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

Wrap Up: NCIL 2015 Annual Conference on Independent Living

Generation ADA: Rise Up! 2015 Annual Conference on Independent Living (Image: red power fist outlined by a black circle)Contents


There aren’t enough words to describe the feeling of excitement and passion that was everywhere during NCIL’s 2015 Annual Conference on Independent Living. We held our largest conference ever, broke all membership records, welcomed an exponentially increased number of young leaders, and were joined by hundreds of disability rights supporters for a March to the Capitol that literally stretched for miles. It was incredible.

We want to thank each and every one of the advocates that attended the 2015 Annual Conference on Independent Living. This year’s conference was outstanding because of your presence and participation.

We would also like to thank our sponsors, who are listed below along with links to their websites for those who wish to follow up or did not have the opportunity to attend this year’s conference.

Please read on for further details. If you attended the Conference but did not submit an evaluation on-site, please take a few moments to tell us about your experience.

Photos Now Available!

We are very happy to announce that all 1,987 pictures from NCIL’s 2015 Annual Conference on Independent Living are now available on Flickr. We apologize that we do not have the capacity or knowledge to caption every picture. If you see a picture of yourself or others you know, please caption it for the benefit of all. New this year: we’ve created an album of select (captioned) photos that capture the overall feel of the 2015 Annual Conference. If you would like a specific photo added to this collection, please caption the photo in the comments or email with the link and a description. You can comment on photos using a Flickr / Yahoo account. Special thanks to Michael Clegg for his amazing photos and, as always, thanks to our members, who made these photographs what they are: the story of our people gathering in our nation’s Capital to bring about equality and freedom for people with disabilities!

Youth Power & Promise: #GenerationADA

In honor of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, NCIL was committed to engaging and supporting those who grew up after the ADA passed. Thus, the theme and title for the 2015 NCIL conference was Generation ADA: Rise Up. This year’s conference was filled with approximately 100 youth from all across the country and Japan. All week, a diverse and passionate cohort of young people with disabilities were leading and participating in workshops and engaging the political advancement of the Disability Rights and Independent Living Movement. The youth leadership and cross-generational community building were ever present and a monumental success for NCIL and the wider community. In fact, if one word could be used to describe the youth involvement for the 2015 NCIL conference, it would be electrifying!

From leading the march to the rally at the US Capitol, to building community bonds at youth sessions and social events, to becoming active members of NCIL, the youth presence at the NCIL conference was stronger and larger than ever. NCIL’s dedication to Generation ADA was further proven when the NCIL membership voted Felicia Agrelius onto the NCIL Board! Felicia is a young disability and social justice activist and student from California. Lastly, the youth concluded the conference with powerful testimonies that filled the entire audience with empowerment and energy. One by one a youth members went to the microphone to express how much being a part of the disability community and movement has impacted their personal lives. Moreover, countless young folks shared the importance of taking back what they had learned at NCIL to share with their local communities and organizations.

Overall, the youth did more than observe the work of others. Instead, they rose to the challenge and showed the world that members of Generation ADA are ‘leaders of today’.

NCIL March, Rally, and Hill Visits

2015 was a record-breaking year, and nowhere was this more obvious than at Tuesday’s Annual March and Rally – the biggest in NCIL’s history! Conference attendees were joined by hundreds of local advocates as we all braved the scorching heat and marched through the streets of Washington.  With our youth attendees leading the way, over 1,000 advocates took over the streets and made our voices heard as we demanded our civil rights!

The March took us to the reflecting pool of the Capitol Building where attendees listened to remarks from passionate advocates and members of Congress during the Annual Rally.  Speakers included 16 incredible activists from around the country, as well as 18 members of Congress.  This year we also had the opportunity to hear from several youth advocates who brought incredible insight and talent to the event, making it even more clear that #GenerationADA is here, and they are ready to lead!

Advocates included:

  • Kelly Buckland
  • Jensen Caballo
  • Allie Cannington
  • Bruce Darling
  • Mark Derry
  • Keri Gray
  • Keith Gurgui
  • Steve Higgins
  • Andy Imparato
  • Lou Ann Kibbee
  • Ari Ne’eman
  • Mike Oxford
  • Jon Paré
  • Flip Polizzi
  • Colleen Starkloff
  • Stephanie Woodward

Members of Congress included:

  • Congressman Bradley Ashford (D-NE)
  • Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR)
  • Congressman Brendan Boyle (D-PA)
  • Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL)
  • Congressman Robert Dold (R-IL)
  • Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)
  • Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD)
  • Congressman Gene Green (D-TX)
  • Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-MD)
  • Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA)
  • Congressman David Jolly (R-FL)
  • Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL)
  • Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA)
  • Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
  • Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
  • Congresswoman Kristen Sinema (D-AZ)
  • Congressman Mark Takano (D-CA)
  • Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY)

The 2015 Rally was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the disability community’s achievements over the 25 years since the ADA was passed.  But it was also a time to reflect on the many areas of discrimination we still face.  Several speakers talked about the fact that 25 years after the ADA, many of our brothers and sisters are still locked away in institutions.  For them, the protections of the ADA are almost meaningless- so introduction of the Community Integration Act has to be a priority.  Speakers also discussed other important issues like employment and poverty, police violence against people with disabilities, and ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

After the rally, NCIL members headed to the hill to visit their elected officials. Nearly every member of Congress was visited by NCIL advocates to push for action and support on issues that impact people with disabilities in communities all over the country.  Advocates talked with their Senators and Representatives about the desperate need for IL funding, NCIL’s position on SSDI reform, and concerns about the Murphy bill.  People also talked about difficulties finding affordable, accessible housing and reliable transportation options.  And advocates from all over the country urged their members of Congress to support and/or co-sponsor the Community Integration Act’s introduction!

NCIL’s Annual March, Rally, and Hill visits are always a highlight of the conference, but this year was truly exceptional.  Thank you to all of our advocates for making this the best – and biggest – year ever!

Annual Council Meeting

Elections for officers to NCIL’s Governing Board were first on the agenda. Lou Ann Kibbee of SKIL in Hays, Kansas was re-elected to serve as NCIL’s President through 2017. Roger Howard of LINC in Boise, Idaho was re-elected to serve as NCIL’s Treasurer through 2017. Regional Representatives are elected in shifts, according to the year; even-numbered regions elect their representatives in even-numbered years and odd-numbered regions elect their representatives in odd-numbered years. This year, the following individuals were elected by the members in their region to represent them on NCIL’s Governing Board:

  • Sarah Launderville, Executive Director of the Vermont CIL in Montpelier, Vermont was re-elected to serve Region 1 (States served: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont)
  • Jan Derry, Executive Director of the Northern West Virginia CIL in Morgantown, West Virginia was re-elected to serve Region 3 (States served: Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia)
  • Maureen Ryan, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Coalition of ILCs in Madison, Wisconsin was re-elected to represent Region 5 (States served: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin)
  • Roger Frischenmeyer, Independent Living Specialist at Prairie Independent Living Center in Hutchinson, Kansas was re-elected to serve Region 7 (States served: Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska)
  • Sheri Burns, Executive Director of Silicon Valley Independent Living Center in San Jose, California was re-elected to represent Region 9 (States served: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands)

In addition, there were three Member-at-Large positions up for election at this year’s Annual Meeting. The following individuals were elected to serve as Members-at-Large on the Governing Board through the 2017 Annual Council Meeting:

  • Felicia Agrelius, AAPD Intern, student at Scripps college, and disability advocate from California
  • Mary Margaret Moore, Executive Director, ILC of the North Shore & Cape Ann, Salem, Massachusetts
  • Bruce Darling, Executive Director, Center for Disability Rights, Rochester, New York

There was also a one-year Member-at-Large position available to fill a vacancy on the Governing Board through the 2016 Annual Council Meeting.

  • Jessie Lorenz, Executive Director of the Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco.


The Awards Banquet is a very special event at the NCIL Conference every year. The banquet is our opportunity to come together as a community and thank advocates and allies that have fought tough battles during the past year to advance the rights and independence of people with disabilities.

Regional Advocacy Awards

  • Region 1: Ed Paquin
  • Region 2: Keith Gurgui
  • Region 3: Ann McDaniel
  • Region 4: Deborah Cunningham
  • Region 5: Rickielee Benecke
  • Region 6: Brenda Stinebuck
  • Region 7: Kathy Hoell
  • Region 8: Nick DeSutter
  • Region 9: Ted Jackson
  • Region 10: Melva Heinrich

National Awards

  • Max Starkloff Lifetime Achievement Award: Shoji Nakanishi
  • President’s Award: Tom Olin
  • Corey Rowley National Advocacy Award: Lou Ann Kibbee
  • Frank Harkin Memorial Award: Rebecca Cokley
  • Diana Viets Award: Jensen Caraballo


Two Resolutions were approved by the NCIL Membership:


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NCIL also thanks the following donors: The Shepherd Center; Yoshiko Dart

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