Promoting Disability Rights For Urban Minorities

Harlem Independent Living Center (HILC) is a nonprofit organization serving the Greater Harlem area. The staff comprises trained professionals, some of whom are disabled and others who have first-hand experience dealing with individuals with disabilities. HILC aids people with disabilities, particularly minorities with disabilities, their families, and friends by providing them with information and skills they need to live independently. Here are some examples of how HILC works in the Greater Harlem community:

  • A young woman is left partially paralyzed after a mixture of cocaine and heroin. She is admitted to a local hospital rehabilitation department and provided with a wheelchair to get around the hospital. When she is ready to leave the medical environment, she is referred to an Independent Living Center.
  • A couple is bewildered and frightened when they discover their newborn is deaf. Their pediatrician knows their concerns can be easily alleviated and refers them to an Independent Living Center.
  • Having worked as a domestic for most of her life, at the early age of sixty, a woman is severely affected by high blood pressure and diabetes. She needs medical attention and information on benefits that may be available to her. Where can she turn? The Independent Living Center can assist her.
  • Harold dreams about opening a restaurant. He’s heard all about the Americans with Disabilities Act and knows that it will impact his business plans. How can he learn what he needs to comply with the law? By going to the local Independent Living Center, he will learn about the resources available to him.

HILC services are provided using an “interactive peer” approach—staff members interact with individuals with disabilities, i.e., “consumers” by sharing their own experiences. Consumers are then encouraged to develop individualized plans tailored to meet their own socio-economic, medical, educational, vocational, and recreational goals.

HILC will focus on serving consumers who show signs of drug or alcohol abuse as a secondary disability.