I wanted to use this post to spotlight a great resource for members of the disability community here in the Milwaukee area, IndependenceFirst. After reaching out, I was lucky enough to receive a tour of their facilities from Marci Boucher (President and CEO), Heather Perkins (Director of Facilities and Special Projects), and Gerald Hay (ILS Program Manager) to get a taste of what they have to offer the disability community. IndependenceFirst is one of the nation’s largest independent living centers, offering the five core services of information and referral, peer support, independent living skills training, transition, and advocacy.
Around in Milwaukee for 40 years, IndependenceFirst works towards the goal of full inclusivity for everyone in the community regardless of level of ability and dedicates itself to achieving that vision. As they seek to serve people across the disability community, their facility incorporates the concept of universal design, where everything is designed to be as accessible as possible for everyone to be able to use. “Good design works for everybody,” Gerald notes.
IndependenceFirst offers over 20 programs to serve the disability community, including caregiver recruitment and training, daily living skills trainings, accessibility consulting for homes and businesses, and much more! One really cool area I got to explore was their assistive technology department, which allows people to come in and try out all manner of accessible equipment to see if it is a good fit, with over 1500 pieces of equipment to choose from. Types of equipment featured run the gamut from computer software and phone modifications to specialized handles and driving controls for accessible vehicles. Once a potential solution is found, IndependenceFirst does not directly sell any of the equipment, but is able to direct people to vendors that do. Furthermore, no post would be complete without mentioning their wide selection of bathroom assistive technology, dubbed the BAT Cave, which helps users identify what adaptations will best meet their needs at home and maintain their ability to live in the community. In addition, they even offer a loan program to help finance particularly costly equipment.
IndependenceFirst is a valuable asset to the Milwaukee area disability community and I would highly encourage anyone interested to come and check out the possibilities!