Elinor Cohen

Interviewed By Wendy Wark

Elinor Cohen describes her experience with late onset macular degeneration. She grew up on the Lower East Side during World War II and the 1950s. She was the middle child of a socially responsible family that instilled in her a sense of responsibility. She attended the public schools and went on to graduate from CUNY. At 20 years-old, Elinor worked to support her husband through law school and had three sons by the age of 28. Her parents offered to send her to graduate school and although her marriage ended she was able to support herself for 25 years until the age of 62 when her eyesight deteriorated to the point where she could no longer work. Elinor currently gets joy from volunteering and helping others cope with their own disabilities. (Summary written by: Nancy Broderick)

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Church of All Nations (02:34)
wartime (03:43)
alcoholics (04:52)
private school (07:18)
sheltered (07:25)
public school strict (07:34)
Seward HS (08:52)
Cuny (08:57)
1950s (09:03)
political times (09:29)
politics (12:04)
2 siblings (12:26)
no focus on material things (13:07)
married at 20 (13:20)
college (13:22)
dentist (14:01)
freedom rides in the south (15:25)
3 sons (15:32)
3 boys at 28 (16:20)
union politics (17:29)
find something of my own (19:02)
insisted on doing things myself (21:23)
physical trainer at 75 (21:32)
occupational therapy (22:18)
practical (22:26)
worked 25 years in hospital (22:49)
retired 13 years at 62 (23:07)
masters at NYU (23:19)
columbia must be full time (28:59)
children and school (29:43)
ex husband died (31:42)
even though there was alot of sadness in my life I was filled with alot of enthusiasm and love for other things (33:03)
divorced, met someone else (33:18)
like living alone (33:46)
like haveing own place (33:48)
never wanted to be in the position again where my basic securities are dependent upon a relationship (34:00)
did not want to give up independence (34:22)
75 (34:26)
80 (34:42)
support for each other (34:47)
retired at 62 (38:18)
scratched cornea (38:26)
diagnosed with macular degenenaratiion (38:49)
go up closer (40:05)
very common with visual problems you compensate and interpret it as something outside yourself (40:12)
midwifery (42:23)
nurse (42:26)
childbirth assistant (42:43)
natural childbirth (42:49)
retired in Jan (43:53)
hit by bicycle in Central Park in may (44:01)
concussion, broken ribes, fractures (45:25)
1 month in hospital (45:30)
6 months to recover (45:33)
pelvis (45:44)
vision got worse as result of accident (45:57)
peripheral intact (48:06)
no facial features (49:34)
primary disappears (50:23)
look above or below but not at (51:12)
look to side to see (52:21)
if you look straight at it do not see it (52:28)
can compensate (52:35)
come very close (53:52)
not socially appropriate (53:57)
can't read (54:47)
forget foreign movies (54:59)
movies - mistake faces (55:06)
becomes so difficult to understand loose emotional reaction (55:25)
may see 2nd time (55:33)
lost enjoyment (56:24)
birding no more (56:46)
no plays (57:00)
just see leaves, no birds (57:12)
knitter (57:39)
gets more challenging (58:32)
cannot travel as once did (59:43)
still goes to california (59:46)
wheelchair (59:58)
degenerative so will get worse (01:00:58)
pseudo- exfolioation syndrome (01:02:25)
leads to gloucoma (01:02:31)
cataract surgery very dangeruous (01:03:24)
opthomolgist specializes in catarct (01:04:09)
volunteer (01:05:01)
Bird center that takes care of injured birds (01:05:06)
held birds (01:06:42)
Le Clerq (01:08:01)
rescued hawk (01:09:31)
Lighthouse, 2 readers (01:13:17)
joined support group which can be scary as you see what is in store for you (01:14:41)
2 types, people who make the best of it (01:15:07)
angry (01:15:34)
retinologist recommended learning computer (01:17:18)
goes to classes at apple (01:17:35)
individual lessons (01:17:51)
occational therapy helped her adapt (01:26:07)
I view all people as disabled in one way or another (01:27:38)
enjoy each day (01:28:06)
enjoy each day, help other people, feel better if you can help other people (01:28:22)


Transcript not yet available. .

Interview Data

Date of Interview
November 7, 2014
Location of Interview
Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library
Place of birth
New York City
Retired Occupational Therapy
Birth Year
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About This Collection

Visible Lives: Oral Histories of the Disability Experience

Visible Lives: Oral Histories of the Disability Experience is an oral history project that works to both preserve and document a thematic history through personal recollections. This project will collect stories of people who are living with a disability and the Library will train community members to conduct these interviews. Interviews will be shared in a preservation archive at The Milstein Division and on the New York Public Library website.  Public programs will also connect neighborhood residents and project participants.

Visible Lives is a project of Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library in Manhattan.  A public archive will be kept at this local branch for future generations to listen to and research.