NorCal SCI co-founders, Nick and Franklin, made a short trip to Berkeley to meet with various friends of NorCal SCI and learn what they’ve been doing. One of the intriguing stops for us was our visit to The Center for Independent Living (CIL) in Berkeley where we met for about 90-minute with Stuart James, the Executive Director and Bryanna Stubbert, Sports & Recreation Coordinator at CIL.
It had been seven months since we last saw Stuart at the Ed Roberts Day gala event and given the important role CIL plays in the disability movement, we wanted to re-connect and find out how things are going and get an update on the programs and services they’re now offering.
CIL just re-designed their web site which you should check out but that’s not the only new thing taking place. Stuart shared with us the details of a program that seeks to create employment opportunities for qualified individuals with disabilities focused on those under the age of 24. The program was launched about a month ago, according to Stuart, and they’ve been working with mostly larger companies who value inclusiveness and diversity in their workforce.
More and more companies, especially in Silicon Valley, have been placing a greater level of importance on hiring individuals with disabilities and given the tight labor market, it has created even more opportunities. He cited companies such as Pinterest, Adobe, Logitech, Mixpanel among those involved who rely on CIL’s staff to refer qualified individuals to them. A critical part of matching candidates with employers involves ensuring a work environment that would be in line with the applicant’s personality and level of comfort which ensures longevity in the position.
Also important in placing applicants for any position involves analyzing the cash and non-cash benefits they may be receiving from various social safety nets so that they don’t end up being financially penalized for working while their needs are not being met. Stuart also revealed that this program is available to anyone in any county and urges interested individuals to contact CIL.
Another program offered by CIL involves making homes accessible for the low-income Berkeley residents with a disability, supported through a $140,000/year community block grant. Efforts are underway to work with other cities to provide similar services to their residents.
We found out that CIL also sells various medical equipment such as manual and power wheelchairs (including the Whill Ci) at drastic discounts. The Power On program, whereby CIL staff tests out various products and showcase them via video, will be ramped up in the coming months.
In all, Stuart’s vision calls for the disability community involved and engaged in any way, shape or form that works for them, whether they work, play, go to outings or anything to get them out of the house. At CIL, their goal is to do fewer programs but do them well.
We’re grateful for the friendship and partnership we have developed with Stuart and the staff at CIL and will continue to report on their new programs and services that can benefit the SCI community.