Enabled, Not Disabled

The Roosevelt Island Disabled Association (RIDA) continues to be the voice of individuals with disabilities living on Roosevelt Island. We are an independent organization whose mission is to improve and enhance the quality of life for Islanders with mental, physical, or emotional disabilities. Our services include education and outreach to organizations and facilities that can assist our members in living a more independent and socially active life, as well as providing cultural and social programming that encourages members to travel off the Island to attend events and celebrate holidays with others regardless of their ability to pay. Since the disabilities of our members are quite diverse, we try to provide activities and programs geared toward their strengths and abilities.

RIDA’s former president, Jim Bates, who recently passed away, fought to create a world where “people with disabilities were welcomed into all areas of life and not seen as a burden or an afterthought, but important, central, contributing members of society.” I worked with Jim over the last year and a half on that mission and was​ honored to have been asked to take his place when he stepped down last November. He was such an asset to our community, as well as a great advocate for our neighbors with disabilities.

As the new president of RIDA, my goal is to help make the organization more inclusive to all individuals with a disability living on Roosevelt Island, including the younger generation. My experience and knowledge as a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and Licensed Mental Health Counselor has enabled me to work closely with our membership and board recognizing the needs in our community.

In tandem with a fully committed board of directors, we aim to create greater visibility for people with disabilities through increased involvement in Island activities. We encourage community organizations to invite our members to engage and assist in events and meetings. The outcome will be individuals feeling more connected with our community and living happier, more productive lives.

We will be creating a brochure to inform Islanders about our services and we welcome any individual with a disability to become a member of our organization, free of charge. Donations will be accepted. We will continue to collaborate with organizations such as the Carter Burden Senior Center, the Roosevelt Island Residents’ Association and its committees, Do for One (doforone.org), Open Doors (through Coler Hospital), and the Girl Scouts, as well as other Island organizations such as DASH and Island Kids. This year, we will also be scheduling more cultural trips, social gatherings, and events open to the entire Roosevelt Island community, such as Mental Health and Wellness Day, an Assistive Technology event, and an Americans with Disabilities Act event.

For the last 25 years, RIDA has advocated for the Island’s disabled community, including providing input to ensure that businesses are accessible for individuals with disabilities, working to make the Sportspark pool accessible and providing a lift for individuals with disabilities, advocating for the installation of a sloping plane on F train platforms to allow better wheelchair entry, and ensuring wheelchair accessibility for all Island events, meetings, and activities.

We offer holiday meals for individuals with disabilities who do not have families so they feel included in our community. We have also started to have social groups where individuals with disabilities can gather, eat together and interact through music, games, and conversation. Our loan program provides wheelchairs, canes, crutches, and walkers to any Roosevelt Islander on an as-needed basis. We also plan to continue our free monthly outings, using our 15-passenger wheelchair-accessible bus, to places otherwise unavailable to those with disabilities, both within and outside of NYC (Westchester, upstate New York, and Long Island). We hope to increase the outings to three per month.

RIDA also continues to support and advocate for the FDR Hope Memorial, which honors the accomplishments of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and all persons living with disabilities. The memorial, to be placed at Southpoint Park, will include a sculpture of President Roosevelt seated in a wheelchair interacting with a disabled child.

“Roosevelt Island’s housing was first built with the disabled as a priority,” writes Dr. Jack Resnick of the place the disabled have long held in our community. “Specific apartments were specially designed to be accessible for people with disabilities. All of the public and commercial spaces followed suit. Individuals in wheelchairs became part of the essence of all of our lives. Roosevelt Island is a living, breathing memorial to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

“We envision a future in which the environment found on Roosevelt Island – a single, inclusive community composed of people with and without disabilities – becomes the norm for all communities. Our hopes are that it will empower people to break down barriers that inhibit understanding, acceptance, and tolerance of people with disabilities, as well as inspire people with disabilities to discover and enjoy a richer and fuller life, to see that disabilities can be overcome.”

Contributions to the FDR Hope Memorial project can be made by starting a new tribute, at fdrhope.org. It is our hope that granite tribute stones, memorializing the achievements and lives of others with disabilities will be embedded in the FDR Hope Memorial plaza.

To inquire about making a major contribution, please contact Marc Diamond, committee chair, at support@fdrhopememorial.org.

“Enabled, not disabled.” – Jim Bates

Wendy Hersh, President

Roosevelt Island Disabled Assoc.


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