What Is an Inclusion Native?

In October, we hosted our second conference dedicated to moving housing resources into the hands of individuals with disabilities and their families. Micaela Connery, founder and CEO of The Kelsey, was the conference’s keynote speaker.

 As a Harvard fellow, Micaela researched how to create communities and housing that included people of all abilities, and the answers led her to create The Kelsey.

In memory of her cousin, Micaela’s work is coming to fruition. The Kelsey is currently building four mixed-income, mixed-ability housing developments through public-private partnerships. She believes what she calls “inclusion natives” want to live in fully inclusive developments. From The Kelsey’s website, the following blog explains what that means and why she believes inclusive natives are ready for change.

“At The Kelsey, we talk a lot about inclusive communities and the type of people who would want to live in them. We often use the term “Inclusion Natives” to describe people with and without disabilities who grew up in inclusive settings. As adults today, these are the kinds of individuals who’d be drawn to mixed ability, mixed income housing. These Inclusion Natives expect inclusion — and they’ll even pay for it — but the real estate market has yet to deliver the inclusive housing stock they desire. We want to take a moment to explain what we mean when we talk about Inclusion Natives and why they are so important to our work.

Illustrated people holding hands in a circle, demonstrating inclusion.
Illustration from Youth Intervention Programs Association

Let’s start with a history lesson.

 

In 1975, Congress enacted the Education for All Handicapped Children, a law that made the right to an education a reality for students with disabilities. Prior to this law, 4 million children with disabilities were excluded from public schools. Of the children that did go to school, many did not receive an education appropriate to their needs. Individuals with disabilities were sent to separate institutions and schools, even if they did not need to be in those settings.

Then, in 1990, Congress updated the title and language of the law and renamed it the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The reauthorization entitled all students to a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment, and subsequently, the number of students with disabilities in the classroom alongside students without disabilities soared to unprecedented numbers.

Since IDEA, kids in the United States have grown up with inclusive education as the norm. For these kids, there is no “special’ classroom or separate bus. Since 1 in 7 kids in the United States has a developmental disability, they likely have a friend with autism, Down Syndrome, or other developmental disabilities. They teach peers and adults why using the R-Word is offensive. They value disability as an important identity that adds to the diversity and richness of their community. Kids with and without disabilities learn together, play together, and grow together.

In our focus groups at The Kelsey, we see the desire for inclusion over and over again. In fact, inclusion appears to be the default expectation. One young man noted: “It’s as though my classmates with disabilities disappeared after high school.” He had friends and classmates with intellectual and developmental disabilities in high school, but in college and professional life, those individuals and relationships virtually evaporated.

Speaking of Inclusion Natives, one mother of a child with autism explained: “It’s more important that my son lives with people who want to live with people with autism than it is for him to live with other people with autism.” Advocates with disabilities are also demanding inclusion — that their housing options not be segregated or specialized, but within communities with people with all abilities and with access to the supports and services they need.

Kids that started kindergarten in 1990 with the passage of IDEA are in their early 30’s today. These Inclusion Natives, of all abilities, are now young professionals moving to new cities, graduate students looking for housing, and renters looking for apartments with the best amenities. Their early understanding of inclusion, genuine appreciation of diversity, and subsequent desire to spend money on products that also promote a broader social mission means this generation is perfectly positioned for The Kelsey’s mixed ability housing model. We want to deliver the inclusive community that meets their demands.”

Celebrating World Social Justice Day

February 20th is World Social Justice Day: a day to honor the work of thousands of individuals fighting for a world that is more equitable and just for all its citizens. As a practice, social justice work tries to right past wrongs that harm marginalized communities.

Image with blue background, white text stating "World Day of Social Justice"

People with disabilities have historically been spoken for – not consulted with. Many times, the disability community has been an afterthought to historic legislation, like the Affordable Care Act. People with disabilities and social justice work ought to go hand-in-hand, but what would that look like?

What is Social Justice?

Some people believe that social justice work is unnecessary and takes away from what they already have. That’s a common misconception.

Social justice is actually the effort to create fair and just interactions between disadvantaged people and society. Efforts to create a just society can be measured by the levels of inequality in wealth, housing, employment, and many other issues. For example, does a policy consider who directly benefits? Does a law reflect who needs more support and resources? If not, that legislation may not apply a social justice lens to that issue.

How Can Social Justice Work Benefit People With Disabilities?

Simply put, efforts to include social justice ideas can make life more accessible for individuals with disabilities. By removing barriers to access, people with disabilities live full, independent lives where they follow their dreams.

Student playing with puzzle pieces in colorful classroom settingFor example, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was passed in 1990. This act mandates that children with disabilities deserve access to the same educational opportunities their peers receive. By creating inclusive classrooms, IDEA helps remove barriers to success as adults. More students with disabilities are enrolling in the growing number of post-secondary education programs available across the country.

Passing IDEA meant that more opportunities became available to a group of people who were historically excluded. With more opportunities, doors to achievement open. The act led to a higher chance for individuals with disabilities to receive excellent jobs or live independently. And that’s just one example.

How Can You Help?

If you are a person without a disability wondering, “How can I help?” we have answers. Commit to socially just and innovative solutions. Listen to people with disabilities when they tell you what they need. Confront ableism when you see it. Use your power to boost the voices of people with disabilities.

Inclusion is everybody’s responsibility, especially on World Social Justice Day. Learn more about our inclusion efforts through the Change Champions program and discover tools to facilitate inclusion.

Exploring Identities with Disabilities

February is Black History Month, a time to reflect on injustices toward, and successes of, Black Americans throughout our country’s history. During this month, we will see many tributes to incredible people like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., President Obama, and Frederick Douglass. These are all men who have done extraordinary things, but it is important that we include all types of people in reflections during Black History Month, specifically black individuals with disabilities.

Discussing History Through Intersectionality

Example of intersectionality in a chart.Every person has a complex identity that is made up of many parts, which can sometimes come into conflict. Those way those parts of your identity work together are known as intersectionality. Your identity is made up of your history, heritage, race, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status, and more. That is a lot of pieces to fit together!

One aspect of identity that isn’t always considered is ability. Disability exists in every group of people, and it should be taken into consideration in every community. Movements that don’t include people with disability cannot be a fully just movement. That’s why we are highlighting members of the black community who have lived with disabilities.

Exploring Disability in the Black Community

Fannie Lou Hamer with a microphone speaking to a crowd.Fannie Lou Hamer was born in Mississippi at the beginning of the twentieth century. She was born into a family of sharecroppers, and she picked cotton for the first part of her life. Over the course of her life, she became a leader of the Civil Rights Movement, a powerful speaker who engaged crowds much like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did.

Also like Dr. King, Hamer was arrested during a protest. After her arrest, she walked with a limp and had a permanent blood clot behind her eye. Her disabilities didn’t stop her. She continued to fight for civil rights, and eventually included human rights in her fight after being sterilized without her knowledge.

Vilissa Thompson in a white and black dress with her wheelchair.The obstacles that come along with being both black and having a disability have not ended since Hamer’s death in 1977. Today, a leader for the black disability community is Vilissa Thompson, creator of the Ramp Your Voice movement. Thompson has osteogenesis imperfecta, a developmental disability that is known as brittle bone disease.

Thompson is a social worker and an expert in educating the public about disability issues. Through her work, she has been able to highlight issues that directly affect people with disabilities, educating the public through a large online following and public appearances. Thompson always brings with her an intersectional lens to her events, including her identities as both a person with a disability and a black woman.

Intersectional Issues and Policy

Many areas of disability policy revolve around the rights of individuals with disabilities, like housing, education, and employment. It is clear that disability rights are civil rights, and it’s important not to forget people along the way.

Disability policy is often siloed into “disability issues.” But no one is only disabled. People with disabilities are varied and come in every type and color. Instead of segregating issues, policies affecting people with disabilities must be an intersectional fight, inclusive of many different identities at once.

California Dreamin’ with Cynthia & Chrissy

As temperatures dropped last month, two members of our staff escaped to California to work with our partners at Club 21 Learning and Resource Center, VTC Enterprises, and New Horizons. Community Life Coordinator Cynthia visited to conduct life skills software training through our My Full Life tool. A couple of weeks later, Chrissy visited to present at their Tools For the Journey conference.

Life Skills Software Training

New Skills Inventory client practices her kitchen skills.For the past twelve years, Cynthia Witherspoon has been working with the Full Life Model, developing tools and resources. She is an expert in our online application for life skills development, My Full Life, and shares these resources with our partners across the country. She visited Club 21 and VTC Enterprises to help them work with our My Full Life Skills Inventory over the course of six days.

During her time in California, Cynthia met with several young adults with disabilities who will be using our Skills Inventory. On one day, Cynthia joined a young woman named Lily at a coffee shop. She then observed her grocery shopping and cooking delicious tacos.

Throughout her trip, Cynthia says, “Parents of individuals completing a Skills Inventory had ‘ah ha’ moments.” The parents plan to encourage their children in pursuing more opportunities to practice independent living skills. Next, we will continue supporting the brand new Skills Inventory Consultants Cynthia helped train, completing written reports for the families.

Presenting Tools For the Journey

My Full Life Director Chrissy Dale also escaped to California during Chicagoland’s intense cold. Chrissy presented at the Tools For the Journey conference, hosted by Club 21. Using our Skills Inventory as a Road Map to Independence, Chrissy demonstrated how families can support the growth and development of their child.

Club 21 Executive Director Nancy Litteken strives to provide role models of adults living full lives with disabilities. By showing families examples of what is truly possible, those families can begin to dream bigger. According to Chrissy, community member Danny was “the perfect example of how families can dream bigger for their child.”

After the conference, Chrissy shared, “What excites me the most is Club 21 students transitioning into adulthood while working with our most recent agency collaboration, New Horizons, aligning our missions by taking a person-centered approach.”

Moving Forward and Igniting Dreams

Want to learn more about what Cynthia and Chrissy were up to? Check out more information about My Full Life to learn about the Skills Inventory! You can also connect with Chrissy online or schedule time to talk about how My Full Life can help you.

How to Teach Self-Advocacy Skills to Students with Disabilities

Young student working hard. Learning self-advocacy means developing a set of skills that are based on self-knowledge, communicating your understanding, and knowing your rights. When educators teach self-advocacy skills to students with disabilities, that knowledge opens doors to success that might otherwise never have appeared.

Unfortunately, students with disabilities historically have not been included in learning intangible skills such as the development of leadership abilities. To develop a skill set of self-advocacy tools, dive into cognitive functions like goal setting, intrapersonal functions such as building confidence, and interpersonal functions like collaborating on teams. Teachers seeking to support all their students, including those with disabilities, can read more from the National Council on Learning Disabilities to understand how to implement self-advocacy skill curriculum to your classes.

Develop Self-Awareness Through Skills Assessment

Educators can teach self-advocacy skills to students in a variety of ways. This image shows an individual in a wheelchair with two others on a grassy lawn.Begin by understanding the students’ strengths and weaknesses. Teachers can conduct a skills assessment, and then they should try to focus on the strengths. Starting with strengths helps students refrain from internalizing low expectations. With a solid understanding of their talents, students will leave class with greater self-awareness.

Making Skill Development A Priority

The next step sounds simple: make teaching self-advocacy skills a critical priority. But this step is like the foundation of a house. It will require a deep dive into lesson plans, adding opportunities for students to express their needs and desires. Without baking these ideas into the classroom’s curriculum, students most likely will not succeed in advocating for themselves.

Flexible Classrooms Teach Self-Advocacy Skills

A teacher in front of their classroom, photographed from the students' perspective.Teachers who want to support students in upholding their rights should try to create learning activities that engage all of their students on this topic. Some schools are beginning to move toward Universal Design for Learning, or UDL. UDL allows teachers to accommodate individual learning preferences, while also guiding the development of flexible classrooms.

Finding Real Opportunities to Learn

Finally, schools that support this skill development should consider ways to make learning this skill tangible. Because self-advocacy is not easily measured, learning experiences that are collaborative and engaging will help gauge students’ capacities. Schools could begin making connections with local businesses to see what opportunities students could have in the community. Through learning collaborations in the community, students gain real-world experience, and most will transition out of school ready to succeed.

How We Can Help Educators & Agencies

Teaching current students how to advocate for themselves is obviously crucial to their post-school success. But what about adults with disabilities who weren’t taught self-advocacy skills in school? My Full Life™ can help. An online learning management system, My Full Life consists of three parts: a skills assessment, planning process, and skills curriculum.

Agencies that serve adults with disabilities can request a free demo of My Full Life today! This offer is also available to educators teaching transition skills to students with disabilities. Reach out today to learn more!

New In-Home Technologies for Independent Living

Many barriers to independent living exist for people with disabilities, but new in-home technologies can help most families remove some obstacles. While these technology options won’t replace the development of all life skills, they can support  individuals to live more independent lives and offer their families peace of mind. At our housing conference in October, we invited a panel of tech innovators to present their remote support solutions. Read more to learn about these tools.

Night Owl Support Systems

Based in Madison, Wisconsin, Night Owl Support Systems specializes in home monitoring technology. They tailor equipment to each person’s need, so they are able to offer individualized support. Night Owl’s services consist of live remote monitoring. By providing care remotely, Night Owl offers clients independence, safety, and security.

With the use of person pagers, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, temperature and moisture sensors, and movement sensors, remote monitor staff interacts when assistance is needed. This option serves as an alternative to paid overnight care. Prior to beginning services, Night Owl’s staff works with clients to develop support plans. To learn more about Night Owl Support Systems, visit their website today

Rest Assured

Since 2006, Rest Assured has been providing cost-effective care to individuals with disabilities. Rest Assured provides remote support for people with disabilities, whether living independently or with their families.

The support Rest Assured provides can be tailored to the needs of each individual. With varying levels of support, clients can choose from active support and check-ins or emergency watch as needed. Various supports are available, including two-way audio/visual communication, smoke and temperature detectors, electronic sensors, and more. To get in touch with Rest Assured, visit their website

Simply Home

Committed to innovation, Simply Home’s founders dreamed of creating a way for seniors and individuals with disabilities to live at home. With more choice and control, Simply Home’s clients are able to develop their independent living skills.

Beginning with a person-centered assessment, Simply Home then designs a custom system. After activating the new system, individuals with disabilities can often live independently, relying on real-time alerts and insights alongside ongoing customer service. Click here to watch a full demo. Find out if Simply Home is right for you by contacting them.

New In-Home Technologies Make a Difference

Do you or someone you know need assistance living independently? Find out if one of these new in-home technologies is the right choice. Reach out to these passionate, innovative companies to discover what remote supports could mean for you and your loved ones.

In-Home Support Tech Contacts

Night Owl Support Systems, LLC: Duane Tempel

Rest Assured: Dustin Wright

Simply Home: Cameron Kempson

Save the Date: SPARK 2019

Are you looking for a local Evanston fundraising event to support your community? Join on at the Hilton Orrington on Friday, April 26th for our signature spring event, SPARK!

What to Expect at SPARK!

4 individuals gather around an orange chair at SPARK.

At our annual spring party, we use this opportunity to celebrate our whole community, including Center for Independent Futures participants, families, employees, donors, and community partners. That means there will be dancing, dinner, and a lot of opportunity for fun!

The evening begins with reception and the chance to bid on some of Chicago and Evanston’s favorite stores, restaurants, and experiences, followed by dinner and a live auction. At last year’s live auction, winners took home a safari trip, concert tickets to Ed Sheeran and Elton John, a Chicago-style St. Patrick’s Day package, and more! Plus, you won’t want to miss our favorite game, Heads or Tails. Finish the evening by dancing your heart out to a favorite of ours, Euphoria Band!

Watch For More News

Group enjoying games at Evanston fundraising event, SPARKGo ahead and mark your calendars for SPARK today! Event invitations and online ticket sales will be available in early March. For more event information and updates, RSVP to SPARK on the Facebook event page.

All proceeds from SPARK, our largest Evanston fundraising event of the year, directly contribute to programming, services, and sustainability. If you are interested in supporting SPARK as a donor, sponsor, or partner, please contact Niki Moe or call (847) 328-2044 today!

Dr. Al Condeluci Presenting at QIDP Conference

This month, on January 29, the ARC of Illinois is hosting their 17th annual QIDP Conference for service professionals and self-advocates. Held at the ARC of Illinois office in Frankfort, Illinois, the conference begins at 8:30 am and ends at 4:30 pm. Don’t miss out on this chance to learn about how to build community and teach self-advocacy, plus four unique breakout sessions in the afternoon!

Al Condeluci: Building Community Through Social Capital

Dr. Al Condelucci, who will be presenting at the QIDP ConferenceThe ARC’s keynote speaker this year is Al Condeluci, an advocate and leader in the field of disability study. Dr. Condeluci’s work focuses on using social capital and interdependency within communities.

In his keynote presentation, Dr. Condeluci will discuss how to build community using the social capital that exists around you. Throughout his presentation, attendees will learn major elements of social capital, 4 key steps to developing new friendships, and how interdependent paradigms interact.

Al Condeluci is no stranger to Illinois. In fact, he was also the keynote speaker at the first Center for Independent Futures housing symposium! If you missed his presentation on social inclusion 3 years ago, view the video here.

Breakout Sessions: From Self-Advocacy to Government Benefits

Each attendee at the QIDP Conference will attend two out of four breakout sessions. Bruce Handler & Nora Fox will present on the safety and the dignity of risk, while Tara Ahern will be speaking about empowering survivors of sexual assault.

ARC Illinois logo, ARC Conference Attendees will also have the opportunity to hear from Sherri Schneider about government benefits and what has or hasn’t changed. Last but not least, the final option for breakout sessions will be Krescene Beck on why self-advocacy matters.

How to Register for Annual QIDP Conference

Are you interested in attending the QIDP Conference? Check out the brochure for this event and fill out the registration information! Several of Center for Independent Futures’ direct service staff will be there – go ahead and say hello!

Jonathan’s Jolly Old Trip to England & Ireland, Part Three

Jonathan Shuman is a young man who loves to travel the world. He sees the world in a positive, friendly way, and he wants to share his travel recommendations with all of you. This is the final England & Ireland installment of Jonathan’s new travel series, Jonathan’s Jolly Trips.

Tower of London in front of a clear blue sky with a tree to the right.The next day, we went to the Tower of London where prisoners were being held by the beefeaters or Yeomen during the War of the Roses in the mid-1600s. We also took a river cruise along the Thames river, and we saw many famous buildings such as a pub owned by a British actor named Ian McKellen. We also saw the Royal Naval College. We learned about the Greenwich Mean Time – if you go west from this point, you subtract the hours. If you go east from Greenwich, you add the hours.

We packed and we left for our trip back to Chicago the next day. The flight lasted 6-7 hours. On the airplane, I watched two movies: Game Night with Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams and Lady Bird with Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalfe. I had such a blast going to England and Ireland with Search Beyond Adventures. I took lots of photos, and I emailed some of these photos every single day by email to CIF participants and my parents. What I learned about Ireland is that it’s green all around. That’s why Ireland gets its nickname, the Emerald Isle. In England and Ireland, you have to drive on the left side.

Jonathan standing in front of StonehengeI would recommend England and Ireland as a travel destination for the summer. I recommend it because lots of people are happy, drink beer, and are friendly. There are lots of sights and wonders to marvel at. There’s lots of live music to enjoy in London and Dublin.

I would recommend England and Ireland as a travel destination for someone who has a disability because they are bound to have a fantastic time. It’s pretty easy to get around if you have the skills of using public transportation. People are nice and friendly. It’s accessible to get around if you are bound in a wheelchair, and they speak English so there is no language barrier.

Thanks for reading this article and stay tuned for travel recommendations for my next trip to Athens, Greece!

Top 10 Hope-Filled Moments in 2018

2018 was a big year at Center for Independent Futures! From fun and glamorous events like SPARK to meeting new people at conferences around the country, this last year held a lot to be celebrated. Join us in remembering our top 10 moments of 2018!

#1: New Partnerships in CaliforniaLogo for Club 21 in red with blue and green people illustrations to the left.

Club 21, a California non-profit, asked us to present at their Tools For the Journey conference. It was exciting to get out of the chilly Midwest for a few days to share our tools & resources with the Club 21 community.

#2: Hosting Activities in Highland Park

We conducted a meet and greet session with Highland Park community members in March. Since then, we have started including the village in our activities calendar through monthly Gab and Grub dinners. It is exciting to meet members of new communities, and we can’t wait to continue!

#3: A Beautiful Evening at SPARK

5 friends dressed beautifully pose for group photo at SPARK.

In April, our annual gala event was a shining evening! Join us again this year on April 26th at the Hilton Orrington! We will have more live entertainment, the annual Awesome Awards, delicious food, and wonderful auction items for all.

#4: Dream Team Biked the Drive

A group of Bike Club members participated in Bike the Drive again this year! They raised almost $7,000 through their fundraising efforts and had a good time biking in the cloudy weather. We can’t wait for next May to ride Lake Shore Drive again!

#5: Presented at National Down Syndrome Conference

Chrissy & Cynthia at the National Down Syndrome ConferenceChrissy & Cynthia went down to Dallas, Texas, in July to present at the National Down Syndrome Conference. They rocked the presentation and made new connections! We appreciated having this opportunity to present to industry experts and families alike.

#6: Held 2 Summer Camp Options for Transition House Students

Our schools team hosted the annual Life Skills Camp in mid-July, in addition to a new summer camp opportunity. Thanks to the Evanston Community Foundation, we were able to provide a Transportation Camp for Evanston Township High School transition students.

#7: Guided Biggest Marathon Team Through Finish Line

On a rainy Sunday, 18 members of Team CIF completed one of the greatest challenges: completing 26.2 miles throughout the neighborhoods of Chicago. Thanks to our community and team, we raised over $16,000 through the Bank of America Chicago Marathon!

#8: Created Community Connections at Housing Conference

At our housing conference in October, we shared our New Futures Initiative and housing resources with over 100 people dedicated to change. We are thankful for each of our presenters, including our panelists, endnote speaker, and keynote speaker, Micaela Connery of The Kelsey. Watch for video of the day coming soon!

#9: Delicious Food & Good Times at Something’s Cooking

We ate to our hearts’ content at the Woman’s Club of Evanston in early November. Thank you to the 25 wonderful food, dessert, and beverage sponsors for supporting our annual fall favorite! We hope to see you all next year!

#10: Turned Hopes Into Reality on #GivingTuesday

Thanks to all of you, we surpassed our $20,000 #GivingTuesday goal! We also met the requirements to receive the full $10,000 match from the Coleman Foundation. That means we raised a total of over $34,000 with your help!

We are deeply grateful for our caring, generous community after such a big year! 2019 looks like it will be even bigger, so we hope that you will continue on this journey with Center for Independent Futures. If you would like to be part of our story, sign up for our monthly newsletter today and make a year-end gift to support inclusive communities in Evanston!

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