Written by Scott Shindell ’85
Photography by Don Hamerman
Maybe one day, when society is truly enlightened and everything is as it should be, we’ll get rid of all those handicapped parking spaces.
Jonathan Kaufman ’95 would love that, even though he relies on the very same parking spaces that he hopes to do away with.
Kaufman has cerebral palsy, caused by multiple strokes at birth. His right side was greatly affected, and his childhood was dominated by years of physical and occupational therapy, as well as numerous surgeries. The strokes also caused learning disabilities, or, as Kaufman prefers, “learning opportunities. I like that word better!”
Because of his cerebral palsy, Kaufman says, “Daily life has always been about adapting to the environment around me. From the moment I woke up to the moment I went to sleep, the physical negotiation, as well as how I learned and absorbed information, was part of my adaptation.”
Today, Kaufman leads a remarkably full and active life that many “able bodied” people would envy. He lives on his own in New York City, runs a successful consulting firm, and teaches at the City University of New York, where he helped spearhead the graduate program in disability studies.
Living in NYC, Kaufman no longer needs to drive, but transportation is still a challenge: in the subway, elevators are rare, crowds are unrelenting, and the handicapped seats are hard to win away from their occupants. “I have to plan every move seven steps ahead,” he says.