protester in a wheelchair holding a sign saying Cut the Curbs

Independent Living

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Success Stories

Independent Living

Michael is a 42-year-old male who has a cognitive disability, as well as diabetes and low vision. During the past three years, Michael, with the support and assistance of Mountain State Centers for Independent Living (MTSTCIL) and two other agencies, has moved into his own apartment, learned how to cook, and manages and controls his sugar levels. He has also been able to save up for and purchase items without the fear of them being stolen from him by his other family members. With the guidance and support of MTSTCIL, Michael passed the interview process with Habitat, completed his "sweat equity", and purchased his own home through Habitat for Humanity. Michael was able to move into his own home-a home that he has paid for and helped build himself.

Accessible Housing

Katie is a 36-year-old female whose disability is cerebral palsy. Until May of 1999, she had never been involved with any type of disability-related organization. Once MTSTCIL became a part of Katie's life, she became aware of and took advantage of the many resources available in her community. In June 1999, she was placed on the list for a new wheelchair ramp for her home. Also during June, Katie requested and received her first electric wheelchair. This meant that she would no longer have to ask anyone to push her around in her manual wheelchair. Katie can now go where she wants when she wants!

VISIT Program

Marcie is an 85-year-old woman with low vision who has been very successful in keeping her independence. Because of the skills training and adaptive equipment the VISIT (Visually Impaired Seniors Independence Training) program provided, she no longer needs meals from the senior center; she is now able to cook for herself. Marcie was also trained in using a Vox-Com, which she has mastered and uses in multiple ways, from labeling her canned goods and clothes to recording telephone numbers and addresses. She has also received sighted guide training and now shows others how to guide her in public. The skills and support Marcie received from VISIT have enabled her to manage her household budget and maintain her social life; Marcie is now attending church again after VISIT made arrangements to ensure she received transportation to and from church.

Systems Advocacy

The Community Resource Advocates from Huntington and Beckley, along with consumers, spent on average three days a week at the capitol in Charleston advocating for the passage of the "Ron Yost Personal Care Assistance Act". This was the fourth year this piece of legislation was introduced.

Advocates met with legislators during the interim to discuss problems with the bill, and following their suggestions, rewrote the bill. They also met with key members of both the Senate and the House during the session and flooded their offices with phone calls and fax sheets. All their hard work paid off when the bill was passed and signed into law by the Governor on June 1, 1999, giving people with disabilities another option for personal assistance services in West Virginia.

West Virginia Grassroots Advocacy

Since October of 1997, the Community Resource Advocate from Huntington, along with West Virginia Grassroots Advocacy Project (WVGAP) members, has advocated on behalf of people with disabilities regarding curb cut construction in Huntington, West Virginia. Meetings with city officials were held, testimony to the city council was given, presentations to the Mayor's Committee on People with Disabilities were completed, and letters to the editor were written.

Finally, a complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. A demonstration was planned for HUD Secretary Andrew Coumo's visit to Huntington. Mountain State Centers for Independent Living (MTSTCIL) staff and consumers were met at the door by the City's Director of Development. She requested no demonstration in return for a commitment from the city to come to the table to negotiate a resolution to the curb cut issue.

WVGAP continued to work with the city, Department of Justice, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development on this issue.

Finally in December of 2000, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development issued their ruling in favor of MTSTCIL and its consumers, requiring the City of Huntington to bring all its curbs into compliance. The city has begun to install curb cuts on streets that have been upgraded since the passage of the ADA and have inserted curb cuts in the bid process for street maintenance.

Advocacy - Employment Discrimination

Tom contacted Mountain State Centers for Independent Living (MTSTCIL) because he needed technical assistance concerning employment discrimination. Tom is an individual who is blind. MTSTCIL agreed that it appeared Tom was being discriminated against by his employer and recommended that he file a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). MTSTCIL staff provided Tom with information on Title I of the ADA and informed him that his lawsuit would take time to go through the legal process and encouraged him not to get discouraged. After approximately two years of waiting and wondering, Tom has won his lawsuit against a local Pizza Hut and was awarded his back wages. He did not return to work at Pizza Hut but is now employed at another business within his community.

Skills Training

A staff member of Mountain State Centers for Independent Living (MTSTCIL) met with West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (WVDHHR) to discuss John, a six-year-old boy who was in jeopardy of being taken from his mother and placed into foster care. John needed behavior modification and personal hygiene skills training, as well as socialization skills development. He also needed tutoring to bring him up to a first-grade level in the areas of reading, colors, numbers and simple words. MTSTCIL staff agreed to work with John and he is now back home with his mother, attending an elementary school and showing great progress. Not only have his academic skills improved, but he has also begun to make friends.

Peer Support

When Sally first came to the Mountain State Centers for Independent Living (MTSTCIL), she was very passive, withdrawn, and downcast. She showed little interest in anything. Sally has a mental illness, which is a result of sexual and physical abuse that occurred over a long period of time. MTSTCIL staff worked with Sally to build her self-esteem and connected her with Augusta Canine, a program that provided her with an emotional support animal. After receiving Susie, Sally gained a new interest in life and her self-esteem improved greatly.

Skills Training

Mountain State Centers for Independent Living (MTSTCIL) was contacted by West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources WVDHHR concerning Kim, who, along with her child, had been forced out of her home due to unsanitary conditions. Kim has a cognitive disability, as well as a physical disability and lacked knowledge about how to keep her home clean. WVDHHR stated that if Kim would develop personal hygiene skills, housekeeping skills, and money managing skills, along with socialization skills and parenting skills, they would consider allowing her and her son to stay together and move back into their home. Thanks to Kim's willingness to gain this knowledge and to improve her living conditions, she is back home. She is continuing to improve on her skills and is becoming quite knowledgeable on certain advocacy issues that apply to her.

Accessible Housing

A 34-year-old female who has cerebellum degeneration had always wanted to live on her own. She had lived briefly in an apartment before, but due to personal care attendant difficulties, she had to move back home. Mountain State Centers for Independent Living (MTSTCIL) assisted this consumer by taking her to the Huntington Housing Authority to apply for housing. Within a month, she had an apartment that was totally accessible! MTSTCIL also assisted her in obtaining affordable furniture for her new home. Now, with MTSTCIL support and encouragement, she is living independently and continually increasing her confidence and self-esteem.


A 23-year-old man with a cognitive disability was employed for the first time through the Mountain State Centers for Independent Living (MTSTCIL) supported employment program. He expressed concern that he felt confined since graduating from high school, because he had nothing to do with his time. Since receiving a job at a local factory, he has obtained his drivers license and has located an apartment and moved out on his own. After his first day on the job, he told his coach "My dream of having a career has a come true."

Accessible Doctor's Office

An individual contacted Mountain State Centers for Independent Living (MTSTCIL) about a doctor's office in Beaver, West Virginia that was not accessible. After writing letters and making several telephone calls, MTSTCIL scheduled an appointment with the doctor's office to discuss making their business accessible. MTSTCIL completed an accessibility survey and gave their recommendations. The doctor's office assured MTSTCIL that they would take the recommendations and do what needed to be done to make their business accessible-it took them less than three months.

Attending College

A consumer through the Community Integration Project at Mountain State Centers for Independent Living (MTSTCIL) decided to return to college. He also became interested in participating in the MTSTCIL volunteer program. He became very active in the Consumer Advisor Council, Bragg Support Group, and Hy-Flyers Support Group. He also worked to put together a fundraiser for the consumers at MTSTCIL. He joined a computer class in the community and has started bowling with another consumer from MTSTCIL. They have developed a strong peer relationship through Hy-Flyers Support Group.

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Mountain State Centers for Independent Living