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.

Sharing the Full Life Process

Our partnerships with schools and agencies put our person-centered approaches in the hands of teachers and human service professionals working to support individuals to build full, independent lives. By sharing tools and resources, we help schools like Stevenson High School prepare students for the transition after graduation.

Partnering with a Blue Ribbon School

Logo for Stevenson High SchoolSince opening in 1965, STEVENSON HIGH SCHOOL has been a recipient of four Blue Ribbon Awards for Excellence in Education. As one of the best high schools in America, Stevenson’s Special Education Division works diligently to understand its students as individuals and help them choose their paths through self-advocacy.

As part of Stevenson’s Transition Team, Megan Sugrue has worked to build a program based on teaching the vital skills necessary for life after high school.  The Full Life Process has been an essential addition to their program. “The Full Life Process curriculum is high quality, visually appealing, and focused on skills attainment,” Megan says. “The online application makes it easy for me to find the lesson plans and resources relevant for individual students.”

Working with the online application, Stevenson students are able to have a voice in creating the life they envision. “Some students don’t see themselves as people with strengths,“ relates Marney Orchard, a Center for Independent Futures School and Agency Consultant working with the Stevenson team. “I love how this process allows students to reflect, recognize their talents, and express what they want for their future.”  

Moving Forward with Stevenson High School

Stevenson High School crestMegan has become an advocate for the Full Life Process with other educators. “In addition to the curriculum, professional development and training to use the platform are provided,” Megan tells her peers. “Center for Independent Futures’ professional, responsive, and personable support staff are available to problem solve and troubleshoot as needed.”

Using the Full Life Process, Megan’s days as a transition educator are smoother and more efficient. The Stevenson team is beginning to bring data collected from the Full Life Process into Individualized Education Plan meetings. We are excited to continue supporting transition programs like Stevenson’s across the state of Illinois and beyond.

7 Answers You Need About ABLE Accounts

A Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts are new savings accounts for individuals with disabilities. If you would like to be able to save more than $2,000 for rainy days in your future, ABLE accounts are probably something you have considered. On March 22nd, Center for Independent Futures proudly hosted JJ Hanley from the Illinois State Treasurer’s Office for a presentation on the new ABLE accounts.

If you are worried you aren’t eligible for or have other concerns about ABLE accounts, read this blog to learn from Director of IL ABLE, JJ Hanley, about the ins and outs of these new savings accounts.

1. What is an ABLE account?

Scrabble pieces spell out "savings account," which is what ABLE accounts are.ABLE accounts are new savings accounts, specifically for individuals with disabilities. This is a way for you to save money without losing any of your SSI or SSDI benefits — or any other federal, means-tested benefits. States created ABLE accounts with the hope they would help individuals have the opportunity for independence and self-reliance.

2. Do I qualify for an ABLE account?

Now that you know what an ABLE account is, you are probably asking if an ABLE account is right for you. There are very few qualifications to meet for ABLE accounts. First, you must have a disability. Second, the age of onset of your disability must be before age 26.  However, that does not mean that you had to be diagnosed before age 26. If your disability started at age 15, but you weren’t diagnosed until age 32, you can still qualify for an ABLE savings account.

3. Who should open an ABLE account?

An ABLE account is right for you if you’re someone with a disability, and you want to be able to save more than $2,000 at a time. This is particularly true if you are working a job. You can save $15,000 a year in an ABLE account without affecting your SSI benefits, and you can save up to $100,000 within an account.

4. When can I use an ABLE account?

You might have many questions about when you can use savings from an ABLE account. The quick answer is: any living expenses related to a disability. But as these accounts are new, you may need to experiment to find out what limits exist, if any. One goal in creating ABLE accounts is to end the isolation within the community, so there is a lot of wiggle room in what counts as disability related.

5. What options do I have with ABLE accounts?

There are several options to choose from when you decide to open an ABLE account. You can either open a checking account or one of six risk-targeted investment options. It is important to discuss these options with someone you trust before making a decision.

6. How do I open an ABLE account?

You should not go to a bank and try to open one of these accounts because most people won’t know what you’re referring to. You can open an ABLE account online through the ABLE IL website or by calling the Illinois ABLE office.

7. Whose name is a debit card in with an Authorized Individual?

A gold piggy bank against a dark backgroundFinally, if there is an Authorized Individual included on the ABLE account, the agency issues the debit card in the Authorized Individual’s name. This means that if an individual is unable to make financial decisions on their own, a parent or legal guardian is able to make sure the money is spent when necessary.

At Center for Independent Futures, we would like to extend another big thank you to JJ Hanley for sharing this information with us. Now you can watch the full video from JJ Hanley’s presentation at Center for Independent Futures right here on our website.

Co-Hosting Free ABLE Presentation With No Boundaries

Do you receive SSI, SSDI, and/or Medicaid but would like to save and invest for the future?  If so, this FREE presentation is for you!No Boundaries LogoCenter for Independent Futures logo in green and purple

No Boundaries & Center for Independent Futures co-host:    

What You Need to Know About Achieving a Better Life Accounts – Illinois ABLE
Presented by JJ Hanley, Director IL ABLE for the Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs

Thursday, March 22, 2018 • 6:30 – 8:00 pm • Center for Independent Futures, 1015 Davis Street, Evanston, IL.

Seating is limited.  RSVP by Monday, March 19, 2018!

TOPICS will include:

  • Why ABLE?
  • What will ABLE do to my SSI, SSDI, and/or Medicaid?
  • What challenges are there to ABLE?
  • How do I open an IL ABLE account?
  • What’s going on with legislation in Illinois and Washington?
  • Who should attend:
  • Adult self-advocates
  • Parents/Guardians
  • Educators
  • Service Providers
  • Other Professionals

Center for Independent Futures is physically accessible and a short walk from the CTA and Metra stops. Metered street parking is available.

Questions?  Contact Tricia Luzadder at tluzadder@search-inc.org or 847-869-0000.

RSVP and Reserve your seat today!

Sailing Again

By Sharon Purdy, School and Agency Consultant

My grandfather’s hobby was boatbuilding, and he made sure that we all knew how to sail. This favorite pastime filled me with confidence, strength and a love of a summer day on the water. As often happens, my pastime was set aside for other commitments. And, almost every day, I found myself thinking, “I’d love to sail again.”

In my work at Center for Independent Futures, I have the privilege of supporting the hopes and dreams of individuals and their families as we plan for their full lives. We work together on living outside of our comfort zones, trying new experiences, and creating positive connections with others in our communities. And yet, I was not getting any closer to going to the dock to make the connections I’d need to get back on a sailboat.

Then I met Michael, my new sailing friend. Our first connection was at a Center for Independent Futures Social Hour where I happened to sit down next to him. On that cold winter’s day Michael and I talked about our common passion for sailing. He mentioned that he spends a lot of his summer time volunteering at the Judd Goldman Adaptive Sailing Foundation run out of Burnham Harbor. Michael has committed 17 years of volunteer service to this program that encourages fun and safe sailing and racing for people of all abilities. My mind was filled with visions of choppy water, the sound of lines against the mast, and the excitement of a fun day on the water. I left that day thinking, again, “I’d love to sail again.”

Michael didn’t forget! The next time I got to see him, Michael handed me a card with all of the contact information I’d need to get involved at his sailing program. He gave me the dates of the late spring volunteer training classes, and above all, he encouraged me to join him at the dock. Michael inspired and reassured me as I was feeling a bit rusty after all these years. Now Michael is my mentor at the Judd Goldman Sailing volunteer program.

Often, individuals with disabilities are isolated and unable to access opportunities to explore their interests and talents. Center for Independent Futures works to create stronger networks with individuals to connect them with others, leading to healthier, happier lives. In this case, though, our typical roles were reversed. Michael supported me, introduced me to his fellow volunteers, and encouraged me to pursue a dream. Michael’s generosity and supportiveness show that when individuals with disabilities have the chance to participate and contribute their gifts, the entire community grows stronger.

The Judd Goldman Adaptive Sailing Foundation supports people with disabilities to experience the joy of sailing and develop new skills. To learn more, call (312) 747-7684 or visit www.juddgoldmansailing.org.

Training to Organize for Change

By Kathy Lyons, Project Director

Center for Independent Futures staff recently learned more about the power of organizing for social, economic, and political justice at the Midwest Academy’s “Organizing for Social Change” training.

At the week-long training, five staff members learned effective strategies to win the support of influential decision-makers and take a results-oriented approach to social action. Our participation in this training was funded by an investment by the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities. The Council’s investment supports a two-year project to advance the inclusion of people with disabilities in several Chicagoland communities

During the training, we learned strategies to alter relationships of power between citizens and decision-makers. This change can come from building strong and sustainable organizations and changing laws and social systems. The tools we developed throughout the week will support our efforts to improve the structures and mindsets of organizations, leading to full participation from all individuals.

The Midwest Academy is a national training institute committed to advancing the struggle for social, economic, and racial justice. Founded in 1973, the Academy strives to give people a sense of their own power to improve society, providing training to groups ranging from neighborhood to national organizations. Our training cohort included individuals and organizations from across the country, such as Amnesty International, Working America, Open Communities, and Lo Que Puede Venir (“What May Come”).

Since 2002, Center for Independent Futures has advocated on a local, state, and national level for opportunities for individuals with disabilities. We know that when individuals with disabilities build happier, healthier lives, our entire community grows stronger.

The training deepened our commitment to creating a future in which individuals with disabilities are empowered to demand – and win – access to all of the opportunities of a full life. Stay tuned as we put into action what we learned as change champions for inclusive communities!

Collaboration with Lo Que Puede Venir Creates Connections

Every community, like every individual, has unique resources and needs. In 2016, Center for Independent Futures worked in communities in the Chicagoland area on our Community Connectors and Bridge Builders Project, an effort made possible by an investment by the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities.

In Chicago’s Little Village, Cicero, and Berywn neighborhoods, we worked with Lo Que Puede Venir, an organization that supports individuals with disabilities and their families in the Hispanic community. Through the Community Connectors and Bridge Builders Project, individuals with disabilities connected with other community members with shared interests to attend events, volunteer, and enjoy their hobbies.

To make these moment possible, Lo Que Puede Venir and Center for Independent Futures each contributed organizational assets and collaborated to overcome obstacles, explained Maria Castillo, Program Director of Lo Que Puede Venir.

“Center for Independent Futures said, we might not speak Spanish, but we’ll look for ways to make it work. Our office might not be located in the center of your community, but we’ll bring the program and our efforts to you,” Maria said. “This approach makes all the difference in the world.”

Building on the success of the Community Connectors and Bridge Builders Project, Center for Independent Futures will expand efforts to create community-wide changes, allowing more individuals to access the opportunities of full community participation. Through changing mindsets about what’s possible, this work has already begun, shared Consuelo Puente, Executive Director of Lo Que Puede Venir.

“Everyone had a story to share about how expectations changed through this project,” Consuelo said. “Families realized that there are possibilities for their child with a disability and that there are ways to engage in the community rather than being isolated.”

Partnering with Equip for Equality for Brighter Futures

When graduation appears on the horizon, most high schoolers are excited to transition to their next educational or employment opportunity. But for students with disabilities, the thought of leaving the support of school services often creates fear and uncertainty.

Center for Independent Futures believes that all individuals deserve bright futures after high school. Over the past year, we collaborated with Equip for Equality to support Chicago Public Schools students to create person-centered transition plans based on their hopes and dreams.

Center for Independent Futures School Coordinator Sharon Purdy worked with students identified by Equip for Equality to create plans and resources, meeting with students and their supporters in their neighborhoods throughout Chicago. Sharon used our Full Life ProcessTM to support individuals to identify resources, set goals, and make plans, starting by encouraging the student to articulate their goals.

“It makes a huge difference when the families know what their students want to do. We’re fortunate to be in a position where we can ask students what their dreams are,” Sharon explained.

With those dreams in mind, Sharon and the students created a portfolio of resources to support their transitions to community life after high school. They took inventory of each student’s assets and interests, identified any potential obstacles and support needs, created a map of the student’s personal network of supporters, and then set goals in all of the areas that make up a full life.

Throughout the process, the students had the opportunity to express their own hopes for the future. Margie Wakelin, a supervising attorney at Equip for Equality’s special education clinic, said that seeing students build these skills of self-expression was the most remarkable outcome of the collaboration.

“Center for Independent Futures empowers our students to direct their own transition planning and learn to self-advocate for the support they need,” Margie said. “Through using the tools Center for Independent Futures has developed, the student understands the importance of his or her voice.”

Whether a student is creating a transition plan or an individual is setting goals for the future, the voice of individuals with disabilities forms the core of our Full Life ProcessTM. Through our comprehensive, person-centered planning tools, individuals with disabilities and their families share their dreams and find the tools and resources they need to fulfill them. Our collaboration with Equip for Equality will lead to more students leading fuller lives in the community after graduation.

“Center for Independent Futures’ work has been instrumental in placing our students in a strong position to achieve their transition goals and enter adulthood with a solid foundation,” Margie said.

Success Stories

tue22oct6:30 pm8:00 pmSexuality & Safety - Men's Group

sat26oct9:30 am1:30 pmFootball: Northwestern vs. Iowa

sun27oct11:00 am1:00 pmBowling

mon28oct4:00 pm5:00 pmYoga

mon28oct5:00 pm6:00 pmBook Club

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