Empowering Virginians with Disabilities through Centers for Independent Living
October 2021 | Issue 8
Seeking independence through employment
As we end Disability Employment Awareness Month, this issue features stories of CIL's impact supporting consumers’ journeys toward employment. One story highlights the capacity and expertise one center used to support a consumer from homelessness to employment.

Another features advocacy work a center provided to help a consumer remove a barrier to an important employment support program. Another describes the advocacy and assistance a center provided to help a young person with a disability move a step closer to high school graduation - an important pathway toward employment. The results? More people with disabilities realizing their employment and financial independence goals.
CIL Success Stories
Employment Works

Endependence Center, Inc. (ECI) in Norfolk has been working with a 54-year-old man with multiple mental health disabilities who was unemployed and sleeping under a bridge each night. Sometimes he was lucky enough to find a friend or a stranger who would lend him their couch for the night.

ECI found a hotel and supported his stay for a few weeks and then helped him secure food and enroll in Handi Ride paratransit, provided peer support and taught him how to budget his SSI benefits to last the month. After learning how to budget, he realized he wanted to increase his income by working.

He worked closely with staff on job seeking skills - creating and submitting a resume and cover letter, developing skills to interact with employers appropriately and practicing answering interview questions.

Now, five months after first contacting ECI for support, he maintains a place to live, a part-time position at a car wash and is budgeting his income to pay bills and have his money to last the entire month.
Advocating for Ticket to Work

Many CILs in Virginia provide valuable benefits counseling and advocacy support to people with disabilities. Blue Ridge Center for Independent Living (BRILC) in Roanoke successfully helped a local consumer access Ticket to Work supports to move forward with her employment goals.
“We completed her independent work plan and submitted it to start her services. However, her request was denied as they stated she was not receiving either SSI or SSDI,” explained Karen Michalski-Karney, BRILC executive director. 
“After a bit of research, we discovered that she actually received Child Disability Benefits, a benefit paid to a person with a disability from a parent’s work record. We informed them this was an SSDI (Title 2) program, but it was still denied.  
We contacted the consumer and she provided us with verification of her CDB benefits and we drafted a letter requesting again that she be assigned a ticket and relayed the applicable Social Security law and reference in the Social Security operations manual that stated CDB recipients are eligible for participation. 
About a week later, we received notice that her ticket was assigned to BRILC and she is now in the Ticket to Work program.” 
Ensuring school supports

As the school year is in full swing, CILs across Virginia are working with students with disabilities and families to ensure access and opportunities in schools. Thanks in part to the support and advocacy that Disability Rights and Resource Center (DRRC) in Rocky Mount provided, a high school student has moved into his senior year.

His mother describes his story: 
“It’s the end of May 2021, there are four days left of school, and he is told he did not take the WISE test so he can’t graduate the next year. It had been a tough year. He has severe ADHD and remembering all that information he learned in the fall was a stretch, and I was livid!

I contacted the DRRC that morning and they got the ball rolling. I am forever grateful to DRRC. My grandson took the test on Tuesday, missed it by six points and retook it on Wednesday. This time he passed the test and school was out for the year at noon on Thursday.

If there is anyone out there that has a child with an IEP and they are not getting what they need, please contact the DRRC. I want to thank everyone that is involved in his case, for their hard work and immediate attention to the issues we have had which were solved professionally and swiftly. These kids have enough to deal with just living life! Thank you again for all you do and for not giving up on my child!”