What you learn from Senior Connection and ‘Your Benefits Count’

Seniors entering LantanaOn June 12th, we held the 19th annual Senior Connection, inviting low vision support group members across Massachusetts for a day-long conference! Seniors arrived at the Lantana in Randolph, dressed in their finest attire, excited to learn useful information about coping with vision loss from experts and each other. If you couldn’t make it to our annual event, tune in to hear the fun facts we learned on tax exemptions, disability placards and accessible voting that could save you time, money and agony!

At “Your Benefits Count,” speakers Kathleen Colleary, Michele Ellicks and Michelle Tassinari updated us on the latest changes made in state agencies MA Department of Revenue, MA Department of Transportation and Office of the Secretary of State, which are especially beneficial to the blind and visually impaired community. A block of time was allotted for a question and answer forum where senior guests could share personal issues and concerns with our visiting experts.

Are you aware of the basic state tax exemptions available to the blind and visually impaired? If you are living with a disability, you may be eligible for basic home and vehicle exemptions! With the help of Colleary, seniors had the opportunity to ask specific questions about tax Kathleen Colleary speaking at Senior Connectionabatement guidelines. One senior asked, “Is exemption possible with a sighted spouse?” To his advantage, he learned that regardless of his wife’s vision condition, he should receive full tax exemption if all other qualifications are lawfully met.

Furthermore, Colleary explained that the elderly generally qualify for their own exemptions that may be even more favorable than those available to the blind and visually impaired community. If this applies to you, the MA Department of Revenue will determine which exemption is most valuable for you. For more in-depth information regarding tax exemptions, click here.

Guests listening to speakersGood news for all you travelers out there: The days of renewing disability placards are over! This may be old news to some of you readers, but it was certainly a piece of information causing a few ears to perk up at the Senior Connection.

Michele Ellicks speaking at the Senior Connection

Actually, the process changed a full two years ago. Michele Ellicks from the MA Department of Transportation explained that the registry now automatically updates the placard, mailing a new one out to the individual in need upon expiring. Our seniors shared personal experiences with their own placards where they had to sign or send money for renewals – Don’t be fooled, there is no reason you should be paying a cent! The one and only detail to remember is to immediately replace the old placard with the new one. More specific questions of disability placards can be answered by clicking here.

Michelle Tassinari speaking at the Senior ConnectionEver feel like you aren’t getting enough privacy when voting? Voting privacy is an ongoing concern for people with vision loss. Support group members spoke about feeling apprehensive about their privacy when submitting absentee ballots or having someone accompany them in the voting booth. Michelle Tassinari from the Secretary of State’s office gave us the full scoop on the state’s efforts to secure anonymity for absentee ballots and to place accessible voting equipment in all polling stations. She mentioned that with the accessible voting machines, you always have the option to turn the screen so it’s facing the wall, or shut the sound off altogether and use headphones. She urged voters who have specific concerns about their polling place to contact her office.  If you have any additional questions on accessible voting, click here.

This year’s event was a great success. The next Senior Connection, held the second Wednesday of June 2014!

Images courtesy of Darlene DeVita Photography