Organizations: Statewide Independent Living Council
The Statewide Independent Living Council of Georgia (SILC) works on big-picture policy change while strengthening small local groups that specialize in peer-to-peer support for people with disabilities.
“Our biggest accomplishment so far is growing a network of programs that are run for and by people with disabilities across the state,” says Patricia Puckett, executive director of the advocacy organization founded in 1995. Centers for Indepen-dent Living that emphasize mentoring are in Gaines-ville, Bainbridge, Savannah and other cities.
Every state claims an umbrella organization like the SILC, and most work as an arm of state government. “Georgia was the fifth in the nation to be-come an independent nonprofit, so we’re one of the oldest of our kind,” she says, noting the group, with its 11-member board of directors, operates with federal funds, grants and donations. “Being independent enables us to speak out on issues, and that freedom is important to us.”
For example, the SILC has campaigned for public transportation measures and now is focusing on Medicaid.
“We want an option for a Medicaid buy-in for em-ployees, a sliding fee scale that would enable people to continue to work, because right now people with disabilities often face a choice between their health insurance and having a job,” says Puckett, who uses a wheelchair.
“Moreover, I understand how an employer might feel nervous at the prospect of paying $120,000 a year for personal care assistance for an employee, so a buy-in would make us more attractive to hire in the private sector while encouraging greater independence for us. ‘Independent Living’ is the philosophy that barriers we face have more to do with the world around us than with diagnosis, label or condition.”