Independence, Inc. in Lawrence serves both people with disabilities and the communities where they live. Organized in 1978, the agency was the first Center for Independent Living (CIL) in the area, according to Bob Mikesic, co-director for the agency. Currently, it is one of about 400 CILs across the nation. Douglas, Franklin, and Jefferson counties benefit from its programs and services.
Cooking is one of the most popular classes that the agency offers among its training programs. In addition to teaching such independent living skills, classes create friendships and good times among peers who use the agency. In addition, Independence, Inc. provides advocacy, peer counseling, information and referral, and transition services of various types. It can also help to locate assistive technology, telecommunications access, and medical equipment for the disabled. Disabled people can find a ride to a medical appointment, learn to manage their finances, and get a document transcribed into Braille at Independence, Inc. The youth employment program provides jobs for young people with disabilities aged 15 to 21. The Haskell Avenue location houses a computer learning center and accessible meeting rooms as well as agency offices.
By promoting self-reliance and advocating personal rights and choices, Centers for Independence work to make individuals productive and to stay interconnected with their communities. There were no laws requiring accessibility or reasonable accommodation when CIL initiatives began in the 1960s, and employment options for the disabled were limited. After years of advocacy, CILs saw Congress pass the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, a law that provided rules and regulations to open the door for disabled people to manage a job and their own lives. More recently, one-third of the people who benefited from the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid were the disabled.