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Where would we be without CILs?

Contributed by Nancy McClellan-Hickey, Executive Director

Thirty years ago this community was excited and relieved to finally have a place where the needs of people who have disabilities were addressed. I remember it clearly, as the brand new PACE was like a dry sponge soaking up a flood of people with unmet needs. We have increased from two to twelve people and now serve five counties – still a bit of a stretch – but now Illinois is experiencing a budget impasse. What will that do to PACE consumers and the other Illinois CILs consumers that rely on Independent Living services being there to support their effort to maintain or achieve independence?

I keep thinking about this when I look at the budget impasse. Our Accountant, Staff, Board and volunteers are doing our very best to keep things going. But we could really use your support.

Telling your legislators how you use PACE, and what you have accomplished with the help of Centers for Independent Living is important. Let them know how ill-equipped mainstream services can be when you need services tailored to disability needs. If you are Deaf, tell them about all the times you have had to explain to service providers (with no interpreter) about their responsibility to hire an interpreter. Who will be there to explain the pros and cons of disclosing a disability to a potential employer? Who will tell the mother of a child with a disability where to get information when she knows very little about education access and processes and she sees her very bright kid having trouble in school? Will there be anyone to catch other needs for adaptive equipment, medical advocacy, peer support and so on? Who will recruit people with disabilities to sit on decision-making boards that shape our lives? Where is the oasis for people who have disabilities – where they don’t have to explain and advocate for everything they need? Where will be that source of pride and dignity where we all rejuvenate by simply being there among others who “get it”?

Tell the Governor what you feel about the services centers like PACE, Inc. offer in Illinois. Encourage your family and friends to make their feelings known as well. Now is the time to speak out. Sign up on the PACE website to receive advocacy alerts through the legislative tree. We tell you when there is an opportunity to voice your opinion about an issue that affects the disability community. Now is the time to speak out about the budget and what you need. Americans with Disabilities have come a long way, but we still have far to go.

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