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

Wrap Up: NCIL 2017 Annual Conference on Independent Living

Revolution - A Global Independent Living Movement - Annual Conference on Independent Living 2017. Graphic: Continents have been added to NCIL's logo (a blue semi-circle), which forms a globe. A red heart sits between the end points of the semi-circle.


Introduction and Evaluations

The NCIL 2017 Annual Conference on Independent Living was an extraordinary experience. This year’s theme, Revolution – A Global Independent Living Movement brought leaders from across the world. At the 2017 International IL Summit, disability advocates from 19 countries drafted, delegated, and announced the World Independent Living Network (WIN).

Attendance went above and beyond our expectations with 1,053 Conference participants and over 2,000 people at the March & Rally. The voice of the Independent Living community thundered throughout the streets of Washington, D.C. as we made our way to the U.S. Capitol. Once at the Rally, we heard from disability rights advocates, Members of Congress, and other influential speakers who spoke about their commitment to disability and civil rights – and the need for action.

The NCIL Youth Caucus raised over $20,000 to support travel and lodging for 40 youth with disabilities to attend this year’s Conference, which featured several powerful youth speakers at the Awards Luncheon, Closing Plenary, and Rally. We are proud that the 2017 Annual Conference on Independent Living served as a platform to amplify the voices of youth within the IL Movement.

We want to thank each and every one of the advocates that attended the 2017 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.

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 2,133 pictures from NCIL’s 2017 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. This year, we’ve created an album of select (captioned) photos that capture the overall feel of the 2017 Annual Conference. If you would like a specific photo added to this collection, please caption the photo in the comments or email [email protected] 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!

NCIL March, Rally, and Hill Visits

This year’s Annual March and Rally was a huge success and one of our biggest in NCIL’s history! Conference attendees and local advocates marched in solidarity through the streets of D.C. to the US Capitol, all the while making sure that our voices were heard! From chants to signs, we made sure that everyone in our path knew that disability rights are civil rights, and the Independent Living community refuses to be ignored! 

Our March ended at the Capitol Building, which served as a powerful backdrop for our Rally. Conference attendees and local advocates alike heard from incredible advocates around the country and Members of Congress who wanted to express their support for the disability community.

Advocates included:

  • Dara Baldwin
  • Kelly Buckland
  • Bruce Darling
  • Mark Derry (emcee)
  • Steve Higgins
  • Lou Ann Kibbee
  • Mike Oxford
  • Phil Pangrazio
  • Amber Smock

Members of Congress and other political speakers included:

  • Representative Don Beyer (VA)
  • Representative Sanford Bishop (GA)
  • Representative Suzanne Bonamici (OR)
  • Senator Bob Casey (PA)
  • Representative Anna Eshoo (CA)
  • Retired Senator Tom Harkin (IA)
  • Representative Jared Huffman (CA)
  • Representative Ro Khanna (CA)
  • Senator Patty Murray (WA)
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA)
  • Tom Perez (Chair of the DNC and Former Secretary of Labor)
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY)
  • Representative GT Thompson (PA)
  • Representative Dina Titus (NV)
  • Senator Chris Van Hollen (MD)

Rally attendees heard from advocates and lawmakers about their dedication to disability rights and Independent Living. On the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, our community still has a lot to fight for. Rally speakers talked about some of the important issues our community is focusing on, including the importance of the Disability Integration Act (DIA), fighting against ADA notification bills in Congress, and of course, our fight to protect Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

This year’s Annual March and Rally perfectly coincided with the Senate’s efforts to decimate Medicaid and repeal many of the protections of the ACA. The Rally gave us a well-timed opportunity to get our message out, engage and conspire with disability advocates from around the country, and get the inside scoop from Members of Congress who are fighting these efforts from the inside.

Following the Rally, while some NCIL members headed to the Hill to visit their elected officials, others headed to the Hart Senate Office Building for a joint NCIL-ADAPT action. NCIL and ADAPT members vowed to occupy the atrium of the Hart Building indefinitely if the Senate decided to proceed with their repeal vote. Our voices could be heard throughout the building as we chanted “No Cuts to Medicaid, Save our Liberty!” Sixty-four activists were arrested. (As you know, just days later, the vote failed!)

After the protest, the remaining NCIL members headed to Capitol Hill to meet with their legislators. Nearly every member of Congress’ office was visited by NCIL advocates! Members talked to their Senators and Representatives (and their staff) about key issues of importance to the Independent Living community.

NCIL’s Annual March, Rally, and Hill Visits are always a highlight of the Conference, and this year’s events were especially powerful. Thank you to everyone who joined us to make this an incredibly impactful event. And, as this year’s Conference focused on the global Independent Living Movement, we would like to extend a special thank you to the disability advocates from across the world who joined us and fought with us in solidarity!

Youth Caucus Reflections & Update

The youth activities at NCIL’s 2017 Annual Conference on Independent Living were colored with energy, excitement, and an eagerness to move forward with our goals. In addition to finalizing our projects from last year, the Youth Caucus is planning to embark on a new initiative, the goal being to motivate and inspire young people with disabilities to vote in local, state, and national elections. Many of our youth have joined additional caucuses to become more active and engaged in the movement. The NCIL Youth Scholarship Program was able to award more scholarships this year than ever before, raising over $20,000 and accepting over 40 youth scholars. We are confident that these stellar numbers will result in a more active, flourishing Youth Caucus , more so than NCIL has ever seen previously. With its new leadership ready to do what needs to be done, and our membership riding the wave of momentum that this year’s Conference produced, the coming year will bring great things for the NCIL Youth Caucus.

Youth Scholarship Reimbursement

The deadline to submit reimbursements for a NCIL Youth Scholarship is September 1st, 2017. Open the reimbursement form in Word. If you have any questions please email [email protected].

If you are a youth under the age of 30 and interested in continuing to participate, the Associated Rural Programs for Independent Living (APRIL) have scholarships available for their Annual Conference in October. For more details please email [email protected].

Annual Council Meeting

NCIL’s main objective for the NCIL 2017 Annual Council Meeting was to elect new members for the Governing Board. The agenda for this year included elections for the following positions: President, Secretary, Treasurer and four Members At-Large. In addition, two special elections were held because current Board Members were elected to other positions, leaving a vacancy.

  • Bruce Darling is NCIL’s new President. Bruce is the Executive Director of the Center for Disability Rights and Regional Center for Independent Living in Rochester, New York.
  • Sarah Launderville is the new Vice-President. Sarah was elected in a special election for the remaining one-year Vice-President term after Bruce was elected President. Sarah is the Executive Director of the Vermont Center for Independent Living (CIL) in Montpelier, Vermont.
  • Lou Ann Kibbee is our new Secretary. Lou Ann, a Past-President of NCIL, is the Independent Living Program Manager for SKIL in Hays, Kansas.
  • Darrel Christenson is NCIL’s new Treasurer. Darrel is the Vice-President of Community Integration for Ability360 in Phoenix, Arizona.

There were four new Member-At-Large positions available. These are the new Members-At-Large:

  • Amity Lachowicz was re-elected to the At-Large position. Amity is an IL Specialist from Accessible Resources for Independence from Baltimore, Maryland.
  • Vilissa Thompson is a new At-Large Board Member from Ramp Your Voice! in Winnsboro, South Carolina.
  • Emet Tauber is another new At-Large Board Member from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • Doug Toelle was elected as an At-Large Board Member during a special election for a one-year term to replace Darrel Christenson after Darrel was elected Treasurer. Doug is the Advocacy Director of Access Alaska in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Regional Representatives rotate elections every other year, with even-numbered regions elected in even-numbered years and odd-numbered regions elected in odd-numbered years. Elections for the Regional Representatives in odd-numbered regions were held prior to the meeting and announced at the Annual Council Meeting:

  • Region 1 Representative: Steve Higgins, Executive Director for Independence Associates, Inc. in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts
  • Region 3 Representative: Jamey George, Executive Director for The Freedom Center in Frederick, Maryland
  • Region 5 Representative: Maureen Ryan, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Coalition of Independent Living Centers in Madison, Wisconsin (re-elected)
  • Region 7 Representative: Roger Frischenmeyer, IL Specialist for Prairie IL Resource Center in Hutchinson, Kansas (re-elected)
  • Region 9 Representative: Sheri Burns, Executive Director for Silicon Valley Independent Living Center in San Jose, California (re-elected)


Each year the Annual Conference presents awards at our Awards Banquet. The Awards Banquet is an opportunity to thank our advocates who went into battle for us. The following people worked tirelessly to ensure our rights.

Soldier for Justice Awards:

  • Centene Corporation
  • Anthem

National Advocacy Awards:

  • Max Starkloff Lifetime Achievement Award: Judith Heumann
  • President’s Award: Michael Gamel-McCormick
  • Corey Rowley National Advocacy Award: Patricia Puckett
  • Frank Harkin Memorial Award: Senator Charles Schumer
  • Diana Viets Award: Kay McMillan

Regional Advocacy Awards:

  • Region 1: Sadie Simone
  • Region 2: Aileen Martin
  • Region 3: Rosemary Ciotti
  • Region 4: Carrissa Johnson & Jennifer Johnson
  • Region 5: Ann Ford
  • Region 6: Breggett Rideau
  • Region 7: Don Dew
  • Region 8: Bridging Communication
  • Region 9: HoLynn D’Lil
  • Region 10: Todd Holloway


We would like to sincerely thank all our sponsors and exhibitors for the 2017 Conference. The Exhibit Fair on Wednesday morning was a smashing success, and many exhibitors have already said they intend to return next year! Without the support of our sponsors, exhibitors, and advertisers, this Conference would not be possible. We hope to see you next year!

Soldiers for Justice

  • Anthem
  • Centene


  • Verizon
  • Uber
  • United Healthcare


  • Waymo
  • Ability360
  • Walmart


  • IndependenceFirst
  • Center for Disability Rights
  • Institute for Educational Leadership
  • Pride Mobility Products
  • LEAD Center / National Disability Institute
  • Molina Healthcare


  • Independent Living Center of the North Shore and Cape Ann
  • Microsoft
  • The HSC Foundation / Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation Conference Support Fund

NCIL also thanks the following donors: Yoshiko Dart; Amtrak; Shepherd Center; American Association for Homecare; and the American Association of People with Disabilities.


  1. The National media chooses what is news. Very little of the conference and march was covered by the national media. (maybe the segments that did cover the conference in the news could be reposted in social media to build awareness) Please send the link for the NCIL LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES GUIDE to your local government officials, local non profit organizations, families, and friends to continue the excellent work that NCIL did in organizing the information. Help to give people facts! My family and I enjoyed going to the conference; the workshops were excellent! Please continue to share your social media videos of the march and rally! Be A Voice!