Northern Regional Center for Independent Living (NRCIL) is a community-based, disability rights and resource center. Founded in 1987 with a grant from the New York State Education Department, we are part of a network of 41 independent living centers in New York State. 

NRCIL is a consumer-controlled, community-based, cross-disability, non-residential, non-medical center. We provide information and advocacy resources to people with disabilities of all ages in the North Country including individuals, family members, caregivers and community advocates. NRCIL encourages people to maximize their personal independence through its peer-to-peer philosophy. By law, by choice and by design, the majority of our staff and board members are people with disabilities themselves. This is one of the ways we ensure consumer-control. Advocacy and the development of independent, community-based living skills are the hallmarks of our programs. NRCIL works to remove physical, perceptual and attitudinal barriers. People are empowered by self-determination.  Supporting and empowering individuals to make decisions affecting their lives is our primary objective.  

Our work includes:

  • Americans with Disabilities Act consulting, training, and resources
  • Architectural access consulting 
  • Benefits planning
  • Employment services 
  • Equipment Loan Closet
  • Housing assistance
  • Information and referral
  • Independent living skills training
  • Interpreter referral
  • Mental health peer advocacy
  • Parent advocacy and family support services
  • Peer support – Empowerment
  • Systems advocacy 
  • Transition Services including from a nursing home or other institution to community life and from school to life
  • Voter registration
  • Youth peer support

NRCIL’s core funding supports its main program, Independent Living. This is the reason the center exists. The listed objectives may vary from year to year in response to the varying needs of the community, but the following are representative of our goals. NRCIL will:

  • Conduct activities that will assist individuals in being involved in the community and advocating on behalf of themselves and their peers.
  • Identify disability issues during the year and involve staff and volunteers in motivating members of the community to actively engage on these issues.
  • Advocate in support of individuals’ rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other federal and state laws, and assist them in understanding those rights.
  • Assist public entities and interested individuals in understanding their responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other federal and state laws. 
  • Assist people in developing support groups upon request.
  • Offer core independent living services dependent upon adequate funding and community demand.

What are Disability Rights about? 

While the history of Disability Rights often depends on the source material being referenced, NRCIL will focus on providing the information we believe to be accurate and supportive of your role with us. 

In general, Disability Rights are a set of beliefs, assumptions and activities that stem from the core belief: People with disabilities have every right to participate in the fabric of our society as completely as they choose to do so. These beliefs also include:

  • All of us were created equal.   
  • No disabling condition should divert us from the unalienable rights of citizenship, and that no disabling condition should divert us from our pursuit of a full and fulfilling “personhood”.  
  • As full and equal participants in society, we have the same right to success and failure and to the gifts that these experiences bring us.
  • We are people first, citizens next and happen to have disabilities, finally and admittedly.  

Do not miss this final point. We do not deny that we have a disability. In fact, most of us are proud of this distinction. We don’t choose to have it overlooked or hidden, rather, simply accommodated so that we may attain our fullest potential.

The next assumptions in Disability Rights are:

  • We are not yet at this point of equality.
  • No one is going to hand this to us. 
  • We are responsible for seeing this outcome to completion.  

These beliefs lead to one of NRCIL’s primary activities: advocacy in support of nothing less than equal rights and participation for all people with disabilities.  

Finally, at the core of Disability Rights and the critical intersection with our Independent Living movement, we accept that in the struggle for our rights and the rights of all people with disabilities, we are the best advocates for our own rights. This does not preclude people without disabilities from joining us in our efforts. On the contrary, the more people we have working for our equality, the easier it will be for us to win. The critical points are:

  • People with disabilities know best what we need and want. 
  • We sometimes need help getting it. 
  • We should always control the process.

These points are the guides all advocates use in the process of delivering independent living services. Copy this page and post it on your wall to remember how to go about delivering outstanding advocacy. 

What is Independent Living about?

The Independent Living (IL) movement is based on the idea that there are beliefs and assumptions that differ critically from the previously long-held beliefs that predominantly kept people with disabilities behind closed doors. Those beliefs and assumptions had fostered an erroneous view of simple human worth, value and capability.  

The easiest way to view this idea of IL is to see where it is different in those areas. IL believes that all people have worth and are, therefore, to be treated with dignity and respect. That is true whether you see, hear, think, move, look or relate to others like everyone else or not. We believe that because you are, you have worth.  

The next belief is that all human life has value, whether or not you are like anyone else. This assumption means that we all have something to contribute. IL challenges us, and society, to find ways for everyone to contribute and participate. It is under this belief that IL has fought against the concept of sheltered workshops. We believe that people with disabilities have more to give and can best do that when challenged in integrated settings with two-way give-and-take. We give and we get.  

IL beliefs and assumptions are founded on the law of expectations. In his book, The Psychology of Achievement, Brian Tracy describes the law of expectations as a powerful concept that says, “Whatever we expect with confidence becomes our own self-fulfilling prophecy. . . There are three key types of expectations that affect our lives: first, the expectation that our parents had of us – these expectations have a dramatic impact on how we perform today; second, the expectations that we have of our children, our spouses, and the people who look up to us – people who look up to us always try to fulfill our expectations of them, whether they are positive or negative; third, and perhaps most important of all, the expectations we have of ourselves – which may be high or low, positive or negative.” 

If you see a person with a disability as their disability and limitations, then you will expect little from that person. If, on the other hand, as in IL, you see them first as a person with worth, and value then you will expect the most from that person. This results in you and them strategizing how to get at that worth and that value, how to accommodate the disability to let the person shine.

About Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

“The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law that makes available a free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities throughout the nation and ensures special education and related services to those children.

The IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to more than 7.5 million (as of school year 2018-19) eligible infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities.

Infants and toddlers, birth through age 2, with disabilities and their families receive early intervention services under IDEA Part C. Children and youth ages 3 through 21 receive special education and related services under IDEA Part B.”

The history of the ADA did not begin on July 26

As the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund notes on it’s website: “The history of the ADA did not begin on July 26, 1990 at the signing ceremony at the White House. It did not begin in 1988 when the first ADA was introduced in Congress. The ADA story began a long time ago in cities and towns throughout the United States when people with disabilities began to challenge societal barriers that excluded them from their communities, and when parents of children with disabilities began to fight against the exclusion and segregation of their children. It began with the establishment of local groups to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. It began with the establishment of the independent living movement which challenged the notion that people with disabilities needed to be institutionalized, and which fought for and provided services for people with disabilities to live in the community.

The ADA owes its birthright not to any one person, or any few, but to the many thousands of people who make up the disability rights movement – people who have worked for years organizing and attending protests, licking envelopes, sending out alerts, drafting legislation, speaking, testifying, negotiating, lobbying, filing lawsuits, being arrested – doing whatever they could for a cause they believed in. There are far too many people whose commitment and hard work contributed to the passage of this historic piece of disability civil rights legislation to be able to give appropriate credit by name. Without the work of so many – without the disability rights movement – there would be no ADA.”