Boston Self Help Center
The Boston Self Help Center, begun in 1978, is a 501(c) 3 non-profit run by and for people with disabilities and chronic illnesses. We are proud of our history providing peer counseling, information and referral, multiple chemical sensitivity training, transportation advocacy and—our most recent addition—sports and recreation information and opportunities. As we move forward into the 21st century, we embrace these five areas in support of ourselves and others with disabilities. We welcome inquiries about our services and encourage people with and without disabilities to contact us for assistance.
- About Us
- About Our Transportation Advocacy Program
- About Our Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Project
- About Our Information and Referral Service
- About Our Peer Counseling Program
- About Our Sports and Recreation Program
We are people with disabilities providing resources and support to others with disabilities and those who want to improve access. We are based in Boston but strive to assist all who see benefit to our services. The following are our specific areas of expertise and interest:
- Transportation Advocacy
- Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
- Information and Referral
- Peer Counseling
- Sports and Recreation
Please explore our services, resources, and accomplishments.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE BOSTON SELF HELP CENTER, EMAIL JIM WICE AT email@example.com.
Boston Self Help Center is supported in part by funding from Community Works.
About Our Transportation Advocacy Program
Early in 2001, Boston Self Help Center launched the RIDE Advocacy Project (RAP), a grassroots community-organizing campaign whose aim was to substantially improve the MBTA's paratransit service, THE RIDE.
RAP was an active BSHC program for over seven years. During that time it had numerous victories, both large and small. For example, RAP was instrumental in bringing the RIDE's poor performance to the attention of both the general public and the MBTA. It was also at RAP's instigation—and stubborn insistence—that THE RIDE underwent a major evaluation for ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance. This helped strengthen the voice of RIDE users in shaping RIDE policies and led to immediate improvements in RIDE service.
Today, BSHC's community-organizing campaign is on hold, but we continue to address the transportation concerns of people with disabilities through the following activities:
- Monitoring AACT (Access Advisory Committee to the T)
- Assisting RIDE users with their questions and concerns about THE RIDE, including supporting them in making their concerns known to the MBTA
- Assisting individuals in applying for THE RIDE
- Explaining paratransit rights to people from both in-state and out
- Advocating for paratransit access for people with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) (see “About Our Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Project”)
- Explaining how MassHealth transportation works, including how to determine eligibility and how to apply.
If you have transportation questions or concerns, feel free to leave a message for us at (617) 277-0080. We will return your call within two business days.
Because of my disabilities, I have trouble expressing myself and a lot of people don't understand me. I feel like you guys really listen to me. Whenever I have a problem, like with THE RIDE or getting other services I need, I just call you and you help me find exactly what I'm looking for.
About Our Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Project
Boston Self Help Center’s Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) Project aims to both ease the lives of those who are living with MCS and help to prevent the illness. We believe that through education and understanding this potentially debilitating condition can be contained and made manageable.
What Is Multiple Chemical Sensitivity?
Not a lot of people know about MCS, but it is a condition that has become more and more prevalent and is interfering with the lives of more and more people. The more prevalent MCS becomes the more likely it is that you, your family, or your friends will be affected by the illness.
Although it is not known exactly why, people with MCS are severely sensitive to a range of common chemicals such as those found in soap, perfume, cigarette smoke, paint, pesticides, automobile exhaust, clothing, and plastics. Many people have some chemical sensitivities; exposure to perfume or cigarette smoke often causes headaches, sore throats, and congestion in otherwise healthy people. In people who have MCS, however, the person reacts adversely to a large number of chemicals and allergens, with the number and type often increasing over time and the symptoms becoming more severe.
MCS can be debilitating, even life-threatening. However, it is also preventable.
What We Do
BSHC's MCS Project provides information and referral services and short-term support to people with concerns about MCS. (See “About Our Information and Referral Service” and “About Our Peer Counseling Program.”) We also give trainings about MCS to both small and large groups. Generally about 1- to 1½-hours in length, these trainings are offered on a sliding fee scale and can be tailored to meet a range of needs.
Recently, Boston Self Help Center has been developing a full-day training about MCS that is geared specifically to paratransit-service providers. Our hope is to make this training available to transportation services throughout the country, principally by means of webinars and a detailed guide.
Secondhand Scent: Accommodating People with MCS
This 36-minute video, available in both VHS and DVD format through Boston Self Help Center, gives basic information about MCS and shows the human side of the illness. It is effective in conveying to family, friends, health-care providers, and co-workers the importance of accommodating people with this very serious condition.
Secondhand Scent is closed captioned and is narrated for access to people with print disabilities. It is available at a cost of $15 to $25 for individuals, $30 to $50 for agencies.
For More Information
If you would like more information about Secondhand Scent, our trainings, or any of the other services that the MCS Project provides, please call our message line at (617) 277-0080. We will return your call within two business days.
I just wanted to tell you what a wonderful, wonderful job Rosemary [BSHC's presenter] did speaking at the [MCS] training this morning. I was so thrilled and impressed by all the information she gave and provided as handouts. It was clear, easy to understand and she commanded control of the audience amazingly.
–Attendee at one of Boston Self Help Center's MCS trainings
About Our Information and Referral Service
People with disabilities and their friends and family call us with their questions when they don't know where else to turn. We take the time to really listen and to understand their concerns. We either answer their questions directly, or we refer them to other organizations that we believe can better serve them.
Here are some examples of the kinds of questions we are asked:
“I have a child with a severe disability, and the electric company says it's going to turn off my power. This would be a terrible situation for me and my child, and I'm really scared. Can you help me?”
“I'm having trouble getting to my medical appointments, and my application for THE RIDE has been rejected. Can you give me advice about what to do?”
“I just learned that I'm chemically sensitive and am overwhelmed about all the changes I have to make in my life. I'm looking for advice and support in dealing with this.”
If you have questions pertaining to disability, whether your own or that of another person in your life, feel free to leave a message on our phone line at (617) 277-0080. Your call will be returned within two business days.
About Our Peer Counseling Program
At Boston Self Help Center, we believe that each of us living with a disability or chronic illness is an expert about our own experiences. We also believe that many of these experiences are widely shared among people with disabilities throughout our culture.
BSHC peer counselors are not psychotherapists or social workers and do not provide any kind of medical or other treatment. Rather, they bring to the peer-counseling setting their expertise as persons living with disabilities. They have also completed our peer-counselor training program, which fosters in them the ability to listen well, give support, and understand the many and complex issues facing others living with a disability or chronic illness.
Boston Self Help Center offers short-term one-on-one peer counseling, as well as peer support groups. What we provide to you depends both on your needs and what we have available when you contact us.
Our Peer Support Groups
Boston Self Help Center has been providing peer-counseling support groups to people with a wide range of disabilities for over 30 years. We generally offer these groups in a cross-disability setting since we find that people with different disabilities and illnesses have many of the same experiences and concerns.
Recently, we have been holding our groups by telephone. This makes it possible for people who cannot easily meet in person to find the support they need. An added bonus is that this enables people from anywhere in the US—and beyond—to participate.
Each BSHC support group is co-led by two peer counselors with extensive experience in facilitating groups. The peer counselors create a safe space for group members to talk about whatever is most important to them. We listen to each others' stories, share successful coping strategies, discuss our rights and resources, and talk about our dreams. In this way, group members learn from each other and develop new connections. We discover we are not alone.
Individual peer counseling and support groups are offered on a sliding fee scale, our minimum fee being $1 per session. Medical insurance does not cover this service.
For More Information
Please call us at (617) 277-0080 and leave a message. We will return your call within two business days.
You have helped me so much with your wisdom and knowledge. I used to feel beaten down by terrible chronic pain and by doctors and counselors who just didn't take me seriously. You really listen to me. You give me the strength to put one foot in front of another—to face the hard stuff. You give me information and advice, I add a little of ‘the spice of Joyce’ to it and then do the legwork. I was battling it all by myself. Now I don't feel so alone.”
Boston Self Help Center has helped me in numerous ways. I'm more accepting of myself and my conditions, which include chronic Lyme, chronic fatigue, and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). I've learned ways to better manage and cope, especially with MCS and its corresponding limitations. I've also received referrals to services and providers. Most of all, I have more confidence and feel more comfortable advocating for myself.
About Our Sports and Recreation Program
There is a wonderful array of sports and recreational activities available to people with disabilities in New England, from sailing and skiing to basketball playing, rock climbing, and kite flying.
However, many of these activities may not be doable by people with certain physical needs—limited upper body mobility, for example. We at Boston Self Help Center have begun identifying sports in which individuals with greater physical needs can participate. Our hope is to turn this research into real and doable opportunities.
Our first such venture is power soccer. On Saturday May 12, 1 to 5 p.m., Boston Self Help Center and the Tobin Community Center hosted a power soccer clinic provided by the US Power Soccer Association. There was no cost to attend the clinic; all that was needed was a power wheelchair. There was a lot of interest, and a group meets periodically at the Tobin Community Center to learn and to practice.
To learn more about power soccer, go to http://www.powersoccerusa.org or http://www.bostonbrakers.com. If you are interested in attending a session, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and phone number.
Power Soccer location:
Tobin Community Center
1481 Tremont Street
Mission Hill, MA 02120
Phone: (617) 635-5216
Fax: (617) 635-5288