Speaking Up

Everybody Counts, the Center for Independent Living (CIL) in Merrillville, was part of a movement that originated at the University of California Berkeley in the 1960s. Ed Roberts’ pioneering attendance as a student with a severe disability led to the founding of the country’s first CIL. In 1981, The League for the Blind in Allen County received federal funding to become the first such center in Indiana. Two years later, individuals facing mobility barriers in the Lawrence County area began meeting. Their group evolved into the Southern Indiana Center for Independent Living. There are ten such organizations around the state today.

Darcus Nims Receiving Community Spirit Award

“We had to depend on ourselves.”

In Fort Wayne and other cities, the decade of the eighties also saw the first Indiana groups formed by self-advocates with I/DD. Like that of independent living, the “People First” movement had originated elsewhere, but by 1990 there were enough participating groups statewide to create Self-Advocates of Indiana. Darcus Nims was the organization’s founder. As her leadership responsibilities grew, so did her horizons. With fellow self-advocate Betty Williams and no staff “helpers,” Nims recalled flying to a Washington, D.C. conference. “We had to depend on ourselves, something that nobody thought we could do. Really, we didn't think we could do it ourselves -- we were shocked we did it.”

Karen Vaughn

In 1991, the GCPD adopted Partners in Policymaking, a leadership training program for adults with disabilities and parents. Suellen Jackson-Boner was the GCPD’s executive director. “When you look back in the eighties and seventies and sixties, and where people came from, out of institutions, many of them had never had the opportunity to be an advocate or even know anything about advocacy.” Karen Vaughn says when she went through the disability policy program in 1992, “I learned that there were more than just rights. We had civil rights on just about every level.”