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The Arizona Bridge to Independent Living

  • Synopsis: Published: 2012-09-10 - ABIL formerly Arizona Congress for Action is a group of people with the goal of educating their community about issues related to disability in Central Arizona - Wendy Taormina-Weiss.
Independent Living
Independent Living - As seen by its advocates, is a philosophy, a way of looking at disability and society, and a worldwide movement of people with disabilities who proclaim to work for self-determination, self-respect and equal opportunities.

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The Arizona Bridge to Independent Living (ABIL) advocates personal responsibility for and by People with Disabilities as a means to independence. ABIL is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that works to assist consumers with achieving self-sufficiency. Through a variety of programs, ABIL positively affects the lives of people who experience forms of disabilities, addressing the concerns of their family members, friends, co-workers, and employers.

ABIL started in the year 1977 as the, 'Arizona Congress for Action (ACA),' a group of people who experienced diverse forms of physical disabilities who began a grassroots effort with the goal of educating their community about issues related to disability in Central Arizona. By the following year, Congress had enacted Independent Living Center legislation as a portion of the amended Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The year 1981 found ABIL receiving funding and starting to provide services.

More than 80 staff members work at ABIL, with greater than 1,600 assistants and volunteers. The organization has offices in Phoenix and Mesa, as well as the West Valley and provides services to people with disabilities throughout Maricopa County. The programs through ABIL are made possible through a number of grants, individual and corporate contributions, and fee-for-service contracts. Examples of the programs through ABIL include:

  • Advocacy
  • Peer Support
  • Home Modification
  • Employment Services
  • Information and Referral
  • Personal Assistance Services
  • Social Recreational Programs
  • Social Security Work Incentives
  • Empowering Youth in Transition
  • Reintegration from Nursing Homes
  • Outreach to Rehabilitation Centers
  • Independent Living Skills Instruction
  • Early Intervention for Newly Disabled Individuals
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Training and Counsel

ABIL and Personal Care Assistant Services

The Personal Assistance Services through ABIL have been recognized nationally. ABIL provides quality, in-home care services to people with disabilities and seniors and has been doing so for more than 25 years. The Personal Assistance Services places value on the whole person, empowering people to live and be as independent as they possibly can be.

The Personal Assistance Services through ABIL employs more than 1,600 care assistants in Maricopa County. The services are the largest provider of in-home care and despite this fact ABIL still maintains a, 'small town,' approach as it provides people with disabilities and seniors with individualized personal services. ABIL's Personal Assistance Services recruits, screens, trains and employs personal assistants who provide care services to people with physical disabilities and seniors who are qualified through the Arizona Long Term Care System (ALTCS) and who have selected Mercy Care, Evercare, Bridgeway, or SCAN health plans as well as to Native Americans who live off the Reservation and are qualified and receive services through AHCCCS/ALTCS and the Native American Community Health Centers. ABIL provides personal assistants to people with developmental disabilities through the Arizona Department of Economic Security's Division of Developmental Disabilities as well.

Employment Services Through ABIL

People with Disabilities who receive Social Security benefits can still work. The majority of people with disabilities still have the ability to do some work and many can work again on a full-time basis. For people with disabilities who are tired of worrying about money and being bored and who receive SSDI or SSI benefits, there are programs and work incentives that can help them to get a job while managing their benefits. People who receive Social Security benefits are qualified for a variety of work incentives and a program called, 'Ticket to Work.'

ABIL offers Employment Services and has been providing support and assistance to people with disabilities who want to become employed through the Ticket to Work program since the year 2002. ABIL Employment Services has been recognized as one of the biggest and most successful organizations that provides services through the Ticket to Work program in all of America. Every one of ABIL's employment services is geared toward community-based and integrated employment.

ABIL's employment services do not support either sheltered or enclave employment. Instead, peer support and mentoring are large aspects of the services the organization provides. All of ABIL's staff members have personal experience with disability and the majority of their staff members have received Social Security benefits at some time in their lives. People with disabilities seeking employment through ABIL's Employment Services can rest assured that staff members understand the concerns and questions they have about returning to work because the staff members themselves have been there. People with disabilities seeking employment through ABIL will certainly receive the encouragement and support they need from staff members who have left their benefits behind, successfully returning to the workforce.

The Disability Empowerment Center

ABIL is located in the Disability Empowerment Center (DEC). The Disability Empowerment Center is a 62,000 square-foot universally designed, accessible and transit-oriented non-profit resources center with one goal - serving the community of people with disabilities in the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan area. The DEC is a national model for accessible design and collaborative programs and is located in the very heart of Phoenix, Arizona less than 2.5 miles from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and placed conveniently on the Valley Metro light rail system. Along with ABIL, a number of other disability organizations are located within the Disability Empowerment Center:

  • NAMI Arizona
  • Joni & Friends
  • Symbius Medical
  • Raising Special Kids
  • Arizona Autism United
  • Multiple Sclerosis Society
  • Valley Center of the Deaf
  • Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona
  • Arizona Center for Disability Law
  • Arizona Spinal Cord Injury Association
  • AZ Statewide Independent Living Council

The Disability Empowerment Center (DEC) has a great deal to offer People with Disabilities in the Phoenix Metropolitan area. The Center includes a Conference Center, classrooms, a rooftop patio, computer labs and much more. Planning for the future includes additional expansion, all of which is accessible.

The Nina Mason Pulliam Conference Center

The Nina Mason Pulliam Conference Center is a state-of-the-art video conferencing facility. The facility offers 3,034 square-feet of conferencing space that may be divided into two separate meeting rooms. The conference center has the ability to seat 110 people or up to 150 people who are not seated. Courtyards adjacent to the conference center provide guests with the perfect setting for a buffet meal or an outdoor cocktail hour. Additional features of the conference center include:

  • In-house PC
  • DVD capabilities
  • Two laptop connections
  • Audio and video teleconferencing
  • Four large screens with projectors
  • Listening systems and descriptive video
  • A full service-catering kitchen for events

Classroom A: Classroom A measures 526 square-feet and has the ability to accommodate 15 people. The classroom is ideal for a small seminar or meeting. The room has teleconferencing capabilities and is fragrance-free with a dedicated HEPA filtration system for people who experience multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS).

Classroom B: Classroom B measures 732 square-feet and has the ability to accommodate 25 people. The classroom also has teleconferencing capabilities, as well as a fully accessible kitchen. The room is perfect for breakfast or lunch meetings.

The Disability Empowerment Center's Rooftop Patio

The Disability Empowerment Center (DEC) has an incredible 7,400 square-foot lighted patio with the ability to accommodate almost 500 guests. The patio has a sweeping panoramic view of Tovrea Castle to the north and South Mountain. It is a memorable and breathtaking setting for outdoor events, cocktail receptions, and weddings.

As if this wasn't enough to dazzle every person with a disability, our family members and friends, the DEC has a 377 square-foot computer lab with 11 computer workstations, which are ideal for classes and workshops. The DEC is also available days and evenings with venues for conferences, meetings, weddings, holiday parties, corporate and other social events. But wait...there's even more - the future.

The Virginia G. Piper Sports and Fitness Center at the Disability Empowerment Center

The future of the Disability Empowerment Center includes plans to include the Virginia G. Piper Sports and Fitness Center. The Sports and Fitness Center will be a universally accessible one that is designed to bring people with all forms of disabilities together, from all age groups, with the goal of encouraging wellness, nutritional health, and physical fitness. The Sports and Fitness Center will measure 45,000 square-feet and include fitness, sports, and aquatics. It will be the first of its kind in the Western United States. The Sports and Fitness Center will host competitive sports programs for people with disabilities while accommodating fitness, wellness, and health programs.

Related Information:

  1. Independent Living Debate - Independent living is where a person lives independently in their home or apartment and not senior communities or nursing homes.
  2. The Center for Independent Living - USA - The Center for Independent Living the worlds first organization of its kind is a national leader in supporting disabled people in their efforts to lead independent lives.
  3. Independent Living - Seniors in Southern California - Seniors may appreciate their independence but still desire to live in a community of their peers for security reasons.


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