Innovative Partnership Developed | CROTHALL HEALTHCARE & CIL

CIL staff Donna Waldron and Linda Butler (left) join Tonja Smith, Raul Lopez, Serguei Rakov, and Isaac Johnson

The Center for Independent Living of North Central Florida honored Crothall Healthcare, a member of Compass Group PLC, for being a community leader in developing employment solutions for individuals with disability.

Crothall, which manages support services at Shands at the University of Florida, has been a leader in Gainesville opening up positions for on-the-job training and employment opportunities.

Serguei Rakov was one of the people that Crothall reached out to help. After trying for several years, Rakov was discouraged that he could not find a job to support his family of four. He got his chance through an on-the-job training opportunity initiated by Isaac Johnson, Resident Regional Manager and Raul Lopez, Assistant Director of environmental services with Crothall. The State of Florida reimbursed Rakov’s wages during training, and Rakov used his talents to enhance the services provided by Crothall at Shands UF.

“You could not have picked a better person,” said Johnson. “His personality, demeanor and all around posture is refreshing. You want the job to fit the person and the person to fit the job. This is a perfect fit.”

The Center for Independent Living (CIL) is a consumer driven, private nonprofit organization headquartered in Gainesville with a history involving 30 years of community leadership by people with disabilities, for the benefit of people with disabilities. Its mission is to empower people with disabilities to exert their individual rights to live as independently as possible, make personal life choices and achieve full community inclusion

Crothall Healthcare was founded in 1991 to meet the unique needs of the health care industry. Today, they serve over 1,200 health care clients in customer-focused support services such as environmental services, patient transportation, laundry and linen services, facilities management, and clinical equipment services.

In making the award, CIL officials said individuals with disability have faced greater barriers to employment during the current economic downturn, ruling out many capable individuals who would otherwise be very productive and dedicated. Crothall is an exception to the rule, with Johnson and Lopez opening their doors to individuals with disability by identifying strengths and matching individuals with jobs; individuals who often would otherwise be facing the need to rely on government assistance programs.

Employers wishing to take advantage of on-the-job training benefits through the State of Florida can contact:  Linda Butler, Program Director at the Center for Independent Living of North Central Florida (352) 378-7474.

CIL Assistive Tech Program featured in

By Susan Latham Carr
Staff writer
Published: Sunday, January 15, 2012 at 11:10 p.m.

Fred Strelau uses an amplified telephone that he received free of charge from Florida Telecommunications Relay Inc., a statewide nonprofit agency that distributes special telecommunications equipment to Florida residents who have hearing and speech disabilities.

“We can hear the phone without any problems, even with my hearing aids off,” Strelau said. “It’s difficult to talk to people on the phone when you are hearing-impaired. You are continually straining to listen to what they have to say and trying to avoid asking, ‘What?’ or ‘What did you say?’ ”

Strelau and his wife, Sylvia, got the phone about 10 years ago when they moved to Oak Run in Ocala from Maine. Both have some hearing loss.

“It’s a godsend,” Strelau said. “It’s something — if older people would understand how to get it and how to use it — it would be a godsend to them as well.”  The Strelaus’ phone looks like any ordinary phone, except it has additional buttons at the bottom of the unit that individually adjust the tone and the volume. The ringer on the phone is adjustable as well. “I am sure there are many people who don’t know of this particular phone, and it happens to be free,” Strelau said.

FTRI has a number of models of phones and equipment to help those who may be deaf or have hearing and speech difficulties communicate. “FTRI is funded by an 11-cent tax on everyone’s land-line phone bill in the state of Florida, and businesses pay for up to their first 20 lines,” said Myrtle Hoffman, a program director for the Center for Independent Living in 16 counties, including Marion.

The Center for Independent Living distributes the FTRI phones in Ocala and Marion County. The Center is located at 3445 NE 24th St. in Ocala.

“It’s our responsibility to help promote and educate the community about the services,” Hoffman said.  Anyone in Florida who is a permanent resident, age 3 and older, is deaf, hard of hearing, blind or has a speech disability can qualify for this free equipment.  A variety of models and equipment is available to address particular needs.

For instance, there is a device, called an in-line amplifier, that attaches to the phone. It runs off a 9-volt battery and increases a phone’s volume and tone. And there are land-line phones that also adjust the volume and tone. Three also are loud ringers and visual ringers. Different models contain different decibel ranges. There also are cordless phones. The in-line phones are portable, which comes in handy if there is a power outage.

“You can take it to a hotel, or your family’s house,” Hoffman said.

You can come into the center to fill out an application. No financial or insurance information is required. “We don’t ask about your income,” Hoffman said.  And you can make an appointment to review the equipment to find what is most suitable. “Then we send the equipment home with you that day,” Hoffman said. There is even teletalk equipment for those who have had a laryngectomee and need a speech aid. And for those who cannot hold a handset, there are voice-activated phones.

If you do not live near a distribution center or prefer not to come into the center, you can mail an application to FTRI in Tallahassee. They will mail the phone to you via United Parcel Service or Federal Express, and they will pay the shipping costs. The disadvantage, however, is that the equipment is unassembled and you do not receive training.

If your hearing changes or the equipment malfunctions, you simply contact the distribution center to make  an appointment. They will examine the equipment and, if necessary, provide a new piece of equipment. “For those who are home-bound, we will go out to their home,” Hoffman said, provided there is a doctor’s note to that effect.  According to the 2010 U.S. Census, there were 331,298 people in Marion County. Hoffman said 16 percent of the population, or 53,008 people, have hearing loss.

“We served from July 1, 1991, to Dec. 1, 2011, 14,945 of those individuals,” Hoffman said. Last year, FTRI served more than 2,200 individuals in 16 counties. “It helps keep people connected. It gives them their independence back,” Hoffman said. “We take pride in taking care of our consumers.”

Contact Susan Latham Carr at 867-4156 or

Agency provides phones for the hearing-impaired |

Judge deals blow to advocates for old, disabled

WEST PALM BEACH (AP) — A federal judge struck a blow Tuesday to advocates for the elderly and disabled, removing class-action status from a lawsuit that had argued Florida illegally forces people into nursing homes when they are capable of living elsewhere.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled in favor of one of the institutionalized Medicaid patients who sued the state of Florida in 2008, saying they should be allowed to live in other settings. But by removing the suit’s class status, the ruling applies to just one person, Clayton Griffin, instead of the 8,500 plaintiffs estimated by attorneys to be in a similar situation.

“It is a limited victory,” said David Bruns, a spokesman for AARP, the nonprofit group for those 50 and over which took up the case up on the behalf of the plaintiffs. Southern Legal Counsel also joined AARP in that action.

Filed just shy of four years ago and argued in court early last year, the lawsuit has dragged on so long that of the original seven plaintiffs, five have died. A sixth, according to the judge’s written decision, said he no longer wished to leave a nursing home after relatives moved away.

Because of that, Hinkle vacated the class action he previously had granted, also citing changes to the state Medicaid program have ensured peop

via Judge deals blow to advocates for old, disabled |

Year-End Message | Executive Director

Dear Friends of the Center for Independent Living of North Central Florida (CILNCF),
The CILNCF recently held its annual staff luncheon, during which we reviewed the previous year’s accomplishments. Last year’s  accomplishments included 15 wheelchair ramps built, 2,200 Sign Language Interpreting assignments completed, nearly 2,000 ADA Paratransit Applications processed, a 100% graduation rate among high school seniors enrolled in our youth program, over 100 vocational evaluations being conducted, the Employment Program helped more than 30 consumers find work, over 2,000 consumers received assistive technology equipment and 12 consumers were transitioned out of nursing homes and back into the community!

Our record of producing such outcomes for the past 30 years, has deservedly made the Center for Independent Living of North Central Florida the area’s leading disAbility Resource Center.  So as we enter this holiday season and prepare to begin our 31st year of assisting people with disabilities, our Board, Staff and Consumers are together launching our first ever “End of the Year Campaign Drive”.  We do so in the hope of raising awareness as well as much needed support for our program that builds wheelchair ramps free-of-charge for people who need one, but who cannot afford to have one built.

In 2011, the CILNCF served over 4,000 individuals with disabilities.  As described above, we were able to build 15 wheelchair ramps, however that was from a waiting list of more than 100.  As we go into the new program year, we are reaching out to the community and asking for your support to help us build even more ramps in 2012, such as the ramp we built for Diana. 

Diana contacted one of our Consumer Specialists this past May, explaining that she was in dire need of a wheelchair ramp.  For over two years, family members and friends had to literally help pull her up and down steps, just to get in and out of her own home.  Imagine not being able to come and go from your own home as you please, being so dependent on others.  Through our partnership with Christians Concerned for the Community, the CILNCF helped Diana receive a newly build ramp, leading to a new outlook on a more independent life. 
This is one small example of how the CILNCF helps individuals with disabilities with limited financial means and opportunities.  Ramps are built at no cost to the recipients and your gift will have significant impact in the lives of our consumers.  100% of every dollar donated to this endeavor will be used towards the expenses related to building a ramp, such as purchasing supplies to working with volunteers or contractors.
One small gift from you will make a big difference in the lives of people with disabilities, especially during the holidays.  If you would like to make a tax deductable donation to our wheelchair ramp building program, please make your donation payable to:
The Center for Independent Living of North Central Florida and mail us at:
Center for Independent Living of North Central Florida
222 SW 36th Terrace
Gainesville, FL 32607
Thank you for your time and support! We will report back to you on the success of our campaign and please don’t hesitate to call or email with any questions.

William D. Kennedy Executive Director


CIL & University of Florida Campaign for Charities

The Center for Independent Living’s 2011 UFCC # is 3025

Each fall, UF sponsors the UF Campaign for Charities (UFCC) to raise money for nonprofit, health and human service oriented organizations in Gainesville and surrounding areas. The campaign allows employees to give to one or more campaign charities through payroll deduction, cash, check, or bank card.

100% of all funds donated to the Center for Independent Living through the campaign are used to:

  1. Build wheelchair ramps at NO COST for people who cannot afford to have one built themselves.
  2. Provide assistance to people with disabilities wanting out of nursing homes, by providing financial assistance for such things as rental application fees, rental deposits, utility deposits, etc.

Imagine needing to rely on a wheelchair for your daily mobility.  Now imagine that your home is not accessible and because you live on a fixed income, you are without the financial means to afford the cost of having a wheelchair ramp built (Average cost is approximately $1,500).  How are you going to get in and out of your own home to access the community in which you live?  How will you go to school, work, shopping, etc.?

For far too many people, living right here in Gainesville and Alachua County, this is their reality.  It should be unacceptable for even one (1) person to be living in such a circumstance.  However, right now the Center for Independent Living has nearly 100 people on our waiting list for a wheelchair ramp.  

When a person is without the ability to enter and exit their own home as easily as anyone else, many side effects arise… none of which are good.  One of the more concerning effects of such inaccessibility at home is isolation.

Pictured is an example of the real, positive & significant impact your contribution can have on the life of someone. 

When the Center for Independent Living applies your contribution toward the cost of building a wheelchair ramp all (100%) of your contribution goes toward the cost materials needed to build the wheelchair ramp.  We then join with partnering organizations to mobilize volunteers who generously give of their time and expertise to provide the labor to build the ramp.

Join us, and together we can make a REAL DIFFERENCE in the life of a REAL PERSON. 


via University of Florida Campaign for Charities.

Affordable Care Act (ACA) | People with disAbilities

What the Affordable Care Act Means for

Americans with Disabilities

Posted May 21, 2010 to

By Henry Claypool, Director of Office on Disability

As the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and 11th Anniversary of the Olmstead v. LC decision approach, it is exciting to reflect on how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) advances the principles of equality, barrier removal, and community integration embodied in these landmark events.

Historically, people with disabilities have been severely disadvantaged in accessing private health insurance, subject to discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, benefit limits and exclusions, and at risk of losing coverage on short notice. Medicaid’s institutional bias — allowing coverage of home and community based long term care services and supports while requiring coverage of nursing home services — perhaps kept too many people with disabilities in nursing homes, despite clear consumer preference for and the cost-effectiveness of community living. Exam equipment isn’t designed to meet persons with disabilities’ needs and knowledge on existent health disparities has not been used to address these concerns.

The Affordable Care Act makes considerable strides in addressing these concerns and advancing equality for persons with disabilities. This year, the new law will end pre-existing condition discrimination for children with disabilities, dropping people from insurance plans when they become sick and lifetime benefits limits. By 2014, insurance companies will be barred from discrimination on the basis of medical history or genetic information, and precluded from setting unreasonable annual limits. Plans will be required to provide information in a user-friendly manner that clearly explains what is and isn’t covered.

 The  Affordable Care Act advances community living by extending the Money Follows the Person program, improving the Medicaid home-and-community-based services (HCBS) option, and creating new options and incentives making it easier for states to provide HCBS – including Community First Choice. Yesterday, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) released a letter to State Medicaid Directors stressing our commitment to Olmstead implementation and community integration. Outside Medicaid, the new law provides for the creation of a new, voluntary, self-insured insurance program (CLASS Act) that helps individuals pay for long-term supports and services if they develop a disability.

 The Affordable Care Act enhances health care delivery by establishing standards for medical diagnostic equipment so people with disabilities can access vital preventative care, instituting data collection, enhancing providers’ cultural competency and improving care coordination between Medicare and Medicaid for people with chronic conditions.

This is just the leading edge of change, which will allow a health care system better attuned to the needs of people with disabilities, while honoring the principles of equality, inclusion and community living!



State Representative Perry Tours CIL

From left to right; Brian Cole, Esq. (Chairmen, The Able Trust), Representative Keith Perry & William Kennedy, CILNCF Director

Suzanne Homant, President and CEO of The Able Trust helped arrange a tour of our CIL by area State Representative Keith Perry. 

While at our CIL, The Able Trust presented Representative Perry with their prestigious “Legislator of The Year Award” for his work during the last legislative session. 

Rep. Perry toured the CIL with our Executive Director William Kennedy and Youth Services Director, Amy Tharpe. 

Mr. Kennedy is a member of The Florida Association of Center’s for Independent Living (FACIL) and had the opportunity to speak with Rep. Perry about the important services provided by our Center as well as other CIL’s around the State, that assist people with disabilities to remain in the community and out of institutions.

Ocala Office Benefits From Day of Caring

Described as “one of the most exciting ways to make a difference in Marion County”, United Way of Marion County’s Annual Day of Caring is a way for community members to take part in a one-day event designed to partner resources and volunteers with local non-profits & social service agencies.  The activities of the day include mobilizing citizen volunteers to work with selected organizations that could use some fix-it-up, clean-it-up help and more.

This year our office in Ocala, Florida was selected and volunteers gave the office a “facelift” by restriping the parking lot, cleaning out the flower beds, putting in new mulch and more!