By way of introduction I am Lynn Jarman, the new executive director of LINC. I am delighted to have the honor to not only lead this organization, but to add my voice to the many voices that have fought for decades to obtain inclusion and equal rights for people with disabilities. The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) only 19 years old as of July 26th and amended just last year by Congress in an effort to stop the erosion of rights by the Courts. This decision had a profound impact on the lives of each one of us. In fact, we can now go places, attend school, hold worthwhile employment and live independently. The work and sacrifice of people with disabilities, their families and friends, who refused to be saddled with the common belief that they were somehow limited or broken, had been heard. I grew up in a family where disabilities were an everyday part of life and have raised two children with disabilities to adulthood. I know we are neither limited nor broken; we are neither helpless nor hopeless; we are neither uncertain nor shackled. We are who we are, each seeking to reach his or her maximum potential and together our voices are strong, our determination is steadfast and our votes are many.
I’m sure each of you is acutely aware of the current state of affairs in Illinois. It is good that our votes are many and our voices are strong because in Illinois we are seeing troubling economic times. We have already witnessed the impact on social services and CIL’s by cutting services to vulnerable individuals. Programs that assist people in the opportunity to live independently are being challenged in way unseen in the last 20 years. Already under funded CIL’s are the only resource in Illinois that offers services to consumers in a way that promotes self reliance and independence. We believe that our disabilities do not ground us or mandate we live life inside the four walls of a long-term care facility. We are not a medical model that promotes labels and disabilities as the sole essence of who we are. Instead we offer services that allow consumers to spread their wings and experience life to the fullest. As we lift the lid off others expectations of what individuals with disabilities can do, we create the ability for our consumers to soar and to find success that is not tied to their disability, but to their abilities.
I come to LINC with 19 years experience working for a statewide private child welfare agency in Illinois. In that role, I had the opportunity to work with many families where disabilities had led to negative outcomes simply because resources and knowledge were lacking. I also had the opportunity to be involved in family systems where independence, self reliance and self advocacy had led to very positive outcomes. The difference was so remarkable and life changing for the families that upheld the principles of the Independent Living Movement. I look forward to working together with all of you in the future and in carrying forward the mission and vision of LINC.