The Center for Independent Living | Beyond Boundaries

The BIE Cohort with Executive Director Stuart James

On June 30th, the BIE cohort visited the Center for Independent Living, Inc., which provides advocacy and services that increase awareness and opportunity among people with disabilities. The Center for Independent Living, Inc. (The CIL) has programs that provide people with skills, knowledge, and resources to help break down damaging, stereotypical notions of disability, helping them to strive toward their full, human potential. Ed Roberts, Hale Zukas, and Jan McEwan Brown joined forces in the early 1960s to start the independent living movement on the U.C. Berkeley campus, which made the academic and social life of the college accessible to all. In 1972, students involved with this movement joined with community members to officially create the Center for Independent Living, Inc.

Rebeca Servin, Program Manager, giving a tour of TheCIL

Our host was Rebeca Servin, Program Director for The CIL, who was excited to give us a tour of the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley. We began in The CIL’s main office, where we were introduced to various programs supported by The CIL, including PEER (Projects for Education, Employment & Recreation) youth services, Housing Assistance, Advocacy, Independent Living Skills Instruction, and Travel Coaching. Next, Ms. Servin gave us an overview of the Ed Roberts Campus building and the accessible accommodations that it offers. Most notably, the campus is located directly across the street from the Ashby BART station and includes elevators and stairs to go directly to the platforms, allowing patrons of The CIL to forego crossing the street. Additionally, the building includes a large circular ramp, instead of a staircase, connecting the first and second floors. The ramp has a low incline with incremental level surfaces and is wide enough to allow two wheelchairs to travel along it at once. Every bathroom has more than one stall of an accessible size to wheelchairs. Artwork created by members of the community covers the walls of The CIL, adding a distinctly personal touch to the building. During our tour, Rebeca Servin also praised the program’s financial viability. The CIL is run by fundraising, private donations, and grants while never charging for its services nor turning anyone away.

Artwork created by the community displayed in The CIL

After our tour of the facilities, we had the opportunity to speak with Stuart James, Executive Director of The CIL, to talk about the social barriers currently facing The CIL and the wider disability community. He discussed the ever-changing social landscape facing the disability community over the last few decades, especially concerning what the community should focus on now. Mr. James talked about his desire to increase the number of people with disabilities seeking jobs after college, and working not to change policy, but perception, expectations, and culture. Although this visit was short, it opened our eyes to not only the clinical aspects of The CIL, but to the social settings from which it emerged and continues to work within. For more information on The CIL visit their website here.