Welcome to the Spring 2015 edition of In Touch, the quarterly newsletter of Independence Now. Please use the in-page links below to naviagte to the various articles. For your convenience there is a "back to top" link after each article.

In Touch

Independence Now Adds 2 New Programs

Independence Now is happy to announce that we've been awarded a Craig Neilsen Foundation Grant from the National Council on Independent Living to enhance the quality of life for people with spinal cord injury (SCI). With this grant funding, IN will host Path to Empowerment for consumers with SCI and consumers with all types of disabilities.

The Path to Empowerment will be an expansion of two of our current programs, No Excuses, InNow and Creative Cooking Class. Combining these two programs and focusing on individuals with SCI, the new program will provide group independent living skills training, additional outreach to individuals wanting to leave nursing homes and rehab centers, assistance to consumers in identifying and acquiring necessary kitchen technology, and group discussions facilitated by Independent Living Specialist (peers with disabilities). This 12 month program will take place at Independence Now main office in Silver Springs as well as in other various locations in the community.

Other enhancements will include the participation of an Occupational Therapist, Fire Department personnel and a Dietician. The Occupational Therapist will assist participants to find and acquire assistive technology to increase their independent cooking skills. The Fire Department personnel will cover safety in the kitchen. The Dietician will support the participants in planning healthy meals on a budget.

Other networking partners are Maryland's Food Supplement Nutrition Education (FSNE), Burtonsville Giant, Adventist Rehabilitation Hospital of Maryland and local Farmers Markets.

The first session will be April 16th. Public transportation travel reimbursement will be provided. Join us on the third Thursday of each monthly from 11:00am to 1:30pm, so we CAN advance together!

For accommodations and to register contact Shannon Minnick at 240-638-0070 or sminnick@innow.org one week prior to each event. Locations to be announced.

Independence Now Inc. is now serving as a Supports Planning Agency (SPA) in Montgomery County!

We are excited for the opportunity to support individuals in their Medicaid services from a consumer driven and person centered perspective. As a SPA, we can assist and support individuals to remain in community settings, transition from nursing facilities, connect with valuable resources and coordinate care. In order to receive supports planning services you must be Medicaid eligible.

For more information please contact Meredith Raymond, Director of Supports Planning at 240-638-0072 or mraymond@innow.org.

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ADA - 25 Years, Independence Now - 20 Years

Many years ago people with disabilities were locked away, kept isolated in the home and institutions. Families had a difficult time accessing resources, a proper education and other accessibility barriers.

Things began to change when people with disabilities joined forces and organized to sit in federal buildings, obstructed the movement of inaccessible buses, and marched through the streets to protest injustice and parents of children with disabilities began to fight against the exclusion and segregation of their children.

Today we can celebrate change, as we mark the 25th anniversary of the American Disability Act (ADA) and Independence Now's 20 years of service to people with disabilities!

The ADA is the nation's first comprehensive civil rights law addressing the needs of people with disabilities, prohibiting discrimination in employment, public services, public accommodations, and telecommunications.? It was enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1990 and signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H. W. Bush.

Independence Now, Inc. (IN) a Center for Independent Living (CIL) is one of over 400 CILs in the United States. Centers for Independent Living are non-residential organizations whose Boards of Directors and staff are comprised predominantly of people with disabilities, providing peer counseling, independent living skills training, information and referral and advocacy and transitional services for people with disabilities.?

IN was founded by Cathy Raggio in 1994 as a joint initiative between the Montgomery County Commission on People with Disabilities and the Prince George's County Commission for Individuals with Disabilities.

The Commissions wanted to create an organization operated by and for people with disabilities that would: 1) provide services to people with all types of disabilities in the two counties and 2) unite their advocacy voices.

Not long after, Independence Now was awarded a grant by the U.S. Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration to become a Center for Independent Living.

With additional assistance from the former Montgomery County Disability Resources Division, Independence Now opened its first office in Silver Spring on April 24, 1995. Independence Now expanded and now serves residents of Montgomery and Prince George's Counties.

Save the date of July 18, 2015 as we come together to honor change and celebrate "20 Years of Empowering Freedom and Independence for People with Disabilities".?Independence Now will be hosting a Craft Beer and Wine Tasting Fundraising Event. For tickets and more information contact Sarah Sorensen at 240-898-2183.

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The Able Act of 2014

On Friday, December 19, 2014, the President of the United States signed into law the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014. The ABLE Act would ease the financial burden for individuals with disabilities and their families by creating tax-free accounts that can be used to save for disability-related expenses. These accounts can be created by individuals to support themselves or by families for the benefit of a family member with a disability.

The ABLE Act applies to individuals with significant disabilities whose disability started prior to 26 years of age. SSI and SSDI beneficiaries who meet the age of onset criteria are automatically eligible for the program. Funds set aside in ABLE accounts can be used to cover "qualified disability expenses" which includes any expense related to the designated beneficiary as a result of living a life with disabilities. These include education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology, personal support services, health care expenses, financial management and administrative services and other expenses which will be further described in regulations to be developed in 2015 by the Treasury Department.

The ABLE Act offers the opportunity for tax-exempt, state-based private savings accounts to fund disability-related expenses to supplement benefits currently provided by Social Security, Medicaid, employers, and private insurance. The individual and family members can contribute a maximum of $14,000 to the account each year. If the account totals less than $100,000, the funds are exempt for the SSI asset limit of $2,000. ABLE accounts will have no impact on Medicaid eligibility.

ABLE accounts should become available to people with disabilities before the end of 2015.

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WISE Guys - Work Incentives Seminar Events by webinar

Social Security likes to promote its programs in some creative ways. They used to make the WIPA programs conduct Work Incentives Seminar Events (WISE) across the state. That wasn't very cost effective, so they now have WISEs by webinar. Once a month, on the 4th Wednesday of the month, you can log into a webinar and learn the latest that SSA has to promote employment for people receiving disability benefits.

Each month the webinar covers a different topic. Topics can range from Ticket to Work, to choosing an Employment Network, to using work incentives, to choosing a work goal, etc. To see what topic will be discussed each month, you can go online to http://www.chooseworkttw.net/webinars-tutorials/index.html and see what is coming up. If the topic interests you, you can register for it at the same webpage.

The information on these webinars can be very useful, but it is all very general. To learn more about how these programs and work incentives can work for you, call us, the Maryland Work Incentives Network. You can reach us a 1-888-838-1776 or online at www.md-win.org. You can also e-mail the director, David Mitchell: dmitchell@innow.org.

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Transportation Action Group News

Dear Members:
I'd just like to take a moment to share the good news with you. WMATA has decided not to go forward with the fare hike for MetroBus, MetroRail, and MetroAcess. They are looking at options to enhance the service that they have, so that all three entities may continue the late night and rush-hour service that customers have become accustomed to.

If you have something to say and you want your voice to be heard, we encourage you to come to the monthly Accessibility Advisory Committee meetings that take place on the third Monday of every month Metro Headquarters is located at 600 5th St. NW, in the Lobby level meeting room. We will no longer be having our monthly meetings, but we will be meeting with consumers individually to address their transportation concerns. If you would like to make an appointment you may contact me at 240-898-2184 or email me at rharrod@innow.org.

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Let's Get Together (Nursing Home Transitioning)

April 8th, 2 ? 4 pm
Not sure if living on your own is possible or a little confused about the process. Come and mingle with those who have moved, planning to move, or in the process of moving back into the community from a Nursing Facility.

June 10 or 11th, 2 ? 4 pm
Let's Get Together to address your housing needs and to become informed about how Independence Now can assist you with preparing for an independent life in the community. This session of Fun in the Sun will be focused on such questions as how do I prepare for housing and what should I be doing now? If you're ready to obtain your independence, join us!

Contact Shannon Minnick at 240-630-0070 to register and obtain location details. Please feel free to invite anyone who is in a nursing facility and may be interested in transitioning to the community.

Round-trip travel reimbursement for IN consumers will be provided for Metro Access, Metro bus or rail.

Location to be announced.

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My Voice (Youth) Event

sunMay 2nd,1 ? 3pm
YOUTH with Disabilities ? Meet new friends! Share in a discussion about family, school, relationships, the future and living on your own. Light snacks and travel reimbursement for public transportation will be provided.

Parents join us for the last 15 minutes to see what happening at Independence Now!

To RSVP and for accommodations call to Katie Carroll at kcarroll@innow.org or240-638-0065 one week prior to event.

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Path to Empowerment

(Creative Cooking, No Excuses and Spinal Cord Injury)

3rd Thursday Monthly, 11 am - 1:30 pm ? (See first article)

April 16th, May 21st and June 18th
Public transportation travel reimbursement for participants will be provided.
sminnick@innow.orgtwo weeks prior to each event. Locations to be announced.

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Youth Leadership Forum

June 25-27 at Towson University in Baltimore
Please contact Katie Carroll at Kcarroll@Innow.org or 240-638-0065 for information.

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National Volunteer Week, April 12-18

Independence Now wants to thank all our volunteers for their support and dedication. You are the link in the chain that unite our professionalism, quality of services and strengthens us. We appreciate all you do!!

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World of Possibilities 2015 Expos

April 11, 11:00am - 4pm
Rockville, Maryland
Hilton Washington DC/ Rockville

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Budget Seminar

May 14th, 1 - 3 pm
Taking Control of Your Finances presented by Dan Florea of Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Maryland and Delaware, Inc. This workshop will focus on the beginning of managing your finances. Learning how to create a budget and knowing when to spend and when to save.

Contact Rochelle Harrod at 240-898-2184 or rharrod@innow.org.

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Employment Seminar

June 29th, 1 - 3 pm
Facilitator and presenter will share what options you may take if you've have not reached your career/employment goal. Consumers will learn about resources, follow-through and follow-up procedures that may help them be successful. One way travel reimbursement for IN consumers will be provided for Metro Access, Metro bus or rail.

Contact Kelvin Hawkins at 240-638-0068 or khawkins@innow.org to register or ask questions.

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Fair Housing Seminar: "Fair Housing and You"

April 30, 1 ? 3 pm
In the endeavor to provide you with valuable information and in recognition of Fair Housing Month, Kat Taylor, Disability Rights Program Manager from the Equal Rights Center will present "Fair Housing and You". Everyone who is seeking housing is encouraged to attend this informative event.

Contact: Rochelle Harrod, IL Specialist at 240-898-2184 or rharrod@innow.org to register or if you have questions.

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Housing Action Team (HAT)

April 8, 10:30am ? 12pm
Independence Now's Housing Advocacy Committee is focused on addressing the housing issues faced by persons with disabilities in Montgomery and Prince George's counties through the use of advocacy and education. As part of this effort, a Housing Action Team (HAT) was created. This team of consumers serves as advocates to share their experiences, housing needs and voice their perspective on relevant housing issues that arise to significant stakeholders. The HAT members are "called into action" when needed as issues arise.

If you would like to join or learn more about this effort contact, Deborah Jackson, Director of IL Services at 240-638-0066.

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Housing Seminars

April 23, 1 - 3 pm
Back to the Basics: Applying for Housing and how to be a good Tenant.
Do you have the items needed to complete the housing application process? Do you know why being a good tenant is essential to obtaining and keeping your home? Attend this event to increase your knowledge.

May 28, 1 ? 3 pm
First session
? "Subsidized Housing Opportunities", presented by Katherine Carter, Project Manager Community Planning, Prince George's Department of Housing and Community Development.
Second Session ? "Safety in the Home and Your Community", Joy Patil, Community Service Officer, 3rd District, Montgomery County Police Department.

June 25, 1 ? 3 pm
Enhancing your Housing Search II: How to retrieve up-to-date housing listings from HUD, Maryland housing search and calling to inquire about current housing waitlists.

Contact Rochelle Harrod, IL Specialist at 240-898-2184 or rharrod@innow.org to register or if you have questions.

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