Developing Inclusive Technology in Chicago

Stage at 1871 Chicago event with six blue chairs and purple lights highlighting 1871 logos behind stage.Last Thursday, Center for Independent Futures hosted an educational and engaging panel event at 1871 focusing on inclusive technology in Chicago. When developing our online learning management system, My Full Life, Independent Futures chose to focus on creating inclusive technology that would support adults with disabilities. In the last year, our consultants have met other technology professionals doing similar work. We were honored to bring these experts together for a conversation bringing accessibility and inclusion to the technology field.

Inclusive Technology in Chicago: What’s Next

Jake Joehl introduces our panel and moderator using assistive technology like braille and a screen reader.One of our community members, Jake, kickstarted the event by explaining how technology helps him in his daily life. Using screen readers, Jake is able to navigate the world and stay informed. His phone and computer both support him in living his full life. In fact, Jake used a screen reader to introduce our moderator, Roger Liew of Impact Engine.

Throughout the discussion, Liew asked important questions of our panelists about the future of technology and accessibility. Richard Brown (Infinitec/UCP Seguin), Cameron Kempson (SimplyHome), Chrissy Dale (My Full Life), and Marcelo Worsley (Northwestern University) broke down exactly why they think inclusion is the next forefront of technological innovation.

At Northwestern University, Marcelo researches how to build accessibility Panelists listen to each other speak on inclusive technology in Chicago on stage at 1871.into the design process for developers. He noted, “Accessibility at big companies tends to start with compliance, but it has to move forward.” Cameron agreed, but she says even that isn’t enough. “People should start to look beyond big tech to companies like these that are developing with accessibility and inclusion in mind.”

As businesses start to realize what a large market people with disabilities and their families are, they will figure out that accessible technology is just good business. Moving beyond compliance with the ADA is the next step for companies designing tech solutions.

Designing For All: Focusing on the Individual

Part of person-centered planning centers the concept “dignity of risk.” That means that each individual is afforded the ability to try new things and encounter the risks that comes along with new experiences. At 1871, Chrissy explained that legislative changes and technological advancements helped us spread My Full Life throughout the country. “Starting with asking someone about their hopes and dreams, My Full Life allows individuals with disabilities to learn independent living skills and branch out on their own.”

Panelists pose for a photo on stage after a successful and engaging event!Richard expanded on this idea, explaining the biggest barrier for some people with disabilities has simply been “the technology catching up to they want to do. With technology, they can live their best full life.”

Building Inclusive Technology, Designed For Everyone

Do you want to learn more about accessibility in tech? Reach out to us today to learn more about My Full Life and how it could benefit your community! Inclusive technology in Chicago is only a starting point. The need for technology solutions like these are widespread and growing each day.

Missed the 1871 event? We filmed the panel, so keep an eye out for the video, coming soon!

Ignite Dreams at SPARK With Us!

In just under a month, we will be dancing the night away and sharing the dreams of our community at SPARK. A night for our community to get together and celebrate all we have achieved this year, SPARK is a night out you don’t want to miss. This year we have some new and exciting features, plus we have been making changes to guarantee you will have the most fun possible!

Silent Auction Prizes

One part of the evening that won’t be changing is our silent auction! We have roughly 70 wonderful packages for guests to take home at the end of the evening.

Florida house view over the ocean with deck railing in frame

From wonderful dining experiences to enjoying excellent theatre performances, we hope that our guests will all find something to bid on! A few examples include a weeklong stay at a condo in Florida, two roundtrip tickets to anywhere in the U.S. from Southwest Airlines, an astounding package from SPACE, and so much more.

Watch for chances to start bidding early about a week before SPARK!

The New Golden Ticket Raffle

In past years, SPARK featured an awesome raffle where the winner was able to “split the pot” with us, but we are trying something new this year! We are happy to be introducing the Golden Ticket raffle!

Sunset in Costa Rica with palm trees in frame, the sky is painted different shades of blue, pink, orange, yellow, and purple.We are selling a limited 150 Golden Tickets, meaning you have a 1/150 chance of winning when you purchase a single ticket. Golden Ticket holders choose their prize selection at the time of purchase from our amazing live auction items. Whether you want to go to Costa Rica or see a Cubs game with stellar seats, we have an item for everyone’s needs.

Winners need not be present to win, but we hope you will stay the whole evening to dance and ignite the spark of our community’s dreams with us!

Changes to Our Program

This year, we are making exciting changes to our program! It is our hope these will allow us to better ignite dreams at SPARK. We will be shortening the program to allow for more of everyone’s favorite part of the night – dancing! We will still be honoring stellar supporters through the Jane Doyle Awesome Awards, but we will end earlier so your dancing shoes see some awesome moves!

Thank You Sponsors, Entertainment, and Guests!

Finally, we want to thank some amazing individuals and businesses who are supporting us at SPARK this year. First, our entertainment, Euphoria Band, will be putting on a great show for us again this year.

Crowd of guests dancing at SPARKNext, thank you to our sponsors because we could not put together such an amazing celebration without each of you. Thank you PSAV, Sidley Austin, Inland Bank, Byline Bank, Monahan Law Group, Rubin Law, Northwestern University, Oak Wealth Advisors, Simon Cordwell Buenz, and Nike Whitcomb & Associates for your support!

And last but never least, we thank our guests at SPARK who will join us in honoring this community. None of the hopes and dreams we help make reality could ever be possible without every one of you! Get your tickets today!

New at SPARK: Golden Tickets & Live Auction Prizes

Every year before SPARK, we are so excited to announce the fabulous live auction packages available to our guests for bidding. Today, we are announcing the five prizes attendees will be able to bid on, plus a thrilling new way to experience SPARK!

Introducing the Golden Ticket

For the first time, we will be offering Golden Tickets to our community! Golden Tickets are a new way to participate in our favorite night of the year. There will only be 150 Golden Tickets sold, so you know what your chances of winning are! If you purchase a Golden Ticket, please make sure that you have selected your prize at the time of purchase. Winners need not be present to win. Each Golden Ticket is $100, and the prize is something special!

The winner of our Golden Ticket drawing will get to choose from the live auction prizes before any bidding even starts! If you win the raffle, you will receive the prize you choose at time of purchase, and that prize will be removed from the live auction. Are you ready to find out your options?

SPARK 2019 Live Auction Packages

From golfers to travelers to art lovers, we have a winning package for anyone’s interests. Don’t miss out on your chance to secure the package you know you want – get your Golden Ticket today! And if you don’t win, there’s still a chance to win your item in the live auction. Check out the live auction prizes today.

Golfing With A Pro

You and a friend will join Hans Larson, PGA head professional, at Westmoreland Country Club, accompanied by member Jim McClure. Your day on the course will include 18 holes of golf, caddies, tips & playing lessons from Hans, and lunch. Date to be mutually agreed upon among all parties.

Magnificent Views in Costa Rica

Enjoy a weeklong vacation at Villa Vista Magnifica in Costa Rica, overlooking the Pacific Ocean and gorgeous beaches Playa Prieta and Playa Penca. Villa Vista Magnifica is a 5 bedroom, 5.5 bath villa staffed with 2 full-time employees. You and 9 of your friends can relax in luxury with such features as an outdoor shower, a private patio, an infinity edge pool, and an upstairs terrace view. Airfare not included; average airfare to Costa Rica is $450 per person. High season is from May through July.

Dinner With Easter Seals Vice President
Please join our Executive Director Ann Sickon & 8 other guests for a four-course gourmet dinner with fine wines in a newly renovated 1882 row house in Little Italy on a Friday or Saturday night this summer. Our hosts Tom LeClair and Carlyn Berghoff will prepare an amazing evening that also includes lively conversation on trending topics in the world of disabilities.
Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Four seats to your choice of two 2019 games decided upon in conjunction with the donor. These seats offer an extraordinary opportunity to experience Wrigleyville’s favorite team from premium seats only 10 rows behind home plate.

Rob Larson’s Water Lilies

Inspired by Claude Monet’s use of color and expressive brushstrokes, our own Rob Larson has created his own rendition of Water Lilies. Using oil on canvas, the painting celebrates the beautiful relationships found in nature through reflections in the pond and the flowering water lilies.

What Are You Waiting For?

Group enjoying games at Evanston fundraising event, SPARKTickets are on sale now! Early bird prices are available until March 31st, and then all ticket prices will increase by $25. While you’re getting tickets to SPARK, you can also purchase your Golden Ticket and Heads or Tails glamour glasses. Don’t forget to indicate which prize you’d like if you bought a Golden Ticket, and let us know your dinner choices too!

We can’t wait to see you at SPARK and start igniting dreams together!

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!

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!

#GivingTuesday and #ILGive a Success!

At Center for Independent Futures, we feel honored to be part of such a generous community, especially after #GivingTuesday and #ILGive! Because of each of you spreading the word and donating, we were able to surpass our donation goals!

#GivingTuesday and #ILGive

Giving Tuesday image of woman laughing in purple striped shirtOn Tuesday, November 27th, countries around the world celebrated #GivingTuesday. In Illinois, we also participate in #ILGive, an initiative from Forefront that hopes to show Illinois is one of the most generous states in America. This year was a big year for their #ILGive project: registered Illinois nonprofits raised $1,720,107 in just 24 hours from 6,902 donors!

While #GivingTuesday was a very big day for nonprofits across the world, it was also a huge success for Center for Independent Futures. Our community helped us raise $24,038 from just under 100 contributors! We not only surpassed our $20,000 goal – we also raised about $8,000 more than we have in previous years.

The funds raised through #GivingTuesday contribute to the services and activities we are able to provide to our participants, like heARTwords, where members are encouraged to express themselves through writing prompts. Activities and services like heARTwords provide a sense of community to this community that too often feels lonely and excluded. Your support truly makes a difference and helps us continue providing a sense of belonging to our participants.

Matching Grant for #GivingTuesday

Man smiling in a baseball cap with bracelets on with #GivingTuesday and #ILGive imageryAs if raising more than $24,000 in one day wasn’t exciting enough, we were also offered a matching grant opportunity. For every donation of $175 or more, we received an additional $175 thanks to the Coleman Foundation. As a result, Center for Independent Futures will receive an additional $10,000!

With your help, we raised a total of $34,038 on November 27th! That makes this year our most successful #GivingTuesday yet, and it is all thanks to you, our wonderful community. We cannot thank you enough for your generosity during this giving season.

There Is Still Time To Give!

Did you forget to give on #GivingTuesday and #ILGive? That’s okay! There is still time to give this year. If you want to make a year-end gift to Center for Independent Futures, please contact Niki Moe Horrell or call our office at (847) 328-2044.

Something’s Cooking Celebration Highlights

5 volunteers smile at camera with orange table in foreground at Something's Cooking celebrationThank you to everyone who came to support Center for Independent Futures at our sixteenth annual Something’s Cooking celebration! From the music to the laughter – and, of course, the food – we enjoyed every last minute of the evening, thanks to all of you.

Wonderful Space and Support

This year’s fundraiser was our second being hosted by the Woman’s Club of Evanston. Their beautiful, historic building kept us sheltered from the rainy weather outside and made the evening a definite success. We couldn’t have had such a wonderful evening without the help of their amazing staff!

Exciting Prizes to Take Home

Board member and a volunteer draw names for raffle on stage at Something's Cooking celebrationInstead of a silent auction, we held a raffle this year, featuring eight grand prizes. From hand-painted Adirondack chairs and brand new bicycle to a weeklong stay at a cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains, these raffle prizes were items we definitely wished we could take home ourselves! After all, there’s nothing like a great Cubs game in Chicago or a relaxing, therapeutic care package.

Congratulations to each of the fabulous winners! Of course, thank you to the support of all who purchased raffle tickets to play along with us on Sunday as well. Your support never goes unnoticed!

Good Food and Great Company

Celtic Knot Public House employees serving food and waving at cameraLast, but certainly not least, we want to thank all of our phenomenal restaurant, beverage, and dessert sponsors. Something’s Cooking could not happen without all of you donating your delicious food, drinks, and time.

Did you miss Something’s Cooking? Check out what these restaurants provided below, and make sure to mark your calendars early next year!

See You Next Year!

We are already looking forward to next year’s Something’s Cooking celebration when we get to spend another lovely Sunday afternoon with our favorite people! For now, we are getting ready for #GivingTuesday and helping our community give back. To join us, learn more at bit.ly/CIF2018GT.

Restaurant List

Bagel Art Cafe: Assorted Bagel Bites

Celtic Knot Public House: Mini Shepherd Pie

Edzo’s Burger Shop: Nutella Shakes

Farmhouse: Baked Mac-n-Cheese

Firehouse Grill: Burger Bites, Veggie Sloppy Joe’s, Chicken & Waffle Sliders

Flat Top Grill: Chilled Edamame, Pot Stickers

Gigio’s Pizzeria: Sausage, cheese, and veggie pizzas

Koi: Vegetable Maki with Mango Sauce

La Macchina Cafe: Vegetarian and Meat Lasagnas

Lulu’s: Cold Sesame Peanut Noodles

Peckish Pig: Bacon Wrapped Dates

Table to Stix: Truffle Pecorino Smoke Pickle Onion Salmon

Taco Diablo: Corn Esquite with Queso Fresco and Chilipiquin

Ten Mile House: Vegetarian Mediterranean Bruschetta

That Little Mexican Cafe: Shrimp Empanadas, Pork Taquitos

Trattoria D.O.C.: Orecchiette con Spinaci

Join Chicago Marathon Team – 5 FAQ

A Team CIF runner smiling on the Chicago Marathon course 2018On October 13, 2019, thousands of dedicated runners will line up at Grant Park, ready to take on the Chicago Marathon course. Out of the thousands of runners, there are hundreds of generous marathon participants who sign up for guaranteed entry by choosing to support a charity team.

We have put together a frequently asked questions blog about our Chicago Marathon team. If you’ve ever thought about running a marathon — or know someone else who has — take a look! Even if this opportunity isn’t for you, please help us spread the word! Forward this blog to your friends, family, and coworkers to let them know about this chance to be part of a Chicago tradition.

What is the Chicago Marathon?

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is an opportunity for runners around the world to achieve a remarkable feat: running 26.2 miles through many of Chicago’s unique neighborhoods. Runners sign up in late October and November, and then they train hard to complete the course in under 6.5 hours.

Can My Family and Friends Watch Me Run?

Of course! There is room for spectators along the whole course, but Mile 15 is really where the party’s at. At Mile 15, there is the Charity Block Party, where cheerleaders from charity partners like Center for Independent Futures will be waiting to cheer on our team — and all the other runners, of course! Your friends and family are always welcome to join us at the block party!

What Are the Team Requirements?

At Center for Independent Futures, we only ask that our Team CIF runners meet the minimum fundraising amount required by the Bank of America Chicago Marathon organizers. That means each runner will be asked to raise $1,250 to support the hopes and dreams of individuals with disabilities.

What Team Supports Do You Offer?

When you join Team CIF, you are becoming part of a community. We will help you every step of the way from working on individualized fundraising ideas to helping you remember important steps. Plus, you will have the chance to join the Chicago Area Runners Association at a discounted rate because you are running with us.

How Do I Sign Up?!

It’s easy! Just email team coordinator Connor Larsen and let her know you want to join the team! She will walk you through the two-step registration process and make sure you are registered to the team. Then Connor will help you get set up with fundraising tools and training tips throughout the following year to make your Chicago Marathon course successful. Don’t wait to claim your spot – there are only 15 left!

Opportunities for Continuing Education for Adults

Offering continuing education for adults is important to the growth of an inclusive community. That’s why Center for Independent Futures was proud to offer three opportunities to expand horizons last week. Together, we learned from an expert on sexual education and from individuals with disabilities, creating opportunities for new perspectives.

Changing How “Intelligence” Is Defined

On Sunday, October 21st, we were happy to offer a free screening of Dan Habib’s new film Intelligent Lives. On this crisp autumn day, we gathered with members of the Evanston community and beyond to share how we think of intelligence.

A father and son laugh together. The words "The IQ test told us nothing about my child's potential" are in front of brown background.There are nine different, commonly recognized types of intelligence. These different types range from traditional ideas of intelligence, like mathematical-logical thinking and linguistics. However, this idea also includes types of intelligence like interpersonal and existential intelligences.

Intelligent Lives tackles this idea by following the lives of three individuals with disabilities who have received low IQ test scores, yet they are able to thrive in their full, busy lives. Each of these individuals has a different type of intelligence that helps them succeed. Micah, for example, has high interpersonal intelligence and is great with people; Naieer has spatial intelligence that informs his art.

Many of the film screening attendees shared that they enjoyed the film. One young man left the film and, feeling empowered, he told us, “I could be like Naieer or Micah. I could go to school or live on my own like them.”

Reflecting on Sex Education for People With Disabilities

White letters on blue background says Know More. White text on black background says Stop Sexual Violence.Monday, October 22nd, Susy Woods joined us to discuss sexual education for people with disabilities in two separate workshops. Susy Woods has been a disability advocate for 36 years, serves on the ARC of Ilinois Board, is active in Illinois Imagines, and so much more. Over the course of her long career, she found that both parents and educators needed help figuring out how to include people with disabilities in sex education.

In two workshops, one for parents and the other for educators, Susy discussed real-world examples of sexual violence and the warning signs of sexual abuse. We are grateful that Susy took the time to travel from Springfield and share her knowledge. Stay tuned for video from the workshops!

Last week was a big one here at Center for Independent Futures! We all learned a bunch about intelligence and sexual violence prevention. If you are interested in learning more about either of these events, please email Connor Larsen or call (847) 328-2044.

Something’s Cooking Features New Evanston Restaurants

Two participants enjoy Something's Cooking with new Evanston restaurants.Have you heard? Something’s Cooking is heating up, and we have a bunch of great additions to this fall favorite! At Something’s Cooking, new Evanston restaurants are participating, plus you can look forward to raffle prizes and live music. Don’t miss this great event at the Woman’s Club of Evanston on Sunday, November 4th from 3:00-6:00.

Something’s Cooking New Evanston Restaurants

This year we have three new participating restaurants or beverage sponsors, and we are excited to welcome them into this fall tradition!

Firehouse Grill is a woodsy restored early 1900s firehouse, serving American standards. Get lunch or dinner seven days a week. With a new owner, a new menu, and new options, you’re in for a good meal.

Taco Diablo gives a respectful nod to Mexican cuisine, rooted in authentic Mexican cooking techniques. They serve traditional moles, freshly made salsas, and tacos in a lively and casual place.

Fruitbelt Sparkling Fruit Tonic is a wholesome, refreshing tonic made with sparkling water, a splash of Michigan fruit juice, a drop of honey, and a sprinkling of aromatic bitters. With only 60 calories and no artificial ingredients, this is delicious on its own or as a mixer.

Raffle and Auction Items Delight

Like always, we will have plenty of prizes to raffle off – and you do not need to be present to win! In addition to the raffle, you have the chance to take home some wonderful bottles of wine through the wine grab.

Beautiful photo of Great Smoky Mountains with orange sunset over mountains covered with evergreen trees.Plus, the event features some amazing auction items, like a 7-night stay at Blue Smoke Cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Nights at the cabin typically rent at $196-$346 per night. The cabin is surrounded by spectacular mountain views featuring Mount LeConte and Greenbrier Pinnacle. In the cabin, you will find a pool table, foosball, a vintage arcade game console, and large screen TVs featuring premium movie and sports channels. And if that isn’t enough, there is also a hot tub overlooking the mountains to enjoy after a long hike.

Get Down with Van Go Go

Van Go Go performs under stage lights in front of silhouetted crowd.If you were at Something’s Cooking last year, you probably saw Van Go Go putting on a show for us. Van Go Go is a group of individuals with and without developmental disabilities creating fun, foot stomping music! Come to the Woman’s Club of Evanston to enjoy the music with our wonderful community of supporters.

Buy Something’s Cooking Tickets Now!

Ready to find out what our favorite Something’s Cooking new Evanston restaurants have to offer? Don’t wait any longer! Buy your tickets online today. Tickets are $75, and you can even buy your raffle tickets online. For more information, contact Niki Moe at nmoe@independentfutures.com or (847) 328-2044.

Success Stories

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