Illinois Centers for Independent Living were first established in the late 1970's in Chicago and Rockford. In 1985, the Illinois General Assembly appropriated funds through the Department of Rehabilitation services to establish the Central Illinois Center for Independent Living (CICIL), now known as Advocates for Access.
We differ from traditional service agencies because we are staffed and governed primarily by persons with disabilities. This brings a positive perspective based on personal experience with a disability and an understanding of barriers faced and the potential for success.
An equally important difference is a philosophy of consumer control. We do not direct our consumers, make decisions for them, or tell them what to do. We serve as a resource and mentor, empowering consumers with the skills necessary to direct their own lives, set their own goals, and plan the necessary steps to achieve those goals.
Advocates for Access works within our community to bring about positive change in attitudes and accessibility to create an open and welcoming environment for citizens with disabilities. By participating in community events, networking with other agencies, and conducting presentations, we create an awareness of disability issues.
Advocacy is also a vital component of Advocates for Access. We are the voice within our community, which exposes discriminatory policies and practices detrimental to persons with disabilities. That voice is supported by an involved group of people who work with community leaders to bring about change. Consumers are taught self-advocacy skills so they are prepared to deal with discrimination if it confronts them.