Capital-Crawl-1990-2-e1378669142724 Photo by Tom Olinthe Disability History Museum

The Independent Living Movement and Disability Rights

Although individuals with disabilities around the country began to take steps toward creating their own civil rights movement, Berkeley, California, is recognized as the “birthplace” of the Disability Civil Rights/Independent Living Movement. In the 1960s a group of students with disabilities at the University of California, Berkeley, worked on removing architectural barriers on the campus and in the surrounding community. They taught themselves the daily living skills needed to survive. They learned how to hire and train personal assistants to provide the physical assistance they needed. They also reached out to other people with disabilities and began to create a new model for self-help and peer support. In 1972 the group moved out from the campus to the community and opened the first Independent Living Center.

The independent living and disability rights movement that grew out of the late 1960s was unique in two critical ways. First, people with disabilities were in charge of their own advocacy organization. People with disabilities moved away from the charity-based model that dominated many existing disability organizations. Second, people with various types of disabilities began to join together in their advocacy efforts. It became apparent that the old system of single disability organizations had separated people with disabilities from each other. The in-fighting that resulted prevented them from gaining any true sense of the shared power of disability rights as a social and civil rights movement. By joining together and advocating for the rights of all people with disabilities, these new “cross disability” organizations did away with the “divide and conquer” influence that had limited the effectiveness of disability-specific organizations.


History of the Access Center for Independent Living

The Access Center for Independent Living (ACIL), was founded in 1984 by a group of concerned citizens, the majority of whom were persons with disabilities.  Those founding activists had a vision of affecting change that would make the community accessible to any person with a disability who wished to pursue a more independent, self-directed lifestyle.

Those first days were filled with struggles with the local community as well as the state funding agency.  The meager funds for establishing independent living services were not available for starting a new center until 1990, however, the Access Center’s board advocated for accessible transportation, customer rights, and other disability issues.

In early 1986, the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission (ORSC), awarded the ACIL with a contract to administer the Title VII, Part A services, which provides adaptive equipment and other independent living services needed to enhance the customer’s independence.

In April, 1990, ACIL was awarded a grant to provide other independent living services for the nine counties that are designated as Area 2 by the ORSC.  In September, 1990, the Access Center’s board hired an executive director.  In October, 1990, ACIL’s first office opened in Centerville, Ohio.  During the first year of operation, ACIL provided independent living services to more than 200 customers.

In 1992, the Executive Director applied for and received VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) Members to work at ACIL.  The AMERICORPS*VISTA Members have been an integral part of the Access Center For Independent Living.

The Access Center has grown considerably since those first days of struggling to establish an independent living center.  In 1992, the Access Center’s office space expanded to more than double the space of their original office and in 2009 has expanded yet again.

In October, 1994, the Access Center became federally funded, allowing it to serve Montgomery County exclusively.  During this time, ACIL hired two Independent Living Specialists to work with their Senior Independent Living Specialist.  ACIL also added a Systems Administrator to manage their computer system, which includes the Disabled Individuals Movement for Equality Network (DIMENET).  DIMENET is a computer network that directly serves and represents the interests of people with disabilities.

During the first year of operation, ACIL provided independent living services to more than 200 customers.  Since that time, the Access Center has served thousands of people with disabilities.  The vision that the small group of founding activists once had continues today, as the Access Center for Independent Living remains committed to affecting change in the community around us.

Voice: 937-341-5202

Fax: 937-341-5218

711 Ohio Relay Service

907 W. 5th St. Suite 100 

Dayton, Ohio 45402

Email: info@acils.com

Office Hours 9:00am- 5:00pm M-F

Bus and Parking Info:

Bus Access:  Closest bus route is #8. South Passengers can get off at Norwood and Mound.  The street sign for W. 5th is visible from there.  Go to the corner that shows the W. 5th street sign and cross over the street. The building is right there: Miami Valley Housing Opportunity (The Access Center is located inside on the first floor)

For guests who drive: There is FREE parking in the parking lot of the building.



In conjunction with 


Introduces the LGBTQIA and Disability Community Intersectionality Page

1656931_2The Access Center for Independent Living aspires to become an organization that operates with the theory of social justice as its foundation for change. The Access Center is committed to civil rights, diversity, equality, and inclusion and our staff dedicates their work to ensure that these are provided to all individuals.  We strive to be part of a community that works together to demand equality for ALL citizens.

The Access Center staff are empowered to do the things that we do because of people who demand equality in the communities that they choose to live in.  We strongly believe that knowledge is power and that through knowledge a person can achieve any of their goals.

The Access Center prohibits unlawful discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender, marital status, disability, veteran status, age, sexual orientation, or any other status protected by federal, state, or local law in any area, activity or operation of the Center.

The Access Center is taking intentional steps, to make our organization a more inclusive, welcoming, learning and working environment. The Access Center is cognizant of the fact that many individuals who identify as part of the Disability Community and the LGBTQIA Community do not feel as though they are welcomed, or belong, in either community. In addition, the Access Center recognizes that race, ethnicity, and other factors can compound this issue. There is even less inclusion for black and brown disabled LGBTQIA people, than those who are white, disabled, and LGBTQIA. This was brought to the foreground during the Breaking Silences conference at Wright State University in September 2017.

While attending and participating in the Breaking Silence conference: https://www.wright.edu/event/sex-disability-conference, we were reminded, once again, of the lack of inclusion between our two communities. What stood out even more was just how similar the fight was / is for both communities. Some of the issues addressed by individuals who identify as Gay, Lesbian, Trans., Queer, etc. stated the same things that the Disability Community fight for: Equality, Dignity, Justice, Civil and Human Rights, a place to pee, just to name a few!

The Access Center will be offering:

Various presentations that will focus on the Disability Community and the LGBTQIA Community. The first presentation is planned for the Fall of 2018. Date and Time to be determined. Keep checking our News and Events tab at the top of our Home Page.

A Peer Group for individuals who identify as part of both the Disability Community and the LGBTQIA Community. This group is planned for late Spring / Early Summer 2018. Date and Time to be determined. Keep checking our News and Events tab at the top of our Home Page.

We would like to invite individuals who identify as a person with a Disability as well as who identify as part of the LGBTQIA community to come to a social gathering. Our hope is to offer a safe space for individuals to come together, talk, share experiences, and discuss ways to overcome and challenge society’s barriers and oppression.

We have requested permission to use the Breaking Silences logo for the Peer Group flyer. The Access Center is committed to honoring the basic tenets of the conference, which is Crip Justice, “to dispel ableist beliefs and provide a safe space for open discussion and learning to promote equality, inclusivity, and social justice”.

The Access Center respects and honors the intersection of the disability and LGBTQIA experience.

Note: Due to our recent move we currently do not have a restroom identified as “All Gender Restroom”. If this prevents you from attending any event at our facility PLEASE address this with the Access Center’s Executive Director.

Information and Resources:

Website: Disabled World Towards Tomorrow 


Quote: “Lesbian, gay and bisexual adults showed a higher prevalence of disability than did their heterosexual counterparts. Approximately 25% of heterosexual women, 36% of bisexual women and 36% of lesbians experience a form of disability as well. Both lesbians and bisexual women are more likely than heterosexual women to have a disability. Around 22% of heterosexual men, 40% of bisexual men and 26% of gay men experience a form of disability.”

While America celebrates the national granting of the right to marry to members of the LGBT community, one of the issues that appears to be ignored is the fact that many people who are gay also experience forms of disabilities. The old perspective of failing to include People with Disabilities remains pervasive. When a population such as the LGBT community is fighting for its rights, it is easy to forget that we, as People with Disabilities, are very much a part of the discussion.

Great silences exist surrounding disability, to include within LGBT communities. Similarly, non-heterosexual sexualities are many times left out of the discussion entirely within disability rights organizations and elsewhere in the disabled community. ‘Disability,’ is a term that encompasses a wide range of sensory, physical, cognitive and psychological abilities and affects many people, both visibly and invisibly.


Website: 2015 Report of the U.S. Transgender Survey


When respondents’ experiences are examined by race and ethnicity, a clear and disturbing pattern is revealed: transgender people of color experience deeper and broader patterns of discrimination than white respondents and the U.S. population. While respondents in the USTS sample overall were more than twice as likely as the U.S. population to be living in poverty, people of color, including Latino/a (43%), American Indian (41%), multiracial (40%), and Black (38%) respondents, were up to three times as likely as the U.S. population (14%) to be living in poverty. The unemployment rate among transgender people of color (20%) was four times higher than the U.S. unemployment rate (5%). People of color also experienced greater health disparities. While 1.4% of all respondents were living with HIV— nearly five times the rate in the U.S. population (0.3%)—the rate among Black respondents (6.7%) was substantially higher, and the rate for Black transgender women was a staggering 19%.

Respondents with disabilities also faced higher rates of economic instability and mistreatment. Nearly one-quarter (24%) were unemployed, and 45% were living in poverty. Transgender people with disabilities were more likely to be currently experiencing serious psychological distress (59%) and more likely to have attempted suicide in their lifetime (54%). They also reported higher rates of mistreatment by health care providers (42%).

Overall, the report provides evidence of hardships and barriers faced by transgender people on a day-to-day basis. It portrays the challenges that transgender people must overcome and the complex systems that they are often forced to navigate in multiple areas of their lives in order to survive and thrive. Given this evidence, governmental and private institutions throughout the United States should address these disparities and ensure that transgender people are able to live fulfilling lives in an inclusive society. This includes eliminating barriers to quality, affordable health care, putting an end to discrimination in schools, the workplace, and other areas of public life, and creating systems of support at the municipal, state, and federal levels that meet the needs of transgender people and reduce the hardships they face. As the national conversation about transgender people continues to evolve, public education efforts to improve understanding and acceptance of transgender people are crucial. The rates of suicide attempts, poverty, unemployment, and violence must serve as an immediate call to action, and their reduction must be a priority. Despite policy improvements over the last several years, it is clear that there is still much work ahead to ensure that transgender people can live without fear of discrimination and violence.

 “Transgender people with disabilities were more likely to be currently experiencing serious psychological distress (59%) and more likely to have attempted suicide in their lifetime (54%). They also reported higher rates of mistreatment by health care providers (42%).”

 “A staggering 39% of respondents experienced serious psychological distress in the month prior to completing the survey, compared with only 5% of the U.S. population. Among the starkest findings is that 40% of respondents have attempted suicide in their lifetime—nearly nine times the attempted suicide rate in the U.S. population (4.6%).”

“Respondents were living with HIV (1.4%) at nearly five times the rate in the U.S. population (0.3%).

  • HIV rates were higher among transgender women (3.4%), especially transgender women of color. Nearly one in five (19%) Black transgender women were living with HIV, and American Indian (4.6%) and Latina (4.4%) women also reported higher rates.”

“Twenty-eight percent (28%) of the sample identified as a person with a disability. 44 Throughout the report, the experiences of “people with disabilities” reflect the

experiences of these individuals.”

28% of 28,000 people is significant it shows that disability has a higher prevalence in the transgender community considering around 20% of the overall population is disabled!

Website: sage: Advocacy and Services for LGBT Elders


The early research on LGBT people, aging and disability has found that LGBT elders face significant disparities and unique barriers related to accessibility; LGBT cultural competence in home and community-based settings is profoundly needed.

Recent studies have found that LGBT older adults experience higher rates of disability as compared to their heterosexual peers. Further, the research shows that many LGBT people delay care out of fear of discrimination from health providers, which can have debilitating consequences. Many LGBT elders and/or people with disabilities are frequently forced to navigate inaccessible environments (or risk not accessing services) and many encounter stigmas and biases, unwelcoming environments and inadequate support related to their disabilities and their multiples identities. Thus, culturally competent caregivers and health care providers are of the utmost importance for disabled LGBT older adults; this includes staff in all long-term care settings, including facilities, and home and community based settings. Further, LGBT elders and people with disabilities deserve services and settings that are accessible and which maximize their full participation.

Website: Diversity in Teaching


What is intersectionality?

Intersectionality is the study of how various forms of oppression, discrimination, domination and other social processes intersect and influence each other. For example, students in schools can belong to more than one marginalized group. A student may identify as being culturally different from his or her classmates, belong to a different socio-economic group, and may also identify as gay.  This student’s experience would be different than someone who is of a similar cultural and socio-economic group as the majority of the class, but who also identifies as gay. Though these two students have an identity in common, their experiences in and around the classroom would likely be quite different because of their unique outlooks, as well as their unique social and cultural circumstances. They may not benefit from the same types of supports and would likely need educators and administration in schools to support and nurture their needs differently. An intersectional education lens takes various social, historical and political processes into consideration in order to best understand how to support the wide range of experiences of diverse students.

Website / Training: ILRU Intersectionality in Centers for Independent Living: Cultural Inclusion on March 31, 2016


Intersectionality is a term coined by Kimberle Crenshaw in 1989 to describe the inseparable connection between oppression and personal identities.

This is especially relevant to people with disabilities, who face discrimination and oppression that is compounded with also being people of color, women, LGBTQIA, non-native English speakers, or otherwise multiply-marginalized in society. Intersectionality is a critical piece of the discussion on disability identity and who has access to services and leadership in their communities and in the Independent Living Movement.

Nothing About Us Without Us is a beloved rallying cry in our Movement. We should abide by the same rules for all of the diverse people with disabilities in our communities. We must serve consumers from all backgrounds, and so we must have the staff, board members, and community leaders at the table who represent those same backgrounds and life experiences.