Independent Living Civics Course

Ernie: Welcome to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of Western New York Independent Living (WNYIL). Our guests today are Maura Kelley, behavioral health peer liaison of WNYIL, and Ericka Miller, systems advocate with Independent Living of Niagara County (ILNC). I'm your host Ernie Churchwell. Welcome to the program, folks. 


Ericka: Thank you very much for having me here, Ernie. 


Maura: Thanks, Ernie. It's great to be here. 


Ernie: And we're delighted to have you both.  You’re here to talk about the independent living civics course and I dare say when most people talk about services to help people with disabilities live more independently, probably not the first thing that pops to mind is involvement in one's local government. But this is the second year I believe that we have had a course that deals with that, and so the obvious question is, why is it in the best interests of citizens with disabilities to know how to influence government decisions? 


Ericka: Well, if I could jump in, I think it's important because disability rights impact just about every part of our life. So, we want to be a part of these decisions. We want to make sure that we are covered upfront and not an afterthought, if you will, and when you talk about legislation, it's not necessarily just a federal thing. Decisions that are made by your assemblymen, your senators, those are all very important and impact you most every day and even in your little town, town supervisors, mayors, those decisions impact you as well. So, it's very important that you get involved to make sure that your interests are being served. 


Maura: So, I'm a person with a disability and Ericka is a person with a disability and we see, I've been impacted by laws and legislation in my life that have prevented me total community inclusion and Ericka sees that too, and we've been advocates for a long, long time and people go to Albany and type of legislators and they may not know which one to talk to or what, what direction to go to make things change. So, we are doing a very enthusiastic, interesting, exciting civics course created by people with disabilities, for people with disabilities and their loved ones.  


Ernie: And this course is going to go, I believe, for a total of about nine months. Unfortunately, the first class is October 12th, which, because this agency has so many nifty things happening at once, will actually start before this is heard on the radio. Will there be any problem with attendees of the second course jumping in on all of the activities? 


Maura: So, we have spent a long time developing a course curriculum and if someone just calls the agency, Ericka and or I will meet with that individual to help them catch up to the class, so they don't lose anything going forward. Theyll get all the information. But just thinking about it and checking it out is so important to us. For me in my life. It would be great if they could just contact the center and ask for Maura or Ericka and we could help them catch up. 


Ernie: OK, what times and dates of the month does the course occur? 


Maura: It'll be every second and fourth Thursday of the month from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m., and there's two options. One option is in person, we really highly encourage that because of networking and fellowship and that's in person at 3108 Main St. In Buffalo and we also have an option for Zoom that Ericka is very technology savvy is going to be that part for people that just can't make it or have barriers that we might want to change to getting to the class. So, we're going to do Zoom if you need any help with that, Erica is the go-to for that. 


Ernie: We're totally out of time. I'm sure people will have questions. How can they reach someone? 


Ericka: Well, if they want to reach me and my e-mail is or they will call ILNC at 716-284-4131, ext. 221. 


Ernie: All right. And thank you both for being with us and look forward to this exciting development then. You've been listening to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of WNYIL. Our guests today have been Maura Kelley, behavioral health peer liaison at WNYIL and Ericka Miller, systems advocate at ILNC, and I've been your host, Ernie Churchwell.