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20 February 1976
Mr. S. Dwight Skaggs
Dear Mr. Skaggs:
The Center for Independent Living is seeking support for an innovative program of Independent Living Skills training for the severely disabled of the Bay Area. The program will improve the quality of life for the severely handicapped by fostering a sense of autonomy and personal responsibility in matters of health, hygiene and daily care. By freeing the disabled from excessive dependence on families and institutions, the Independent Living Skills training program will aid life adjustment and stem medical emergencies. It will enable large numbers of the severely handicapped to pursue employment, obtain education and lead generally active lives in the community. This program is geared toward the severely disabled, which includes persons with serious muscular-skeletal and/or sensory impairments, due to birth defects, injury or illness.
The Center for Independent Living is a services, training and educational organization, run by and for the severely disabled. It is a particularly prime resource for the large and growing handicapped population in Northern Alameda County. CIL provides a comprehensive program of supportive services and projects that enable hundreds of its handicapped clients to pursue active lives in the community. Founded in 1972, the CIL has always believed that the severely disabled have the right to realize their potential as individuals and as worthwhile participants in society. At CIL, two out of three employees are disabled, providing a uniquely supportive and instructive environment for the handicapped people we serve.
For the severely disabled, the post-rehabilitation period usually marks a phase in which life-long patterns of activity or inertia, autonomy or dependence and health or illness are established. This transition from institutional to independent living usually occurs without professional support, and the severely disabled are usually left to flounder in their new life situations. This neglect can prove disastrous, both for the disabled and the society that must support them. CIL's Independent Living Skills Department provides unique in-home instruction in techniques that promote functional independence and health. Staffed by fully qualified occupational therapists and assistants, the Independent Living Skills Department transmits techniques and attitudes that bolster the severely disabled individual's initiative, self-confidence and awareness of life's possibilities.
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The Department's occupational therapist, in tandem with a severely disabled Independent Living Skills trainee specialist, visits clients' homes to learn first-hand about their living situations and day-to-day activities. The Department takes particular pains to assess the client's personal priorities, and then suggests how his physical situation might be better utilized. It recommends changes and gives instruction in self-care techniques that further personal independence, lessen costly reliance on attendants and insure that the disabled client will have more comfort and privacy. The Department also evaluates the client's architectural access, special equipment and adaptive aids.
The Independent Living Skills staff provides exceptional peer support for disabled clients. The Department's disabled professionals include effectively rehabilitated, employed individuals (one occupational therapist has cerebral palsy and both trainee specialists are quadriplegics). Counseling, informal but extensive, forms a vital part of the Department's services. This combination of in-home occupational therapy, counseling and peer-conducted services represents a comprehensive and unprecedented rehabilitation approach.
For the severely disabled, health maintenance requires a new self-awareness and a knowledge of altered body signals and needs. The traumatic spinal-cord-injured person, for example, has lost sensation and, therefore, vital contact with his physical self. This perception of the body as "other" can have tragic medical consequences. The Department, in conjunction with CIL's full-time registered nurse, demonstrates self-care techniques that promote health and facilitate the disabled person's active reclaiming of his physical awareness.
CIL is seeking seed money for a program that will gradually achieve self-support. We are asking the Skaggs Foundation's assistance for a portion of the salaries, equipment and supplies needed to operate the program for one year. During the course of the year, CIL will gradually receive outside revenue from the California Department of Rehabilitation for prevocational evaluation and home aid services for the Department of Rehabilitation's clients. The program is also developing an income-generating training package for rehabilitation professionals and for employers in industry and business.
I am convinced that the comprehensive and innovative Independent Living Skills Training Program will become a model rehabilitation service for the nation. The Department's trainee specialists are already highly respected by rehabilitation professionals and will transmit their knowledge to other areas. This program makes overwhelming economic sense, for it will ease the burden placed on tax-supported institutions and attendant care programs.
I would welcome the opportunity to meet you and to discuss our Independent Living Skills Training Program. I also extend a cordial invitation for you to visit our headquarters in Berkeley. Enclosed you will find a brochure and background materials on CIL. I look forward to hearing from you.