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Speaker Discusses Disabilities With Lynn English Students

Speaker Discusses Disabilities With Lynn English Students

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Published by Laura Maas

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Published by: Laura Maas on Jun 03, 2010
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06/03/2010

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Last modified: Thursday, May 20, 2010 11:41 PM EDT
Speaker discusses disabilities with Lynn Englishstudents
By Laura Paine / The Daily ItemLYNN - The Peer Mediation Group at Lynn EnglishHigh School helped to celebrate the 25th anniversary of World of Difference month by inviting Shari Zakim tospeak to their classmates in an effort to build bridges inthe community.The PMG first heard Zakim speak at the annual Anti-Defamation League Youth conference, where she toldthe story of how she became disabled and thediscrimination she has experienced since that time. Peer mediation and mentoring coordinator Virginia Keenansaid the students "were really taken with her.""She is great," she said. "I think that her age makes a bigdifference. When we were at the ADL, there were 1,000kids in that room and I looked around and made note of how many people were paying attention and how manywere texting. Everybody was really just gripped by her story."Zakim, 23, is the daughter of civil rights activistLeonard P. Zakim and is confined to a wheelchair. Shetold students the story of one New Year's Eve when aTop Cab driver in Allston stopped in front of her, her sister and friend, intending to pick them up, butlocked the doors and refused to give the trio a ride after seeing her wheelchair."The irony of this is that the Top Cab logo is the Leonard P. Zakim-Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge," shewrote in a letter to the city of Boston. "I am Lenny Zakim's daughter. My father stood for civil rights,mutual respect and the equal treatment of all people. I am sure he would have been as furious as wewere at the treatment we received."Since the incident, Zakim has met with Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and other Boston officials todiscuss how city taxi drivers could be more sensitive to passengers in wheelchairs. Now, she isspeaking to youth, which she thinks is a good way to break down barriers."I spoke at the youth conference and some of the teachers were telling me I made an impact on the kidsso I was hoping I would have an impact today," Zakim said. "I feel like there are so many judgmentsmade about people in wheelchairs and the only way to go beyond seeing the disability instead of the person is to talk to kids. I feel like a lot of people are kind of scared when they see someone in awheelchair. So many people offer to help me push or open a door, which I get offended by because Ican do so many things by myself."To that effect, Zakim's advice to the community is to not judge a book by its cover. Shari Zakim spoke to students at Lynn Englishon Thursday. Item photo / Owen O'Rourke

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