Effy Redman reflects on life and resources for people with disabilities.
“On and off through my adult life, I have lived, worked, and spent time in New York City, where the sense of anonymity can be intoxicating. I’ve always returned to the Capital Region, where I have family and roots dating back to high school. Now I’m approaching middle age, in deeper touch with my vulnerabilities (and strengths) as a person with disabilities.”
Resources for People with Disabilities
There are diverse resources available to people with disabilities living in the Capital Region. From services to support and creative expression, Effy Redman explores some favorite resources for people with disabilities.
Effy writes, “I understand that people recognizing you as you walk down the street is not necessarily a bad thing. People in my upstate community have more time to spare, whether for a chat about the weather or personal revelations over cups of tea.”
Reading for a Brighter Tomorrow
Saratoga Springs Public Library is wheelchair-accessible and has a large-print books section. They offer Outreach Services for individuals with disabilities who are homebound. There are online English language learning classes and adult basic literacy classes available. I have spent many hours wandering the SSPL stacks or writing in their study rooms. Disability-related titles on offer include Overcoming Dyslexia, Accessible America: a History of Disability and Design, and From the Periphery: Real-Life Stories of Disability. All lending materials, services, and activities are free of charge.
Ageless in Saratoga
Author, licensed acupuncturist, energy healer, and wellness educator Bridgette Shea offers a variety of therapeutic services at Ageless Acupuncture, including acupuncture and Chinese medicine. She has written two books drawing from her experience–Handbook of Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda and Cultivating Your Microbiome.
From my Chinese medicine appointments with her, I remember Bridgette’s gravitas and compassion. She has a background in ancient healing wisdom rooted in the study of dreams. She brings an individualistic perspective on health. “Perhaps the wisdom to live with optimal health has been within us all along, it’s as unique to each of us as our fingerprint,” Bridgette writes in Cultivating Your Microbiome. To establish a sense of community, Bridgette leads a weekly, Monday Meditation Meet Up online. Session options vary at Ageless. For example, a 75-minute new client acupuncture session is $175. A 60-minute follow-up treatment is $125. A 60-minute wellness consult is $175. A 90-minute remote ageless energy medicine session is $175.
A Touch of the Sacred at One Roof
One Roof was founded in a Victorian house in downtown Saratoga Springs by visionary psychotherapist Dr. Selma Nemer. This holistic health center offers integrative medicine and nutrition, meditation, psychotherapy, a stress reduction program, and more. The setting is serene, supporting deep reflection and healing. One Roof evolved over fifteen years, with the goal of uniting practitioners who wanted to work together. “Healing work can be very enlivening,” Nemer said. “It can also be exhausting and lonely.”
Driving past 58 Henry Street, she found the run down house whose loving restoration she would oversee. Its interior aesthetics reflect the comforting beauty of her vision, the opposite of clinical. Nemer said, “I just always wanted a healing center that felt like home.”
I left my shoes at the front door and padded across bright antique rugs. I sank into a velvet-upholstered chair. I was comforted by the sense of sanctuary. One Roof cross-references clients to related services in the Capital Region whenever appropriate. “Our mission is to be respectful and healing to anyone who crosses our threshold,” Nemer says. There’s an intentional, sacred feeling at One Roof. The price range for services is moderate. The Saratoga Stress Reduction Program and some psychologists/psychotherapists here accept insurance plans. Others offer sliding fee scales. You’ll find more info here.
Freedom by Bus
Among the crucial resources for people with disabilities is accessible, reliable transportation. Committed to sustainability and affordable, accessible transportation, the Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA) serve Albany, Schenectady, Saratoga, and Rensselaer/Troy.
Due to disability, I do not drive. I rely heavily on CDTA buses. I love the mobility and independence riding CDTA buses gives me. Bus exteriors are clearly marked with route numbers and destinations. Inside, riders can look to LED display signs announcing each stop. CDTA’s STAR Program is a special transit program. It’s made available by request to individuals whose disabilities or impairments significantly limit their ability to ride buses on fixed routes. STAR Program operates within a ¾ mile radius of regularly routed buses. For bus riders who need assistance with navigation, trip planning, etc., CDTA offers Travel Training. This is one-on-one support and training for the initial transit experience and onward. Base fare is only $1.50. Seniors and people with disabilities pay a half fare of $0.75. A STAR Program service costs $2.50.
Capital Region Expressive Arts Transformation and Empowerment (C.R.E.A.T.E.)
C.R.E.A.T.E. Community Studios is a 501 c(3) non-profit with spaces in Saratoga and Schenectady. C.R.E.A.T.E.’s mission is to make the expressive arts available to all community members. Process rather than product is the focus.
Executive Director Heather Hutchison (MA, ATR-BC, LCAT) along with art therapists and art educators founded CR.E.A.T.E. to fill the absence of expressive arts in the region. “Historically,” Hutchison writes, “the arts have always been at the forefront of social change.”
Hutchison points out that people at protests often use visual art to demonstrate how they feel about issues. “We pride ourselves on being a safe space,” Hutchison says. “And [we] hear.. time and again from our attendees that when they come to CR.E.A.T.E., they feel accepted for who they are.” One goal is to make the arts widely accessible, particularly to marginalized communities.
The C.R.E.A.T.E. organization offers open-minds and empathy. Through C.R.E.A.T.E., people can tell their stories and be heard. Hutchison with Program Director Aili Lopez (LMHC, ATR) shaped the vision almost a decade ago. “We have a shared vision of believing in the intrinsic healing powers of art and creativity,” Hutchison writes. CR.E.A.T.E. has evolved through their expansion of offerings for people with and without disabilities. including open studio time and groups.
C.R.E.A.T.E in Action
CR.E.A.T.E.has participated in community public arts projects in Schenectady. CR.E.A.T.E. Saratoga shares a space with Living Resources Arts in the thriving Beekman Street Arts District. Many programs are available online. One is an upcoming virtual event called CREATE-A-thon scheduled for February 26 and 27, 2021. To offer “sources of strength and hopefulness” early in the pandemic, CR.E.A.T.E. started a free YouTube series showing projects people could try at home. They also distributed art materials to community partners. Artists and community members were created lawn signs bearing hopeful art and messages. These were installed around Schenectady and Saratoga. “Making art together intrinsically gives us a sense of community and purpose which, in turn, combats feelings of isolation and depression,” Hutchison writes.
“And that’s not even getting into the neuroscience of how the expressive arts create new neuropathways in the brain, raise dopamine levels, and more.” Hutchison writes: “Playing with art materials is how we figure out how to do many things as toddlers and preschoolers. Art is deeply rooted in how we experience ourselves in the world around us. [During the pandemic] we’ve allowed ourselves to play again. This taps into that non-verbal part of ourselves and allows for healing. When we are able to make art collectively and safely, that will bring us back together as a community.” Classes, workshops, and events at CR.E.A.T.E. are either low-cost or free of charge.
Written by: Effy Redman
Effy Redman is a memoirist, educator, and disability advocate living in Ballston Spa, NY. She has published work in the New York Times, Vice, Ravishly, and Chronogram, among other places. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from CUNY Hunter College. Follow Effy on Twitter: @effyredman.