By Steve Sears
Livingston resident Sally Cohen was recently honored by the township for her 40 years of service to the Special Needs community.
“I really cannot remember exactly what started the whole ball of wax, but I do recall seeing a notice in the West Essex Tribune asking residents if they had any issues that they would like to address,” recalls Cohen, who along with a few others in 1979 then sought to improve parking and access for the handicapped in town. This group eventually grew into the Livingston Advisory Committee for Disabilities (LACD). “This was something I felt drawn to and I felt that my own story about problems and issues of living with a disability would resonate with other residents. Each person who attended this first meeting had a story, whether about school access, sports, special classes, transportation, job training, parking or other issues for themselves or their families. We then formed an agenda to keep the ball rolling. We delegated subcommittees to research the major problems and report back with potential solutions. Not only that, we also reached out to each other to find new sources of useful information.”
Cohen was notified a few weeks prior to receiving the citation, as it was necessary to find a date that worked for the town council as well as her. That date was Monday, November 18, 2019. “Many of our issues have been resolved, some with the votes of the Councilmen, others with school boards, some by raising awareness of a real problem and others in courtrooms,” affirms Cohen. “The passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act was a monumental assistance in raising awareness of ‘the right thing to do’ Some issues were easy for creative minds; others were more difficult and took much longer.”
The first project the group focused on was getting a ramp constructed at the former town hall building, and then their eyes went to Livingston Mall, seeking to provide handicap accessible parking and restrooms. Saint Barnabas Medical Center and the Livingston Public Library have also become more handicap accessible due to the group’s efforts. Currently the LACD has also branched off into other areas, such as Autism.
The LACD not only benefits people with disabilities, but also helps their families as well. They’re not alone in the loving battle to make things better. To learn more about the group, visit www.livingstonnj.org.
“There is still a lot to do but we are proud that Livingston is a much more accessible place for people to live and raise their families,” says Cohen.
LACD Chairperson Bob Gebroe says of Cohen, “Our mission at the Livingston Advisory Committee for Disabilities is to improve the lives of people with disabilities and their families. Sally Cohen optimizes that quest to achieve our goal as a co-founder and 40-year member of the LACD. Her work with the special needs population has touched many hundreds, if not thousands of people over the years.”