Access Independence is a consumer controlled nonprofit organization providing cross-disability services to individuals regardless of disability, age, race, gender, or sexual orientation.
To promote independence and opportunities for persons with disabilities through advocacy, empowerment and education.
History of Access Independence
In the early 1980’s, community service providers saw gaps in services to people with disabilities and applied to the Federal government for funds to support an Independent Living (IL) Center.
Funds were granted and the IL Center became a program of Goodwill Industries of Western CT. In 1986, the Center separated from Goodwill and became independent and freestanding – it established its own Board of Directors, wrote its own by-laws and incorporated as a 501(C3) organization under the name Center for Independent Living of Southwestern Connecticut.
In 1995, the Center changed its name to the Disability Resource Center under then Director Tony LaCava, and moved into a new building at 80 Ferry Boulevard in Stratford, CT.
In 2014 with the retirement of Executive Director Tony LaCava, Charlie Conway came to the Center with a mission of growth and dedication, and in June of 2014 the Center changed its name to Access Independence and moved into a new office space at 80 Ferry Boulevard.
History of the Movement
In the twentieth century alone, people disabilities were objects of pity, shame and embarrassment to society. They were hidden by families, locked away in state institutions, and exposed to neglect, abuse, even medical experimentation.
The independent living movement grew out of the disability rights movement of the early 70’s to challenge those barbaric acts born of antiquated notions with a new paradigm:
Disability is a human condition. And, people with disabilities have inherent rights. Even now, however, physical barriers and social attitudes restrict those rights that we as Americans cherish as inalienable. It is taking new laws and social institutions, for these rights to be guaranteed. Independent living centers are at the forefront of this fight. By redefining what it means to have a disability, from the medical and societal perspectives to the person with the disability perspective.
The history of the independent living movement and its driving philosophy have much in common with other political and social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Leaders of the disability community began to realize they had to fight for human rights and civil liberties for the disabled.
In 1972 a group of students at Berkeley College seeking equal accommodations within the college and beyond established the first Center for Independent Living in the country. The Independent Living Movement quickly gained momentum, and in 1978 the Federal Rehabilitation Act for the first time provided funding for a network of such Centers. As a result, Centers for Independent Living were established across the country and run by and for people with disabilities.
From the beginning their mission has been to offer support, advocacy, and information on empowerment in the attainment of independence from a peer viewpoint. As the Independent Living philosophy took hold nationally and the Disability Rights Movement gained acceptance and political influence, a grassroots movement for the comprehensive disability rights law, Americans with Disabilities Act (1988, 1990, 2008, 2009) was implemented.