Creating Housing for People with Disabilities

For our loved ones with disabilities, the future is full of uncertainties around independent living. Center for Independent Futures has made it our mission to help families combat these uncertainties by helping you take the matter into your own hands through our New Futures Initiative™ Training. And, that’s why we host housing conferences featuring disability housing thought leaders from across the country.

Panoramic photo of crowd at conference on housing for people with disabilitiesOn October 12, developers, technology support creators, and architects joined us at National Louis University for Community Partnerships: Creating Housing & Support Options for Individuals with Disabilities. With an audience of over 100 family members and agency professionals, our presenters shared their experience and advice.

What We Learned About Housing for People with Disabilities

Micaela Connery stands at podium presenting to crowd about The Kelsey housing developmentKeynote speaker Micaela Connery came from the Bay Area to tell us about her organization, The Kelsey. Micaela highlighted how she and her colleagues are collaborating with local partners to develop apartments suited for inclusive communities. It is not Micaela’s goal to create housing that is for people with disabilities. Her goal is to create housing options that are inclusive of people with disabilities, where they can become part of the local community.

Other developers in attendance, like Three Oaks Communities from Michigan, are creating similar communities. Three Oaks Communities is creating inclusive developments where people with disabilities can own their home along with other home owners who share a vision for a neighborhood that welcomes people with a variety of capabilities.

Technology Supports Increase Independence

Technology innovators joined the conference this year too. Rest Assured, SimplyHome, and Night Owl Support Systems each gave a brief presentation on how their remote supports work. Each of these systems offers varying levels of independence and oversight. To learn more about these programs, visit their websites.

What to Watch For Next

3 family members from family groups in Coleman Foundation & Clearbrook New Futures Initiative partnership We offered a live stream of this conference for the first time ever! That footage will become available publicly in early 2019. Keep an eye out for the videos on our Facebook and YouTube accounts! And if you want to be the first to know when it’s available, subscribe to our monthly newsletter today!

Funds Raised By New Trier Cross Country Team

For the past couple of years, the New Trier Cross Country boys team has hosted a fundraiser benefitting Center for Independent Futures. For this fundraiser, the team reached out to their families and friends for pledges based on their running. By the end, the team raised $6,023 for full, independent lives!

Why Center for Independent Futures

New Trier Cross Country team holds up New Trier flagDave Wisner has been Head Coach of the Varsity team for twelve years. In that time, many students with intellectual or developmental disabilities have been part of his cross country team. Dave said that the team always benefitted from having a diverse group of students participating, but they wondered what happened to students with disabilities when they aged out of transition programs at age 22.

Team captains Charlie Forbes, Cameron Chang, Graeme Lane, and Luke Wisner looked into where their teammates went after they aged out, and they discovered Center for Independent Futures. Captains discussed options with the team. The team ultimately decided to donate the money they raised to us because we are a local organization, and they can see the direct impact their hard work had in the community.

The funds raised by the boys New Trier cross country team are designated for our scholarship funds. These funds are used to broaden access to our programs, like life skills tutoring, which helps individuals with disabilities live independently in the community.

Matching Donations for Scholarships

Thanks to a major supporter and a longtime believer in Center for Independent Futures, these funds are being met with a matching grant. This generous donor has committed to a $25,000 matching grant for funds earmarked for our scholarship funds. All donations designated for scholarships will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $25,000.

For more information about the New Trier cross country fundraiser or the matching grant, please reach out to Niki Moe by email or at (847) 328-2044.

Evanston Public Library Explores Community

In September, the Evanston Public Library hosted an event called “Human Library,” where people’s lives were the story. At this event, attendees could “check out” a human book and talk with that person about their story for 15-20 minutes. Two members of Center for Independent Futures’ community were available to talk about their lives with the Evanston community.

Learning Differences

Lindsay, one of our participants, was interviewed for “Dear Evanston” by Nina Kavin. Lindsay’s book was titled “Learning Differences,” and she focused on explaining to people how she feels about being someone with a disability. Lindsay says she felt excited to participate, rather than nervous.

Because of Lindsay’s nonverbal learning disability, she says, “I’m not able to read certain cues or body language.” Nina Kavin asked how that affects Lindsay. “It makes me feel overwhelmed and makes me not want to interact with certain people,” Lindsay answered. According to Lindsay, one way to help is to understand how she is feeling and being flexible in their reaction.

Diversity in the Disability Community

Another of our participants, Billy, also participated in this unique library event. Billy is part of the LGBTQ community, and he has recently changed his preferred pronouns to “he/him” or “they/them.” Billy’s story was about showing that people with disabilities are just as diverse as people without!

LGBTQ advocate Sandy“Many people don’t realize people with disabilities can be gay, lesbian, or have other identities. We are not in a box,” Billy says. He chose to participate in the Human Library event because you can never advocate too much, especially when there are misconceptions like that.

One aspect of the event that surprised Billy was the type of questions he was asked. Several people asked why Billy couldn’t continue to be called Sandy – since Sandy can also be a male name. They responded, “I prefer to go by Billy because I picked that name. I think Billy fits me.”

We love having a diverse group of participants at Center for Independent Futures. It makes our community stronger, and it makes each of us aware of the different identities we can each have.

Thank you to the Evanston Public Library for hosting this cool event and for including our community.

Learn About Sexual Violence Prevention from Susy Woods

In the age of the #MeToo movement, it is becoming common to speak out against sexual violence within many industries and communities. Center for Independent Futures supports all who speak up against sexual violence, and we believe it is crucial not to leave out one population that is disproportionately affected by sexual violence – but is often the least heard.

People with disabilities are part of a historically marginalized group who often rely on others for assistance and care. Unfortunately, sometimes the people designated as caretakers or friends take advantage of a lack of sex education for individuals with disabilities.

The following workshops are from Susy Woods. Susy conducts workshops year round about educational rights and sex education for individuals with disabilities. Her previous audiences include Public Health departments and DRS staff, as well as families and agency staff.

Center for Independent Futures Offers Workshops

Flyer for parents’ workshop

Thanks to generous funding from the Woman’s Club of Evanston and the A. Montgomery Ward Foundation, we are offering two workshops on Monday, October 22 at One Rotary Center. The first workshop from 1:00-3:00 pm is for parents of students with disabilities in high school or transition programs. The second workshop is for teachers and agency staff from 4:30-6:30 pm and covers topics like the warning signs of sexual assault and what to teach.

Flyer for school & agency staff workshop

Susy Woods is presenting these workshops to educate families, teachers, and agency staff about sexual violence prevention and how to handle sexual violence accusations. To register for the parent workshop, visit the event page. For school & agency staff, register here. The Rotary Center has very limited seating, so act fast!

Classes for Individuals with Disabilities

Finally, we are offering classes for individuals with disabilities to teach them about self-defense and sexual violence. Many sex education classes exclude people with disabilities, even though this group has the same natural feelings that any other group of adults may feel.

We are offering six classes for women with disabilities, including self-defense classes at Tier 1 Training Center. We will also host six classes for men with disabilities. Led by a male staff member, the class will cover topics including definitions of sexual violence and consent.

We will include these classes on our upcoming activities calendar and added to the online calendar. You can find registration details there as well.

Inclusive Education on Sexual Violence Prevention

We are proud to offer these workshops and classes to the Evanston and North Shore communities. To the Woman’s Club of Evanston, we want to offer our thanks for making these events possible.

Explore Housing & Supports with Experts

We are proud to announce our 2018 housing conference Community Partnerships: Creating Housing and Support Options for Individuals with Disabilities.

Join us at National Louis University’s Northshore campus on Friday, October 12th from 8:30 am – 3:30 pm, and hear from a variety of professionals working to create and support housing options for individuals with disabilities. Purchase tickets on the event page.

We are pleased to offer Human Service Professionals and Educators a certificate for 6 CEU/CPDUs for the day.

Options in Inclusive Community Housing

Young woman smiling into camera in front of blurred backgroundOur keynote speaker, Micaela Connery, is the founder and CEO of The Kelsey. Inspired by her cousin Kelsey, Micaela has been working on inclusion in communities her entire life. She has seen firsthand the housing crisis facing adults with disabilities and their families. She spent a year studying this issue in detail at the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. The Kelsey exists to turn the challenge of disability housing into the opportunity of an inclusive community.

Community Partner Panels: Supports & Housing

Developers across the country are partnering with stakeholders to create supported alternative housing solutions. Representatives from The Kelsey, HODC, Scioto Properties, Rainbow Village, Movin’ Out and Three Oaks Communities will present how they are creating exciting opportunities.

Our remote support provider panel features Night Owl Support Systems, LLC, Rest Assured, and Simply Home. The panelists will explore how technologies are being used to support individuals with disabilities in living more independently.

Hear from families working to create community-based alternative housing options using our New Futures Initiative. With funding from The Coleman Foundation, we have partnered with agencies like Clearbrook  and the families they serve to work toward creating alternative housing options.

Engage Civic Leaders for Support

Former Oak Park Mayor David Pope Our endnote speaker, former Mayor David Pope, will share how you can effectively engage elected leaders and city administrators in your community. David now works with Oak Park Residence Corporation to create diverse communities in Oak Park.

Clark McCain (The Coleman Foundation) will provide closing statements on building community partnerships within our own communities.

Interested in learning about community-based housing alternatives? Don’t wait! Get your tickets for this conference today!

For more information and questions about registration, email our office or call (847) 328-2044.

Sponsors

Coleman foundation logo@properties logo with red @ sign

Presentation at National Down Syndrome Conference

Chrissy & Cynthia at the National Down Syndrome ConferenceCenter for Independent Futures hit the road again last month! Schools Consultant Chrissy and Community Life Coordinator Cynthia flew to Dallas in the middle of July. They faced the heat of Texas to present to the National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC) Conference.

At the National Down Syndrome Conference, parents, self-advocates, siblings, and volunteers gather to learn from industry experts. Thousands of people come to the conference to hear the newest information in the field. Center for Independent Futures was honored to be considered a leader in the field at this conference.

“We were pleased when we were asked to submit a proposal to present at the NDSC,” said Cynthia. “Our informative and interactive presented, ‘A Roadmap to Hope: Creating a Circle of Support for Your Adult Sibling,’ was well received.” Cynthia also expressed how wonderful it was to reconnect with other groups who are using the Full Life Process around the country, like Club 21.

Explore the Full Life Process

Though we don’t focus on labels here, we designed our Full Life Process to help anyone with an intellectual or developmental disability who needs support. It covers eight areas that encompass a full life, including home life, wellness, getting around, and more. The Full Life Process includes three crucial steps: planning, skills inventory, and skills training.

Those three investigative and planning steps help individuals work toward discovering their hopes and dreams – and then achieving them. After acknowledging obstacles, our process helps to develop action plans to develop necessary skills. We love sharing our Full Life Process throughout the country, providing schools & agencies with tools to facilitate person-centered planning.

Thank you to the NDSC for inviting Chrissy and Cynthia to speak at the Conference, and thank you to the audience for participating and engaging! Finally, keep an eye out for where our training consultants fly off to next!  

3 Things to Know About the ADA

Logo with ADA on it, as well as traditional symbols for various disabilitiesIn 1990, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in a step to shift the country toward accessibility for all. The 28th anniversary of the bill’s passage is on July 26th. Since 1990, the ADA has been defined and redefined again to include all levels of disabilities, including mental health challenges.

Laws can change as new situations arise. In fact, that is how the United States has expanded the ADA so far. With new challenges, lawmakers include additional elements or amendments to solve similar problems in the future. What are some other ways the law has changed? What else do individuals with disabilities and families need to know?

How to Get Accommodations You Need

For most, if not all, accommodations, it is necessary to have the proper documentation ready. According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, disability documentation may take the form of a letter on medical letterhead stationery, records from a government agency that issues benefits, or certification from a private counselor that provides benefits.

Other documentation may apply, so always ask to make sure you know what you need.

How to Receive Support at Universities

The process of receiving support differs from school to school, but similar documentation is usually necessary. Following documentation, students can work with the appropriate office to coordinate support.

Being a self-advocate is important to receiving support in college. Students with disabilities may need to approach their teachers and discuss their support needs in person. For example, when classes are in inaccessible buildings, it could even be possible to move the class to an accessible classroom.

How to Check for Accommodations at Businesses

Logo for ADA Network checklistAll government buildings and offices, as well as businesses and nonprofits, must be accessible to people with disabilities on an equal basis as others. The ADA National Network provides checklists online to help with this.

The ADA Network has several checklist versions available, including fillable and non-fillable Word documents and PDFs. The sections in this checklist include accessibility of entrances, bathrooms, and access to goods and services.

Finding accessibility resources is not always easy. But if you know what businesses and buildings are supposed to have, you can help make the world more accessible for everyone.

Arnie Schumer Scholarship Fund Created

Individuals with disabilities should have access to all the opportunities that a full, independent life offers. To achieve that access, many individuals need support from organizations like Center for Independent Futures. But what happens when a family can’t afford those services?

A Journey to Community Support

Arnie Schumer and his sister, Karen Berkowsky, could not afford the services provided by Center for Independent Futures, but they knew it was the right fit for Arnie. Through a scholarship fund, we were able to offer Arnie services that supported his needs and provided access to independent living. Before Arnie passed away last May, Arnie had been a part of our community since 2007.

Arnie was a caring, generous person, and Center for Independent Futures helped him further develop his existing skills and talents. Because of the impact this support had on her brother’s life, Karen decided the best way to honor him would be to help others get the support they need, too.

Karen started by taking Arnie’s story to a group called Women Giving Back. Each year, this group of generous women gathers to hear about three local charities three to four times. Then they vote on the story that they would like to support. The winning charity receives a donation from each voting member.

Ann & Megan receiving initial check from Women Giving BackWhen Karen presented her family’s story, it touched many hearts, and also received the most votes. The total donation received was a wonderful gift of $5,550. We will use the donations from Women Giving Back to start a hopefully long-standing scholarship fund in Arnie’s memory. The scholarship dollars from the Arnie Schumer Scholarship Fund will be given to qualifying individuals with disabilities and families who need financial help to pay for Center for Independent Futures’ services.

How You Can Help Others Like Arnie

Along with Arnie’s sister, we are reaching out to our community to help provide the same opportunity that Arnie had to others who need it. If you want to donate to the Arnie Schumer Scholarship Fund, you may write a check to Center for Independent Futures or donate online. To donate online, click the purple “Donate” button on our website. Once the Paypal Donation window opens,  enter the amount you want to donate and include “Arnie Schumer Scholarship Fund” in the “In Honor of” box.

Everyone deserves access to a full, independent life. The Arnie Schumer Scholarship Fund is one more step toward creating access for all.

Moving Beyond Diversity

Thanks to Evanston Cradle to Career, some staff members attended a two-day seminar on moving beyond diversity. What does that mean?

It means that if we are going to create a society that treats everyone equally, we can’t only consider diversity. We must reconsider the ways we are taught to think about abilities, race, class, and gender. Together, our community needs to think of the diversity of experiences people have – not just diversity of skin color.

Continue reading to find out what each staff member discovered at Beyond Diversity.

Sharon Purdy

As our facilitator said, “public learning is hard.” My best learning happened when I was most uncomfortable.

Why did I show up? I wanted an action plan. I wanted something I could do every day to be more aware and continue to learn from others’ perspectives. It’s great that our small group of colleagues at CIF has continued the conversation. I look forward to continued work together in hopes that we can keep this important conversation and resulting ideas and actions in the forefront of the work we do.

Niki Moe Horrell

I grew up in a mainly white community where there were distinct prejudices against people of color and this was against the threads of who I was, yet, this was where I lived. During the seminar, my mind was opened to some harsh realities:

Five staff members who attended Beyond Diversity pose for photo

I would not know how it feels to be racially profiled and followed by the police. I would not know how it feels to be watched in a department store. I would not know that the lighter the skin tone, the more privileged the person is.

People of color mentioned each of these experiences at the seminar. We all need to put ourselves in others’ shoes and create a change, for people of every color matter and every color creates the human race.

 

Claudia Quijada

Diversity and inclusion are becoming an important topic nowadays. However, there are always big challenges that societies face and these challenges, sometimes, become stronger than the willingness of good people. We can only achieve an inclusive goal when a society finds support from local governments. They must create policies specifically for the protection of the rights of minority groups.

Kathy Lyons

In championing inclusion for people with disabilities, we can be allies with others who face discrimination because the community of people with disabilities is as diverse as the population of people without.

The work of becoming racially conscious is deeply personal, often uncomfortable, and on-going.

Chrissy Lewis

Courageous Conversations logo

The opportunity to participate in the Beyond Diversity training for two days was a professional gift. The facilitator was willing to take risks and allow the people participating in the training to drive the conversation on race.  When these personal conversations took place, I learned the most about ideas like colorism and having courageous dialogues.

Although Evanston is a diverse community, it isn’t integrated. I spent time reflecting on my role in white dominance and the privileges that I am afforded. Finally, I reflected upon what conversations to take back to the Center for Independent Futures community on race.  

Connor Larsen

The most important aspect of being aware of race is possessing an ability to talk about difficult issues. The Beyond Diversity seminar provided us with tools for productive and valuable conversations about race, white privilege, and whiteness.

I am excited to work at an organization that encourages its staff to take racial differences and community building seriously. While there is so much work to be done in the world at-large, the best thing we can do is start at home. We will continue to have these difficult conversations among staff and community partners, and I hope that we can spread the tools we learned.

A Jam-Packed Life

This story was featured in our 2017 Annual Report, which can be found on the Media Gallery page on our website. Check it out to learn more about our partnerships with families, schools, and agencies across the country.

Just Adam Being Adam

Living a full, independent life is something most people want as they grow up. Adam Wiser is no different. Over time, Adam knew he wanted to live on his own. He wanted to explore the world around him with a jam-packed life full of activities he loves.

Adam smiles at past Something's Cooking fundraiserA road trip offers a chance to experience new places, broaden horizons, and have fun. For Center for Independent Futures participant Adam Wiser, a road trip seemed like a great opportunity to bond with buddies. So last year, Adam and two of his friends went to Pittsburgh, singing along to Billy Joel and enjoying the “thrill of the open road.”

When Adam moved to the Chicagoland area, he left his family behind in Indiana. He fell in love with Evanston, and built a life filled with work at Nordstroms Café, cruising around on his Diamondback, and hanging out with friends. These days, Adam loves movies on the big screen and prefers comedy and action films. “You need to see the second Thor movie,” Adam advises. “It’ll really make you laugh!”  An avid sports follower and loyal Cubs fan, he enjoys an occasional chance to see them play. “It feels awesome to be at Wrigley Field,” he shares. “I am not really into the SOX.”

Following Adam’s Dreams

Adam poses with friends he has made through Center for Independent FuturesAdam’s parents, Tom and Gloria, encourage him to follow his dreams. “We want our son to grow as an individual, expand relationships, and have the support he needs to become who he is meant to be…his best self,” shares Tom. With Center for Independent Futures support, Adam is part of a genuine community and has a full life with authentic connections. “If anything comes up, serious or not, someone is there to support him through it,” says Tom. “For parents living away from their kids, that’s a lifesaver.”

“It’s an absolute joy to be part of Adam’s team and to watch his confidence and capabilities grow,” relates Community Builder, Aby Karottu. “He brings so much humor, positive energy, and liveliness to the community, and he always lends a helping hand.” Aby adds, “I consider myself lucky to support such a caring, charismatic, and kind young man.”

Adam’s Pittsburgh adventure included the symphony, a Pirates game, and the Heinz Museum, where he learned all about the city’s transportation history…and ketchup. When Adam thinks about his goals, more road trips and see new things are at the top of his list. Adam’s next destination: The Mall of America in Minneapolis. Anybody ready to hit the road?

Success Stories

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