EXPERT CARE COORDINATION | Independent living program

The ICS Independent Living Program

A physical disability – new or longstanding – creates emotional and physical barriers that can be difficult to overcome. The ICS Independent Living Program provides trained peer mentors – men and women who themselves live with disabilities. This program is a lifeline for ICS members who are struggling to adjust to a new disability or who need guidance through the process of setting and working toward individual goals. Mentors also provide support and connect members to community resources and hands-on help with a range of needs.

Members remain with their mentors for anywhere from three months to more than a year, meeting weekly to work on employment, education, health, or social goals and more. For some, their first goal is simply to overcome the isolation that so often accompanies a disability. The overarching need of members in this program is to be able to talk through issues with someone who knows what it is like to live with a disability – which is exactly what the peer mentors provide.

ICS peer mentors are expert at building trust, allowing members to feel comfortable sharing their dreams, needs and goals.  Mentors have helped members find accessible apartments, secure jobs, address mental health challenges, find accessible exercise programs, and even, in one case, pass their citizenship exam!

The Independent Living Program is overseen by Sharifa Abu-Hamda, who was mentored by Anna Fay and Marilyn Saviola, ICS leaders who were lifelong disability rights advocates. Sharifa also co-leads the Civics League for Disability Rights.

See how one mentor helped a member overcome her fear of seeking employment.