I obtained my disability at age 12 when I developed scoliosis and made routine trips to the St. Louis Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children, a name that took years before they changed it to more acceptable wording. However, for many years I didn’t consider it a disability, but just circumstances that I would have to deal with and keep on going. I did gain a good amount of perseverance and determination that has served me well throughout life. In later years as my condition has progressively worsened, I’ve had to be more creative in finding alternate ways of doing what I want, which is the key to staying independent with a disability.
SCIL opened on February 3, 1986, after Dr. Doris Ewing had written and received a grant to create a Center for Independent Living (CIL). The need for such an agency was extremely important in Southwest Missouri. I accepted a job at SCIL when it opened because the concept of independent living was one I strongly believed in. The concept of forming an agency unlike any other was quite exciting. We could be advocates for disability rights, provide a wide variety of services, and strive to enrich the quality of life for all people with disabilities. We were the fifth CIL in Missouri and were given 21 counties as our service area – quite a challenge on a tiny budget and one and a half employees! Later we obtained more funds, and as more Centers eventually opened, our area was reduced to eight counties. I had good mentors in the other four directors in the state, particularly Jim Tuscher and Gina McDonald. We were all passionate about getting equal access for people with disabilities in areas such as schools, work places, businesses, and entertainment, and transportation. I was fortunate to be able to work on the local, state, and national level toward the goal of achieving equal opportunity for people with disabilities.
The greatest change achieved by the disability movement during the last 25 years was the enactment in 1990 of the Americans With Disabilities Act. This is an example of what is possible when people with disabilities make their voices heard and demand equal rights.
This law helped us in many ways, but there are still many issues to continually address.
All of us involved in growing SCIL along the way, both consumers and staff, have much to be proud of!
The Southwest Center for Independent Living (SCIL) recognizes people of the Ozarks with disabilities for their past and present efforts to ensure that people with disabilities have the choice to live independently in the community. Nominations can be submitted anytime and will be considered in these categories: advocacy, community service, peer mentoring, positive role model, determination, and leadership in the community. A new honoree is announced in each bimonthly newsletter issue and a photo of the nominee will be displayed on the “Honoring People with Disabilities Wall” at the Springfield office.
Contact us for a nomination form or visit http://www.swcil.org/pages/view/honoring_people_with_disabilities.