IL Conference News

2024 Independent Living Conference

Join us for the 2024 IL Conference! The conference will be held on September 17, 2024 at the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel & Trade Center in Marlborough, MA (181 Boston Post Rd W, Marlborough MA 01752).

RSVP to the 2024 Independent Living Conference


  • 8:30am Registration, exhibitors, and breakfast
  • 9:30am Conference welcome & Commissioner presentations
  • 10:15am Workshop session I
  • 11:30am Lunch & Keynote: Carmen Rosado, Stavros
  • 1:00pm Workshop session II
  • 2:30pm Closing session: Dominque Dunford, Executive Director at ENDependence Center Northern Virginia (ECNV)
Workshop descriptions

Participants will have the opportunity to attend one morning workshop and one afternoon workshop.

Workshop Session I
  • The Stigma Around Disability Disclosure
    • Presenter: Federation for Children with Special Needs
    • This presentation will address the topic of disability disclosure – a very personal decision that can vary depending on the environment and an individual’s need for support.  We will talk about the pros and cons of disability disclosure, how to approach disclosing a disability, and how to address challenges that may arise afterwards.
  • Peer Support for Mental Health Well-being
    • Presenters: Gabriel Fonseca, Director and Rachely Ramos, Operations Manager, Northeast Independent Living Program’s Recovery Learning Center
    • This presentation will dive into the importance of peer support and how it impacts meaningful connections that lead to mental well-being. An overview of peer support will be discussed, along with the resources available to promote such practices with the end goal of incorporating such benefits into the workforce.
  • Transportation Advocacy Roundtable– Description forthcoming
  • Nuts & Bolts of Housing Search
    • Presenters: Andy Forman, Independent Living Public Benefits Advocate, Boston Center for Independent Living (BCIL) and Gabriella Lukas, Consumer Records Specialist, BCIL
    • Limited access to adequate housing especially impacts persons with disabilities who are often low-income and in need of specific accommodations. BCIL’s monthly Housing Workshop hosted by Andy Forman and Gabriella Lukas is designed to educate consumers on how to conduct their own searches for affordable and accessible housing. Come to this session to learn about the structure of the BCIL Housing Workshop and review the nuts and bolts of housing search for ILC consumers including:
      • The types of affordable and accessible housing available in Massachusetts (including state and federal voucher programs)
      • Tips for communicating with housing authorities and landlords
      • How to request reasonable accommodations for disabilities
Workshop Session II
  • Storytelling for the Independent Living Movement
    • Presenter: Benji Kemper, Community Organizer, Center for Living  & Working
    • Experience the power of personal storytelling as a tool to connect with others and for advocacy in your community. Practice telling your personal story and learn about your colleagues as you share what motivates you to be part of the independent living movement during this interactive session.
  • Mindfulness for Everyday Living
    • Presenters: Lori-Ann Tessier, BA, Sociology, MA, Child Life & Susan Buchholz, BS, Human Services, Executive Director, HeartWell Institute
    • Mindfulness bridges the practices of meditation and compassion by fostering awareness and nurturing a deep sense of empathy towards oneself and others. Research underscores the capacity and transformative power of mindfulness to not only manage stress and enhance job satisfaction but also to cultivate a proactive, resilient and adaptive approach to the stressors of everyday life.
  • Disaster Preparedness, description forthcoming
    • Presenter: Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency
  • Resources for Transition Aged Youth: Panel Discussion
    • Presenters
      • Erin Basler, Youth Services Coordinator, MetroWest Center for Independent Living
      • Anne Marie Rivers and Brandy Eder, Department of Developmental Services
      • Steve Michelson, Northeast Independent Living Program
      • Mike Dolan and Ken Davol, School-Based TAS at Keefe Technical High School
      • ­­Yves Lamitie, Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission
    • Transition Age Youth (TAY) have A LOT going on. For disabled students facing a drastic shift in how they use support services, this is often described as a cliff. However, with preparation and practice, TAY gain tools to navigate the change and direct their path into adulthood. Join a panel of professionals to learn the differences between Youth and Adult services, specific transition resources, and discuss how CILs can facilitate a smooth journey from youth to adult services.

The State Plan draft is here — give your input!

This fall we listened to the input of people with disabilities (along with their families, friends, and service providers) from across Massachusetts to develop the new State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL).

The SPIL is a plan for how the state’s independent living programs and services will meet the independent living needs of people with disabilities in the state for the next three years. 

This winter, we drafted the SPIL, and this spring, we’re sharing our work and receiving comments. There are two opportunities to comment:

  1. Join the virtual public hearing on April 25, 2024 at 1:30 pm. Meeting information is available here.
  2. We are accepting written comments on the draft 2025-2027 State Plan here. Please submit your comments by May 13, 2024:


RSVP for ADA Day 2024!

Join us from 11 am- 3 pm on Friday August 2nd, 2024 at Dunn Pond State Park in Gardner, MA to celebrate 34 years of the ADA! Help us mark the anniversary of one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Join us in a celebration of accessible outdoor activities and fun, to be held rain or shine!

RSVP today at

Please find the event flyer here.

Please find more information about becoming a sponsor here.

IL Ed Day News

Independent Living Education Day 2024

When:            Monday, March 25, 2024

                           Registration: 10:00 AM

                           Speakers: 11:00 AM

                           Lunch: 12:00 PM

                           Legislative Visits: 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM

Where:  Great Hall, State House

Why:  Funding for Independent Living benefits everyone in the Commonwealth.

CART and ASL will be provided.

RSVP and request accommodations here

Download the flyer for IL Education Day

2024 Priorities:

· Support Independent Living Centers

· Accessible, affordable housing for people with disabilities

· Accessible, affordable transportation for people with disabilities

· Support the PCA program & workforce

· Align MA AAB regulations with the ADA  

· Access to Assistive Technology and Durable Medical      Equipment

· Access to healthcare

For more information, please email This event is supported by the Public Information and Education Committee of the A Statewide Independent Living Council (MASILC) and the Commonwealth’s 10 Independent Living Centers


We want to hear from you!

MASILC is conducting a needs assessment survey to gather information about programs and services that provide support to individuals with disabilities in Massachusetts.

The survey responses will help to guide our planning process for the next State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL).  The SILC, in collaboration with the Centers for Independent Living (CILs) and the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, develops the State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL) every three years.

The SPIL is a three-year plan that sets goals and guides plans for the delivery of independent living services and systems advocacy in Massachusetts.

Fill out the survey here!

IL Conference News

Independent Living Conference 2023

The 2023 Independent Living Conference was held September 26, 2023 in Marlborough, MA.

Photo: MASILC Members

MASILC Membership

The one day conference brought together staff and board members from the ten Independent Living Centers in Massachusetts; the members of the Statewide Independent Living Council; staff from MRC, MCB, and MCDHH; and other members of the disability community from across the state.

Please see below for the conference agenda and description of the confirmed speakers and workshops. This page will be updated as details are confirmed.

Registration for the conference is now closed. Please reach out to SILC Coordinator Aliza Levine at with any questions.

The welcoming committee - 5 woman behind the MA Statewide Independent Living Council Table.

Download the 2023 IL Conference flyer.

Conference Agenda

  • 8:30 Registration, breakfast, and exhibitors
  • 9:30 Conference Welcome & Commissioner presentations
    • Commissioner John Oliveira, Massachusetts Commission for the Blind
    • Commissioner Opeoluwa Sotonwa, Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
    • Commissioner Toni Wolf, Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission
  • 10:15 – 11:30 Workshops – Choose 1
    • CORI, Re-entry, and Housing
    • Stronger Together: The NCIL Advocacy Platform     
    • Student Vision in the New Massachusetts IEP Form
  • 11:30 Lunch starts
  • 12:00 Keynote: Ed Augustus, Housing Secretary, Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing & Livable Communities
  • 1:00 – 2:15 Workshops – Choose 1
    • A Practical Overview of Involuntary Admission, Civil Commitment, and Involuntary Treatment in Massachusetts
    • Accessible Public Transportation Panel: Advocacy & Resources
    • Immigration and Benefits
  • 2:30 – 3:30 Closing speakers – Barriers and Facilitators in Access to HCBS for People of Color, Brandeis Community Living Equity Center (CLEC), Kimberly The, CLEC Co- Investigator and Jennifer Lee-Rambharose, CLEC Project Coordinator


Steve Higgins, Executive Director at Independence Associates (left) and Nancy Garr-Colzie, Treasurer or MA Statewide Independent Living Council.


Ed Augustus, Housing Secretary, Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing & Livable Communities


CORI, Re-entry, and Housing

Alyssa Golden, Community Legal Aid 

Community Legal Aid (CLA) is the civil legal services organization serving Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties. They provide legal assistance with a broad range of civil legal issues including family law matters for survivors of domestic violence, housing (eviction defense and housing discrimination), public benefits, elder law, employment law, education law, veterans legal issues, immigration (in the subsidiary, Central West Justice Center), and criminal records and reentry legal issues. 

Alyssa Golden is the Senior Supervising Attorney for the CORI/Reentry unit. This unit provides legal assistance to individuals seeking to seal and/or expunge criminal records and people facing public and subsidized housing denials and terminations due to criminal records issues. Further, the unit provides assistance with employment denials and terminations, as well as some other types of civil consequences of the criminal court system.  She is going to talk about these legal issues, options for addressing them, and the connections between criminal records issues and both race and disability discrimination. She will also inform you about how to access legal assistance through Community Legal Aid. 

Stronger Together

Jessica Podesva J.D., Director of Advocacy and Public Policy, and Mary-Kate Wells, Programs Director, National Council for Independent Living 

This workshop will provide an overview of the NCIL advocacy platform with a focus on the following: 

  • 5 For 5 Campaign – Increase Federal Funding for IL to Five Hundred Million to support the Five Core Services 
  • Upcoming Re-Authorization of the Rehab Act 
  • Importance of coming together as an IL network to effect change on a national level 

Student Vision in the New Massachusetts IEP Form

Leslie Leslie and Rebecca Davis, Federation for Children with Special Needs

Massachusetts has updated their Individualized Education Program (IEP) form for the first time in over 20 years.  Transition planning and student vision are now an integral part of the form.  This workshop will review sections of the new form on student concerns, student vision and post secondary goals, offer questions to help a student define their strengths and interests, and examine ways to include employment goals on an IEP.  Although the new IEP will not be implemented until school year 2024-2025, let’s get our students ready to fully participate in their future!

A Practical Overview of Involuntary Admission, Civil Commitment, and Involuntary Treatment in Massachusetts

Justin Woolf of the Disability Law Center and Shain Neumeier from Committee for Public Counsel

This presentation will take attendees chronologically through each step of the involuntary mental health treatment process in Massachusetts, covering the aspects most relevant to consumers. The goal of this training will be for participants to help their clients understand their rights better and to know when to contact the Committee for Public Counsel Services to seek legal assistance. It will include:

  • When can an individual be “sectioned,” what happens after they are brought to the emergency department at a hospital, and when to request an emergency hearing;
  • An individual’s rights upon transfer to a psychiatric facility, the conditional voluntary application process, and what happens when the facility decides to file a civil commitment petition;
  • When can an individual be involuntarily treated with medication and/or electroconvulsive therapy;
  • What happens after an individual is committed to a psychiatric facility;

The session will involve “issue spotting” exercises to help participants gain a better grasp of the subject matter.

Accessible Public Transportation Panel: Advocacy & Resources

  • Nancy Garr-Colzie, SILC Treasurer, Board President of the Center for Living and Working, Standing member of the Transportation Planning Advisory Group of the WRTA, and Past Member of the WRTA Advisory Board
  • Rachel Fichtenbaum, Manager of Grant Programs & Mobility Management, MassDOT Rail & Transit Division
  • Mike Kennedy, CLW ADA/Access Advocacy Coordinator
  • Katarina (Kat) Torres Radisic, BCIL Community Organizer / RTAG Facilitator

CIL Staff, Board members and representatives from MASSDOT will share ongoing efforts to improve available accessible transportation in Massachusetts. 

  • Updates from the Massachusetts Community Transit Grant Program
  • Worcester advocates’ efforts to increase accessible and affordable transportation options 
  • The Joanne Daniels-Finegold lawsuit and the creation of the Riders’ Transportation Access Group. 20 plus years of advocacy to improve access on the MBTA 

Immigration and Benefits

Stephanie Souza and Kelly Hewitt of the Community Action Committee of Cape Cod & Islands

The Community Action Committee of Cape Cod & Islands provides free legal counsel and assistance for immigrants and their families. In this workshop, we will review some of the immigration petitions and applications that can lead to legal status and briefly discuss the eligibility requirements and application process. We will identify other organizations that offer legal services to the immigrant community.

We will then discuss access to public benefits for immigrants including:

  • Overview of Health Connector & MassHealth Insurance Plans and Eligibility
    • Application process and documentation needed.
    • How to create a Member Account and Log-in.
  • Health Connector Navigator Services.
    • How to find a Navigator Organization near you.
  • Overview of SNAP benefits and Eligibility.
    • Application process, DTA Interview, and documentation needed.

Closing Barriers and Facilitators in Access to HCBS for People of Color

Kimberly The, CLEC Co- Investigator and Jennifer Lee-Rambharose, CLEC Project Coordinator. Introduced by Anna Herman of MRC.

The Community Living Equity Center is excited to connect with members of the MASILC, IL staff, and friends of the independent living network Kimberly The, CLEC Co- Investigator and Jennifer Lee-Rambharose, CLEC Project Coordinator during the closing session. This session will discuss disability, racial equity, and Home and Community-based Services research. The purpose of this session will be to: 1) provide an overview of the Community Living Equity Center, 2) describe participatory research and the process of including disabled people of color throughout all research phases, 3) discuss preliminary findings on experiences of disabled people of color transitioning out of nursing homes and 4) provide initial recommendations for how to improve nursing home transitions for disabled people of color.

Please reach out to SILC Coordinator Aliza Levine at with any questions.

Random Photos

Exhibitors (alphabetic)

Ahoi! – a brand new app that tells you whether or not many places are accessible, and also allows you to add your own reviews of locations.

Client Assistance Program, MASS Office on Disability

Easterseals MA

Executive Office of Elder Affairs

Federation for Children with Special Needs

Housing Navigator MA

MA Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Mass Relay


Mass Rehabilitation Commission

My Ombudsman

NAMI Massachusetts

New England ADA Center

NextGen Careers

PLAN of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Inc

REquipment – Durable Medical Equipment and Assistive Technology Reuse Program

Special Needs Companies

Strategic Tax Planning

Work Without Limits

Random photos of exhibitors!