Independent Living Center Employment Programs: Important Resources for American Indians and Alaska Natives With Disabilities
The importance of independent living centers in helping people with disabilities achieve employment outcomes has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). In its Plan for Employment of People with Disabilities, DOE, whose Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) provides federal funds for a variety of programs including Centers for Independent Living (CILs), recognizes that people receiving services from these programs are not always clients of State (or Tribal) Vocational Rehabilitation Services programs. And often, through the provision of independent living services, people with severe disabilities can reach a level of employment.1
Tribal or State vocational rehabilitation agencies are also important sources of employment-related independent living services. For example, a Tribal program may pay for core and other services such as vehicle or home modification necessary to achieve a vocational goal. A Tribal or State agency may pay for peer counseling services, self-advocacy skills, or assertiveness training related to employment. It is important to note that programs such as the Navajo Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services have also provided start-up and other funds to Tribal and local independent living centers. This fact sheet, however, will focus on the importance of local ILCs as sources for employment-related services and jobs for American Indians and Alaska Natives with disabilities.
What are Independent Living Centers?
Independent Living Centers were created to increase options for people with disabilities within their own communities. These centers provide core services including independent living skills training, information and referral, advocacy, and peer counseling. Some centers also offer personal services, such as attendant training and referral, reader and interpreter referral, community awareness programs, and housing assistance.2 Centers serve rural and urban areas, and reservations. A few centers are operated by Tribes, and some local centers have independent living specialists who travel to Indian reservations, or have satellite offices that serve reservations. For example, Summit Independent Living Center of Missoula, Montana has an office, in Ronan, that serves the Flathead Reservation. North Central Independent Living Services of Black Eagle, Montana has a independent living specialist who visits the Blackfeet Reservation. Access Alaska serves rural Alaska communities.
Are there any Tribally operated Independent Living Centers?
Independent living organizations that specifically serve American Indians are relatively new. Three organizations are trailblazers in this area, each program has a unique approach to providing culturally sensitive services to the Indian communities it serves.3Assist! to Independence of Tuba City, Arizona provides culturally relevant services to the American Indian population of the Navajo, Hopi, and Southern Paiute Reservations. Native American Independent Living Services (NAILS), a component of the Western New York Independent Living Project, Inc., provides services to American Indians with disabilities living on three reservations and in area communities. And the Native American Advocacy Project operates the Tateya Topa Ho (Voice of the Four Winds) inter-tribal Independent Living Center Without Walls program that provides services to people with disabilities who live on reservations or tribal land throughout South Dakota.
How can Independent Living Centers help American Indians and Alaska Natives with disabilities with employment?
Some Centers have components that provide vocational and employment services. For example, in Alaska, the Kenai Peninsula Independent Living Centervocational program works with the Alaska Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, provides benefits analysis for consumers, and helps them write the Social Security Administration Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS) and business plans. And in Phoenix,Arizona Bridge to Independent Living (ABIL) provides employment services for individuals eligible for the Ticket-to-Work program, and independent living and employment services through the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. Employment coordinators of these programs help find jobs for participants. Independent Living Centers are operated by qualified people with disabilities who are substantially involved in policy direction, decision making, service delivery, and management of the center. Generally, the majority of the board of directors are people with disabilities. Centers both employ people with disabilities, and provide volunteer opportunities where people with disabilities can develop useful job skills and learn about other employment opportunities.
Where can I learn more about Independent Living Centers that offer employment services?
For contact information for your nearest Independent Living Center, visit Disability Counts at http://rtc.ruralinstitute.umt.edu/geography/default.htm . You may also find contact information in either the white or yellow pages of your local telephone directory under social services, or from your Tribal or State vocational rehabilitation office. With that information you may contact the Center serving your area and inquire about its employment services program.
1 U.S. Department of Education. (2004, November 14). Plan for Employment of
People with Disabilities. Retrieved September 6, 2005 from http://www.ed.gov/about/jobs/work/Disabilities.doc
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This practice guideline was developed by Alan P. Fugleberg