I am proud to announce that I have been granted the absolute honor to be appointed as a Board Member for the Staten Island Center for Independent Living, located here in Staten Island. Through my work with this organization I will join with those in our community who are strong advocates for the independent living of the disabled population of Staten Island. For information on this great organization visit The SICIL Website by clicking here
What is Independent Living?
The History of the Independent Living Movement and it’s importance today.
In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the emerging philosophy of independent living led people with disabilities from around the country to take active roles on local, state, and national levels in shaping decisions on issues affecting their lives. A major part of these activities involved formation of community-based groups of people with different types of disabilities who worked together to identify barriers and gaps in service delivery. To address barriers, action plans were developed to educate the community and to influence policy makers at all levels to change regulations and to introduce barrier-removing legislature. To address gaps in services, a new method of service delivery was conceived–one which emphasizes the role of people with disabilities in determining kinds of services essential to living independently, directing the delivery of these services, and actually providing these services.
The earliest center was formed in 1972 in Berkeley, California, soon followed that same year by centers in Boston and Houston. In 1978, following effective advocacy by people with disabilities and their supporters all over the country, federal legislation was passed that provided funding to establish independent living centers (Title VII of the Rehabilitation Act). Today, there are centers in virtually every state and U.S. territory. In fact, there are 37 Centers in New York State alone.
Independent living is about CHOICE and equal opportunity. We all have the right to make our own decisions -about working, housing, learning, and having fun. People with disabilities have had to struggle for that right-for centuries others thought they knew what was best for them and how they should live. And until the group joined together as a civil rights movement, few people thought of removing barriers-in buildings, in print, in speaking, in attitudes- so that the disabled would have the same OPTIONS as everyone else.
The Staten Island Center for Independent Living, Inc., is a non-residential resource center that offers services to individuals with disabilities of all ages, their families, significant others, teachers, employers, businesses, and those who believe that an individual with a disability has the right to take responsibility for his/her own life.
The center is unique in that it is primarily staffed and governed by professionals who have had a personal experience with a disability and believe that disability does not mean inability. Our services include:
The center has joined other agencies in lobbying for legislation that assists individuals with disabilities. Some of its successes are: The Americans with Disabilities Act; Local Law 59 and the Telecommunications Act.
The Work Incentive Act, Guide Dog Regulations, and Handicapped Parking laws have been enacted this year as a result of our advocacy.
We are about to join with the New York Consortium of Independent Living Centers in New York City and disability advocates throughout the country to celebrate the 23rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. A workshop focusing on transition from school to work for disabled students and a torch ceremony that will include the five boroughs will be two of many celebrations that will occur this year.
Architectural Barrier Consultation
The center assists consumers in making their homes and work places accessible. It has also consulted with Snug Harbor, senior citizens residences, architects, builders, etc.
The center assists consumers in their attempts to receive Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Discounts on utilities, Veterans benefits, etc.
This year it was awarded a contract with the Human Resources Administration titled PRIDE 2000 that assists welfare beneficiaries with disabilities in leaving the welfare roles, finding benefits that will assist them in returning to work with the skills that are needed to give them independence and responsibility.
The center offers personal, peer, individual, and group counseling. Currently there are two groups that meet on a weekly basis. These groups are composed of consumers with a variety of disabilities.
We run a Support/Educational Group for Women with Disabilities that focuses on teaching these women how to identify, prevent, and escape abuse/abusive situations. The group meets once a week for 1 1/2 hours and addresses topics such as the 17 signs of an abusive personality, definitions of abuse focusing on disability-related abuse and coping/healing skills that survivors can implement when handling/leaving an abusive relationship.
We also run a Health and Wellness Group for Women with Disabilities which features topics such as healthy eating habits and individualized exercise plans. The importance of taking charge of one’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health is also discussed. The role of vitamins, minerals, and medications in the lives of women with disabilities are covered as well.
These groups are open to women 21 years of age and over with all types of disabilities. It must be noted that these are support and educational groups and not therapeutic groups. If interested, call Michelle at (718) 720-9016.
The center attempts to find affordable and accessible housing. It is a member of the Inter-agency Council for the Aging, Councilman Oddo’s Round Table on Housing Issues and was awarded a contract with the office of Housing Preservation and Development to assist individuals in completing applications; assisting at the Housing Court; advising builders of local laws related to the building code; and testifying at hearings about the housing needs of individuals with disabilities.
The center offers limited transportation to the center, other agencies, the Elizabeth Connelly Pool, shopping centers, etc.
It also assists consumers in completing applications for Access-A-ride and Half Fare discounts.
Independent Living Skills
The center offers training in banking, budgeting, cooking, grooming, health, and nutrition. Several board members including Jane Milza, (Food Editor of the S.I. Advance), have conducted classes for disabled consumers.
The Executive Director and board members have made presentations to a number of civic organizations, students (with and without disabilities), educators, businessmen and women, and other agency directors.
The staff of SICIL participate in meetings of the NYC Board of Education Transition Linkage groups that plans and analyzes services offered to students with disabilities who are about to graduate and enter the adult world, work, or higher education.