The North Carolina Statewide Independent Living Council (NC SILC) was established in 2009 to meet the requirements of a Federal Law titled “The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (as amended). This law required that Statewide Independent Living Councils work with the NC Centers for Independent Living to help identify the needs of people with disabilities in our state and jointly create a 3-year plan to address them. Our role is not to provide direct services to individuals, but to help advance Independent Living options among the disability community in North Carolina.
To promote a philosophy of independent living, including a philosophy of consumer control, peer support, self-help, self-determination, equal access, and individual and systems advocacy, in order to maximize opportunities for individuals with disabilities and the integration and full inclusion of individuals with disabilities into the mainstream of society.
The NC SILC Membership represents a broad range of individuals, the majority of whom self-identify as having disabilities. Additionally, we have representation from across the state, we have diverse backgrounds and identities, and we all share a common goal of supporting the Centers for Independent Living and Independent Living Services.
The NC Statewide Independent Living Council fulfills an important and unique role in determining the direction of the Independent Living Program in the State of NC. SILC Council Members help identify the needs of people with disabilities through public forums, quarterly meetings, and surveys. Using that information, they create a plan with the NC Centers for Independent Living to address these needs over the next 3 years.
Independent Living means controlling what is done in your life and making your own decisions. SILC Council members and staff as well as Centers for Independent Living are directed by people with disabilities who believe that individuals with disabilities should control their own life, have opportunities comparable to other citizens, participate in the community as they wish, and have economic security.
The Independent Living or disability rights movement started in the last 1960’s when a group of Berkeley students with severe disabilities were denied opportunities and access within their community. They knew that with certain skills and support services, they could control their own lives.
Their attempts to be independent were met with resistance from the medical and rehabilitation professionals who were unwilling to believe that persons with severe disabilities were capable of surviving without their “care.” In 1972, these Berkeley activists, which included Ed Roberts, started the Independent Living movement to prove otherwise. Ed Roberts, who is considered the Father of Independent Living, established the first Independent Living Center to promote the idea of self-help and it became a full-fledged civil rights issue.
The Independent Living movement really gained momentum as war veterans came home with disabilities and as more people acquired age-related disabilities due to increased life expectancy.
During this time, the Independent Living movement started to organize efforts to protect individual civil rights. Many new disability rights organizations and initiatives were launched. Some of these early activists included Ed Roberts, Justin, & Yoshiko Dart, Lex Frieden, Marca Bristo, and Judy Heumann, are just a few who were the driving force behind the passage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and later the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed in 1990.
The passage and implementation of the 1973, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, sometimes called the Civil Rights Act for the Disabled, was a significant milestone. This legislation, prohibited discrimination against persons with disabilities in programs, services, and benefits that are federally funded. This set the foundation for future generations of individuals with disabilities to have access to and be able to engage in life pursuits like their able-bodied counterparts had taken for granted – education, employment, housing, transportation, entertainment, etc.
By 1978, under Rehabilitation Act Amendments, the Federal Government began to provide funding to establish Independent Living Centers in virtually every state and U.S. territory.
The Federal Rehabilitation Act was amended again in 1992. The amendments required each state to establish a State Independent Living Council (SILC) who was charged with planning the use of Independent Living funds granted to the state and designing the network of CILs in each state. As a result of this Federal mandate, the NC Statewide Independent Living Council was established as a charitable organization in 2006 and became a 501(c)3 in 2009.
Today, Independent Living is the most widely accepted perspective on disability rights in America. It emphasizes that people with disabilities are the best experts on their own needs, that they have crucial and valuable perspectives to contribute to society, and deserve equal opportunity to decide how to live, work, and take part in their communities. The Independent Living philosophy includes the philosophy of consumer control, peer support, self-help, self-determination, equal access, individual and systemic advocacy, and maximizing leadership, empowerment, independence, and productivity of people with disabilities, thus maximizing the integration and full inclusion of people with disabilities in mainstream society.
Many new disability activists continue to join the IL Movement. Although progress has been made, continued education, awareness and advocacy is needed. Without ongoing advocacy there will likely be further attempts to weaken the ADA and to reject changes to Social Security and other disability-related laws that would prevent people with disabilities to make their own choices and control their own lives.
Gloria Garton – Executive Director
- Ashley Large – Chair
- Deja Barber – Vice-Chair
- Eva Reynolds – Treasurer
- Shay Webb – Secretary
- Karla Gray – Member-at-Large
- Vacancy – Member-at-Large
- Vicki Smith – Center Director Representative
- Ali Ingersoll
- Robert Hooe
- Celeste Hunt
- Jean Dominique
- Jennifer Pleasants- DHHS/Division of Vocational Rehab
- Patricia Sykes – DHHS/DSB
- Brian Michaels – DHHS/DHOH
- Tara Mueller – Disability Rights North Carolina
- Talley Wells – DHHS – Development Disabilities Council
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