By Karen Gourgey
Ms. Dorothy Cassell, (Dotty) it turns out, was quite well known to members of both the American Council of the Blind of New York, (ACBNY), and Guide Dog Users of New York (GDUNY). Her involvement with blindness and low vision advocacy goes back to the seventy’s. We asked colleagues to remember Dotty; not everyone had specific memories, but to a person, everyone we asked said
–She worked very hard for both organizations.
–She would do anything that was asked of her.
–She had a great sense of humor.
–She was a wonderful hostess.
–She was a fabulous cook!
She and her husband Steve opened their home regularly to members, whether to help to put the ACBNY Newsletter together and send it out, (during that time those quarterly newsletters came out on cassette tape,) or welcoming people for Thanksgiving dinner. One senior member estimated that twenty-five people were fit into that apartment on a regular basis.
In 1989 and ’90, Dotty worked with Mary Ellen Cronin and Jean Mann to create the first set of accessibility requirements for hotels bidding on contracts for ACBNY State Conventions. At this time, the ADA had not been implemented in New York, so requirements included braille signage on doors and in elevators, accessible entrances and exits, (i.e., no steps), and braille hotel materials including menus. Mary Ellen remembers going up to convention hotels early to put braille labels on sleeping room doors! (And she remembers that sometimes, they fell off.)
Dotty and our members at that time modeled accessibility for the community and for the world; they lived the laws that had barely been written. We have the laws now. Here’s hoping we can bring the same energy and creativity to our work today, as a tribute to the work of Dotty and her colleagues and friends.
Postscript from Audrey Schading
As I was pulling together the notes from everyone who had contributed, it occurred to me to check in with Audrey Schading of GNYCB. She, it turns out, did know Dottie. She sent the following: enjoy!
The first time I met Dotty and Steve Cassell was at the 1991 ACBNY convention in Atlantic City. I didn’t know too many people, and she made me feel right at home at the GDUNY luncheon. I then got to know her through GDUNY and saw her socially from time to time with friends! I remember her being a very compassionate, caring person as president of GDUNY. I especially remember her lively recorded GDUNY newsletters where she would share her contemplative, “food for thought” “Dotty dotes” which, I believe the “dotes” was a combination of the word’s anecdotes and notes. Dotty always made everyone feel welcome. She had the knack of immediately drawing everyone into her circle, her story, and her conversation which was very much appreciated. Dotty also did this just by sharing her expressive voice as she read and recorded the GDUNY newsletter on cassette.
Dotty was always the life of the party, singing, telling jokes, always engaging everyone in the conversation. She loved to talk and occasionally, when she thought she might have overshot just slightly, she was known to say, “My mouth is like a refrigerator. It’s always running.”