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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

NCIL Executive Director Kelly Buckland to Retire in 2021

Dear NCIL Members, Staff & Friends,

First I hope that you are all well in these very trying and turbulent times. This is one of the hardest statements I’ve ever had to write. I am writing to share the news of my intention to retire as Executive Director of the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) on May 14, 2021. While I am looking forward to a new chapter in my life, I am going to miss my work as Executive Director very much! Especially, working with the hard working and dedicated NCIL employee family! Working as the Executive Director of NCIL has been one of the greatest honors of my life. I want to thank all of you humbly for allowing me this honor and for all of your support throughout the years!

This is a very important transition for NCIL and me. I have already shared my plans with NCIL’s Governing Board and staff and we have already begun implementing NCIL’s succession plan. I am confident that NCIL’s Governing Board and Executive Committee will ensure that the transition is smooth and that my replacement will be an exceptional leader and advocate for people with disabilities and independent living. We will be releasing the NCIL Executive Director position announcement and instructions on how to apply very soon. 

Again, I am thankful for the time I have been able to serve NCIL, but also very proud of what we have accomplished together. Before I joined NCIL as Executive Director in May of 2009, I served on NCIL’s Governing Board as President, Vice-President and before that Regional Representative for Region X. NCIL and the Independent Living movement are very dear to me and I have spent most of my adult life working in and trying to grow our movement and make it better. I would like to highlight some of the accomplishments we have achieved together while I’ve been Executive Director:

  • Nearly doubled NCIL’s budget to a $2 million per year organization that is in a sound financial position. 
  • Reauthorized the Rehab Act and established the Independent Living Administration, an accomplishment many thought we could not achieve.
  • Passed-through nearly 1 million dollars from NCIL’s grants and projects to member CILs and SILCs in grants and subcontract work. 
  • Played a major and decisive role in defeating the efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
  • Established the Fifth Core Service of transition and diversion.
  • Increased the Independent Living Annual Federal Budget by approximately 15 million dollars.
  • Obtained 85 million dollars in COVID-19 relief funding for CILs.
  • Established an internship program and substantially increased the participation of youth in NCIL.
  • Obtained prominent office space and established a major presence in the nation’s capital.
  • Increased staff benefits and brought a high turnover rate down to almost zero.

We have accomplished much, but we still have substantial challenges ahead of us. We need to address the systemic racism in our movement and I know we can. We need to do this work together and stay committed. We need to demand that people have a right to live in the community, eliminate the institutional bias and keep people from being sent to congregate settings in the first place. We also need to restore the damage that has been done to our movement by the Administration for Community Living (ACL) and continue to work on increasing our presence and our prominence within the administration. And many other very important issues affecting the rights and independence of people with disabilities.

I know that NCIL will continue to do great things and continue to be a leader in the future. I am excited to see what the future holds for NCIL and my retirement does not mean that I’m leaving independent living. I look forward to remaining involved as an individual member of NCIL and will continue to support NCIL to the best of my ability. Again, I thank you all for your support in our work together and I hope you will also remain involved and support NCIL going forward. 



Kelly Buckland

Kelly Buckland speaks from the stage at the NCIL Rally at the US Capitol. His fist is raised inn power.


  1. I am interested in knowing the particulars of the damage ACL did to NCIL and the IL Movement – thank you.