d25.7860641

Joel’s commentary: Last night, I had coffee with John Harris my neighbor and friend. John suggested if I want to learn Spanish, I sing Spanish songs. Promptly, a YouTube search of Spanish songs brought me to Enrique Iglesias.

Enrique Iglesias has a substantial portion of real estate on YouTube. His cross over into English dominates the site. Vevo videos, always a sign of quality, have sensuous videos with women so beautiful it can break your heart. But the songs are in English.

The Spanish songs are organized willy-nilly. Iglesias’ voice, always engaging, appears behind a static background. You don’t go to YouTube to see a photo. You go to YouTube for video and great video. Finally, I found: ENRIQUE IGLESIAS EN EL ESTADIO OLIMPICO. VERANO PRESIDENTE. 2 DE SEPTIEMBRE 2011. MASVIP.COM.DO.

Naturally, I provide basic flight information showing a Google Map of a flight from Miami to the Dominican Republic were you to go back in time and attend the concert.

The video is astonishing, an adjective I seldom use because it is hard to know what astonishing means. The video begins with a sweaty t-shirt and jean clad Iglesias going into the audience and hugging several luscious young women. This goes on for some time amid the sound of female fans howling with delight, reminiscent of Elvis Presley’s iconic appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. Great fun.

Iglesias plucks Rena out of the crowd. She is wearing a black tank top and white shorts. Rena cannot contain her delight as she and Iglesias go on stage. He briefly interviews her, asks her what song she wants him to sing, sings it while she mouths the words. Iglesias is engaging, charismatic, just plain wonderful with her.

He sings, passes the microphone to her but she refuses to sing several times until finally…. During the performance she is constantly taking photographs of Iglesias, showing them to him which he looks at in appreciation, and then he takes photos of the two of them together.


As to why I am trying to learn Spanish, there are two reasons which I will elaborate in eccentrically multiple items:

  1. My daughter Amelia who has been living in Pontevedra, Spain is planning to visit me in State College PA to celebrate the arrival of 2015 and take part in my community’s First Night Celebration. This is a link to last year’s celebration. Amelia will be arriving with her friend Javier who is a sergeant in the Spanish Army.
  2. I last saw Amelia nearly a year ago, viz.: October 5 in Mebane, North Carolina for her sister and my daughter Joanna’s wedding to Jade Phillips.
  3. During Amelia’s multi-month sojourn to the U.S. last year, she also took a course in medical Spanish at her alma mater [ which means “nourishing mother”] UNC Ashville and took care of me before, during, and after my major and successful kidney cancer surgery in NYC, rooming with me at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge.

[Note: Commentary to be resumed after I go out and purchase coffee. All out. An apartment without coffee is a terrible place.]


Back from scooting to the store, going in the opposite direction of crowds of eager football fans en route to Penn State’s Homecoming game. We start again with my two reasons for learning Spanish with another lengthy list:

 Beginning with muñeca cruel video, Spanish lyrics, English lyrics, and Iglesias’ official site:

muñeca cruel


Spanish lyrics:

Un dia mas y tu no estas aqui
No me concentro tan solopienso enti Dicen que basta
Que es hora de vivir
y es imposible
Ves lo quequeda de mi Aqui esta mi cuerpo
Para que hagas lo que quieras de el Aqui esta mi alma
Para quesigasensanandote Aqui esta mi nombre
Para quepongas a sulado unacruz Aqui esta el final
De mis suenos escrito en tu papel
Muneca Cruel Aqui esta mi sangre
Que aun se altera cuando
mehablen detiAqui esta por fin mi futuro
Y tu no estas en el
Muneca CruelVuelve a llover
Todo me sienta mal
Salgo a buscarte
No se como empezarHago que duermo
Porque no quiero hablar
Mira mi vida
Es un desastre totalAqui esta mi cuerpo
Para que hagas lo que
quieras de elAqui esta mi alma
Para que sigas ensanandoteAqui esta mi nombre
Para que pongas a su lado una cruzAqui esta el final
De mis suenos escrito en tu papel
Muneca CruelAqui esta mi sangre
Que aun se altera cuando
me hablen de tiAqui esta por fin mi futuro
Y tu no estas en el
Muneca Cruel

English lyrics:

Cruel Doll
Another day and you’re not here
I can’t concentrate I only think of you

They say that’s enough
That’s its time to live
And it’s impossible
Do you see what you left of me?

Here is my body
For you to do with what you want with it

Here is my soul
For it continues to follow you

Here is my name
So you can put a cross beside it

Here is the end of my dreams
Written on your paper
Cruel Doll

Here is my blood
Though it jumps when they
speak of you

Here at last is my future
And you’re not in it
Cruel Doll

The rain comes again
Everything feels bad
I go to find you
I don’t know how to begin

I sleep
because I don’t want to speak
Look at my life
it’s a total disaster

Here is my body
For you to do with what
you want with it

Here is my soul
For it continues to follow you

Here is my name
So you can put a cross beside it

Here is the end of my dreams
Written on your paper
Cruel Doll

Here is my blood
Though it jump when they
speak of you

Here at last is my future
And you’re not in it
Cruel Doll



Enrique Iglesias

His name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Iglesias and the second or maternal family name is Preysler.

English /ɛnˈrk ɪˈɡlɛsiəs/; Spanish pronunciation: [enˈrike iˈɣlesjas]) (born May 8, 1975), simply known as Enrique Iglesias, is a Spanish singersongwriter, actor, and record producer.

Iglesias started his career in the mid-1990s on an American Spanish Language record label Fonovisa which helped turn him into one of the biggest stars in Latin America and the Hispanic Market in the United States becoming the biggest seller of Spanish-language albums of that decade.

By the turn of the millennium he made a successful crossover into the mainstream market and signed a multi-album deal with Universal Music Group for an unprecedented US $68,000,000 with Universal Music Latino to release his Spanish albums and Interscope to release English albums.

In 2010, he parted with Interscope and signed with another Universal Music Group label, Universal Republic Records.

In late 2012, Republic Records was revived after eleven years of being dormant, shuttering Universal Republic Records and taking all the artists from that label to Republic Records, including Iglesias.

In 2001, he released his single Hero, which he later performed to commemorate the victims of the 9/11attacks.

Iglesias has sold more than 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the best selling Spanish language artists of all time.

He has had five Billboard Hot 100 top five singles, including two number-ones, and holds the record for producing 25 number-one Spanish-language singles on theBillboard‘s Hot Latin Tracks.

He has also had 13 number-one songs on Billboard’s Dance charts, more than any other single male artist.

Altogether, Iglesias has amassed more than 70 number-one rankings on the various Billboardcharts. Billboard has called him The King of Latin Pop andThe King of Dance.



Hero” is a single released by Enrique Iglesias from his second English albumEscape and was written by Iglesias, Paul Barry and Mark Taylor. Iglesias first released the song to radio in early September 2001 to a positive critical and commercial reception.

After theSeptember 11 attacks on theWorld Trade Center, the song was one of the few songs chosen by radio DJs in New York to be remixed with audio from police, firefighters, civilians at Ground Zero and politicians commenting on the attacks. He was asked to sing the song live at the benefit concert America: A Tribute to Heroes ten days after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Iglesias broadcast his performance from a warehouse in New York alongside Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, and Sheryl Crow. The location of the warehouse was kept secret in case of further attacks. It was Iglesias’ first televised performance of the song.


Wikipedia on America: A Tribute to Heroes Concert 

America: A Tribute to Heroes was a benefit concert created by the heads of the four major American broadcast networks; FoxABC,  NBC and CBS.

Joel Gallen was selected by them to produce and run the show.

Actor George Clooney organized celebrities to perform and to man the telephone bank.

The marketing and public relations was headed by Warner Bros. EVP Corp Comm with assistance from the marketing and publicity departments of all four broadcast networks. It was broadcast live by the four major American television networks and all of the cable networks in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001.

Done in the style of a telethon, it featured a number of national and international entertainers performing to raise money for the victims and their families, particularly but not limited to the New York City firefighters and New York City police officers. It aired September 21, 2001, uninterrupted and commercial-free. It was released on December 4, 2001 on compact disc and DVD.

On a dark stage illuminated by hundreds of candles, twenty-one artists performed songs of mourning and hope, while various actors and other celebrities delivered short spoken messages.

The musical performances took place at three studios in Los Angeles (CBS Television City), New York, and London, while the celebrity messages took place at Los Angeles.

Some of the musicians including Neil Young and Eddie Vedder were heard working the phone banks taking pledges. The money raised amounted to over $200 million, and was given to the United Way‘s September 11 Telethon Fund.

In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine selected this concert, along with the later The Concert for New York City, as one of the 50 moments that changed rock and roll.


What follows is the YouTube’s  America: A Tribute to Heroes Concert.

Part I which begins, of course, with Bruce Springsteen singing: My City of Ruin (A Tribute to Fallen Heroes)


Following is Enrique Iglesias’ first live television performance: his appearance at the Tribute to Heroes Concert.

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.