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Organizational History and Accomplishments

Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco was founded in 1976 as the San Francisco Independent Living Project, co-sponsored by the San Francisco Chapter of the California Association of the Physically Handicapped and the United Cerebral Palsy Association of San Francisco. We were one of the early “independent living centers”, a unique blend of human service organization and social change agent. Today Centers number in the hundreds across the United States, 29 in California, alone.

People with significant disabilities face many barriers to living in the community in a non-institutional setting: attitudinal, physical and programmatic or procedural barriers. ILRCSF’s founders saw a need to address these barriers through systems change, community education and basic supportive services, which modeled consumer empowerment. A majority of our Board of Directors and staff have always been people with disabilities. ILRCSF was founded to represent all people with disabilities, inclusive of all kinds of disability, all ages, ethnic groups, sexual and gender identities.

From its inception, ILRCSF was to embody the theme of organizational growth and development:

  • In 1976-77 we reached 100-200 people with disabilities, primarily with supportive services. Today we annually reach 2000-3000 people with disabilities and 2000 or more non-disabled family members, businesspersons, rehabilitation professionals and the general public through community education, and systems change, as well as supportive services.
  • We became independent of our co-sponsors in 1980 with a staff of 6-8. Today our staff numbers 18, and more than 60 volunteers contribute through ILRCSF as advocates, peer counselors, and organizational advisors.
  • In 1977 our annual budget was less than $200,000, 90% from a single source. Our 2004 – 2005 budget is just over one million dollars. Today we have 15 – 20 different funding sources.
  • In 1980 we spoke English at ILRCSF. Today we speak American Sign Language, Chinese, English, and Spanish.
  • In 1980 we served people with physical disabilities, primarily, and 70-80% were Caucasian. Today we, also, work with people with psychiatric disabilities, vision or hearing impairments, traumatic brain injury, multiple chemical sensitivity, learning disabilities, developmental disabilities, and HIV-related disability. Today 65% of ILRCSF’s consumers are persons of color, mirroring the San Francisco community.
  • ILRCSF has been an active member of the state coalition of Independent Living Centers (CFILC) since its inception in 1979. In 1983 we joined the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), our national coalition, serving on its board representing centers in Federal Regional IX from 1993 to 1997.
  • Expansion has come gradually and purposefully. In 1985 we increased outreach to people with psychiatric disabilities; in 1988 we added housing services targeted to people with psychiatric disabilities; 1989 saw a move to a more central location and addition of a deaf services program. In 1989-90 we expended major effort on passage of the American with Disabilities Act and hired our first full time Development Director; in 1994 we added an access specialist; in 1995 we added a Latino community program; in 1996 we added a Chinese community program; in 1998 we moved to even more central offices; and in 1999 we added an Information and Referral Specialist.

We look back with pride at the impact we have had in building a more accessible community. We led the effort to make City Hall accessible to citizens with a disability with a ramp. Our publications on Fair Housing Act Rights of People with Disabilities and Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities are in use throughout the nation; ILRCSF is looked to nationally as a model of diversity. We organized a National Council on Disability hearing on ethnic minority issues, which had the largest consumer turnout of any National Council Disability hearing ever. And we have taken a strong local and state level stand on long-term care that supports community living rather than institutionalization.

We look ahead with excitement to the new strategies and partnerships and to the continued effort to make San Francisco a better, more accessible community for all its citizens.