I have had a disability my whole life, but it was not until I was in my late teens and early twenties that I learned about the resources available to help people with disabilities. Did you know that there are organizations throughout the United States that can help people with disabilities find jobs, accessible housing, legal services, and more? Here are a few organizations that you should know about!
Centers for Independent Living
Centers for Independent Living (CILs) are consumer‑controlled, community‑based, cross‑disability, nonresidential private nonprofit agencies. CILs are not to be confused with assisted living centers, which are residential facilities where disabled and elderly people sometimes live. CILs are community-based organizations led by and for disabled people with the purpose of helping people with disabilities live successfully in the community! There are 403 CILs throughout the nation and they all provide the following services:
- Information and referral – CILs are a one stop shop for information on disabilities and services for people with disabilities.
- Independent living skills training – helping people with disabilities gain skills in advocacy, pre-vocational skills, socialization, communication, money management, and more.
- Individual and systems advocacy – assisting disabled people in advocating for themselves. Additionally, CILs work to create positive change on a local, state, and federal level.
- Peer support – Staff and volunteers with disabilities can assist people with disabilities in the community based on their own experiences.
- Transition assistance – CILs help disabled youth with transitioning from secondary education. Additionally, CILs help people in nursing facilities or at risk of being placed in nursing facilities find appropriate support and services in the community so that they may live in their own homes.
Protection and Advocacy Agencies
Protection and Advocacy Agencies (P&As) focus on the personal and civil rights of people with disabilities by providing legal support to disabled people on disability-related issues. This means that a P&A may be able to assist you if you experience discrimination based on your disability. A P&A may be able to provide legal assistance if your child’s school wants to put your child in a segregated classroom because they use a power wheelchair. A P&A may also be able to help if your insurance company is reducing the number of attendant hours you are approved for and you think you will not be able to live independently in the community without more attendant hours. P&As also work to ensure that disabled people can exercise their rights to make choices, contribute to society, and live independently.
Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies
Vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies help people with disabilities to prepare for, obtain, maintain, or regain employment. VR agencies work with disabled people to identify work goals and help disabled people to achieve those goals. This means that VR agencies can help you go to college if your work goal requires a college education. VR agencies can also help you acquire equipment you need to work, such as wheelchair accessible vehicles or screen reading technology. Every state has a VR agency.
About Stephanie: Stephanie Woodward is a brand ambassador for Quantum Rehab® and works as a disability rights activist. She has received many awards for helping communities become more accessible, as well as for her actions in fighting for the rights of disabled individuals as it relates to Medicaid and other support services. Click here to learn more about Stephanie.