Center for Independent Living Jacksonville with Tyler Morris

Tyler Morris is the Executive Director for The Center For Independent Living Jacksonville, covering a 5 county catchman area. His phenomenal staff at CIL Jacksonville provide a wide variety of services to the communities they serve. On this episode, we get to hear insights from Tyler ranging from equality, diversity, intersectionality to disaster preparedness related to people with disabilities. We also spend time talking about the youth and their leadership role in the future of disability. In this new age, Tyler discussed different and creative ways to market Centers For Independent Living so that we can ensure we do the work to get the word out there about how CILs can help people achieve their independent goals.

To learn more and to connect with CIL Jacksonville, visit:

SPEAKERS: Tyler Morris, Tony Delisle

Tony Delisle  00:00

Hello, everyone, and welcome to another edition of the independent life Podcast. I am here to bring you Tyler Morris. He is the executive director for the Center for Independent Living Jacksonville. They cover a five county catchment area, and they have a wide variety of incredible services delivered by phenomenal staff. I’m very excited for you to listen to exactly what they do and how you can get connected to those services. As I am with all the great insights Tyler has an to the deaf community and its culture to equality, diversity, and intersectionality to disaster preparedness related to people with disabilities, youth and their role in the future of disability in terms of the leadership that is needed to carry the torch. And how do we market Centers for Independent Living to really get the word out there to folks about how we can help people achieve their independent living goals. I learned so much from Tyler he is a wealth of information, and more importantly, inspiration. So I hope you all really enjoy this episode. And I found perhaps some of the most valuable parts of this interview is when Tyler talks about some of the attributes that are necessary to be successful as an individual, but also as a leader of an organization. And he really has some great insights to share in terms of facing our fears, and overcoming them. It was said by Eleanor Roosevelt, that we should do something every day that scares us, that will allow us to get outside of our comfort zone and to grow and to be a better person. And James Canfield says on the other side of our fear is everything that we want. So we all face fears, but yet at the same time, we all have the capacity to overcome them, we’re able to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to be humble, we can find the courage necessary to overcome them and get on the other side of that. And we should be doing that every day, challenging ourselves rubbing up against that fear barrier. And going through it. Tyler is a great example of how we can do it. Enjoy the podcast. Welcome to another episode of The Independent Living podcast. I’m thrilled today to have on Tyler Morris. He’s the Executive Director for CIL Jacksonville. He’s just a wonderful person, he came on to working for centers at the same time I did. And so we kind of really got to grow and learn from one another. He’s definitely the youngest kid on the block when it comes to the board of directors that goes in there, he really brings in that intergenerational diversity to the board. You know, I really got tickled as you probably proclaimed your millennialism in board meetings and marketing insights that we just didn’t have and blind spots that you just really brought to all of us and, you know, I learn from you every time we have a conversation. But more importantly, always feel better about myself too. So I’m just so happy to have you on and talk about your experiences and just have a good conversation with you like we normally do and share it with folks. So thank you. 

Tyler Morris  03:44

Yeah, absolutely. I’m just I’m really happy to be here and I have to applaud you for you know, just another way for people to access information. I think it’s genius move so many congrats to the team over at still at Gainesville and and what y’all are doing, I think it’s an awesome way to connect, you know, this zoom meeting’s, probably what, 10,362 since going remote, but I actually look forward. And I always look forward to our time together because good people good people.

Tony Delisle  04:17

Yeah. Well, thank you for saying that. We certainly are just taking a stab at this. They’re dipping our toe in the water. And yeah, we’re learning as we go. And it’s very organic. But I want this to be about everybody that we work with in our independent living network. There’s so many people and resources within our network that offers so much value to the community of people with disabilities. I care just as much about the people disabilities we serve in our 16 County catchment area, as in your catchment area of five counties, right yeah, yeah. And and as well as those in the state of Florida and throughout Florida and really, and Tyler I really I think where you and I connect is is that when we can really synergize between the centers in this state, we can become like the cliche, greater than The sum of its parts and I think that’s where you and I really hit it off is like really facilitating that synergy. But before we dive into that, man, I just want to like like people to know a little more about you and me too. You know every time we talk I feel like I learned something new but like how did you get into disability? What’s that all about? Obviously a place that you stake a lot of your heart and inspiration and Is this what you live in breathe man so yeah, how’d you get there?

Tyler Morris  05:24

unknown how far back we want to go I mean I had IEP growing up and you know, I think working in the field of disability didn’t really start until I think a spark was lit on a missions trip to Jamaica. Went to the Caribbean Christian Center for the Deaf for a week long missions trip I didn’t fit in with the crew that went down there and I spent a lot of my time you know, outside of the work just talking and learning sign language with the the kids that were actually there, you know, about the same age and, you know, started picking up sign language and went to school, five colleges in four years. And…

Tony Delisle  06:03

You’re on this circuit? Was the sign language that you were learning in Jamaica, the same as as ASL?

Tyler Morris  06:10

No, it wasn’t and here I come back to the states and I’m you know, signing like he and she and it’s, yeah, Signed English is a lot different than ASL So, you know, it was pretty cool. The passion was still there. And I had a lot more to learn. But yeah.

Tony Delisle  06:27

yeah. Okay. I don’t mean to stop here. You’re on an academic tour. No?

Tyler Morris  06:32

 Yeah, that’s probably what I don’t know if my parents would have used the same term, but so landed up in Jacksonville, and I had worked a little bit over the summer with Deaf and Hearing Services. I actually grew up in your catchment area, in Lake County, and Deaf and Hearing Services was down in Leesburg. And I started working with one of the programs that we have up here at CIL Jacksonville. So I went into the deaf ed program for undergraduate and I knew the Deaf community is tight knit, and I wanted to see what it was like here. And one of my friends actually taught me my first sign language class and she’s now our director for Deaf Services here said, Well, she’s over to CIL Jacksonville, why don’t you go see? So I walked in, and I kid you not the person for the FTA program that I was with Deaf and Hearing Services was no longer there. They were filling the position. So I started working part time, which was great as a college student, you know…

Tony Delisle  07:25

So you’re working on FTRI services as your first so that’s Florida telecommunications relay incorporated. Modifiable phones for people with speech impediments or deaf or hard of hearing or visually impaired, right?

Tyler Morris  07:39

Oh, really? Yeah, passing out phones, doing outreach, really getting the lay of the land. And I think that that this year will be like 15 years ago. So yeah, and I got the privilege to, to start steering the ship about five years ago with a really great team. And so that’s kind of journey on disability right now of where I’m at, and constantly learning as we go.

Tony Delisle  08:04

Absolutely. 100% learning as we go, and I learned so much from you, but you brought up your center, you brought up your wonderful staff, you’ve been in the game much longer than I have. There. Again, you assume the position of Director when I came on board over here and it’s been five years myself. So tell me why is your center so important for the area that you serve? Tell us about the counties that you serve? Maybe the geographic makeup, whatever you would like to say, but like Why? Why is your center valuable for the folks in the community in the catchment area that is served by still Jacksonville?

Tyler Morris  08:32

Yeah, so our catchment areas Northeast Florida, so that little snaggletooth at the top right hand corner of Florida, and it’s Baker, Clay, Nassau, St. John’s and Duval County. So that’s our catchment area. It’s a pretty pretty broad area. And I think what makes us really valuable is also the reason why I think it’s been 15 years is that we are able to provide a service as unique and individualized to the person who’s requesting it. So nobody that’s coming in you know is going to be turned away for for services, any person, any disability, any age is able to access us if we need to and I think that that really is a great model especially and you know this Tony that 51% of our boarding staff have a disability or report disability and see disability as an asset and not something that is a barrier that it’s an opportunity to build built, you know, build from and, and that we see it as an asset. So yeah, we do a lot of stuff over at CIL Jacksonville. I think that the network and I know that you’re talking about that earlier is definitely stronger when when we’re working together. So…

Tony Delisle  09:43

Yeah. So you know, you talked about what I heard, extremely individualizing and tailoring the services to the individual rather than the older model which would be the other person’s got to kind of conform to the type of services that are really kind of cookie cutter. Already generalize you know catch all for all people that rather ours looks at the individual and all the different factors that can go into that and tailor=makes the goals based on that individual I love it very very centered on the consumer.

Tyler Morris  10:14

Yeah it’s it’s I think it’s really important not just for just achieving the goal which is what we use as our metric for success right? Hmm You know, goal setting and goal a goal achiever, but no one wants, I mean, IL is choice, and no one that wants to have the ability to direct their course, steer their own ship is wants to be told what to do at the end of the day. I mean, might need the resources to do it. But it’s important to have that conversation and life is not a conveyor belt, it’s a path that winds you know, and so, you know, someone come into our office and saying, This is what I’d like to do. As a CIL, we’re able to meet them where they’re at, and help them to you know, that the next point in their life where whatever it may be.

Tony Delisle  11:01

That’s beautiful. I love that. IL is choice. Love that, IL is choice and no one likes to be told what to do. It’s so true. Tell me about some of the wonderful services that you do. They’re under your roof brag about any of your staff, or experiences or success stories that you all might have had so people can come to your center, what can they expect the type of services to receive from you?

Tyler Morris  11:24

Yeah, we offer a lot. So we have the five core like any CIL does, you know, independent living skills, training, information, referral, advocacy, peer mentoring, and transition or diversion. That’s another great thing about sales is that we’re community based and we’re consumer controlled, you know, at the top of our organizational chart, our consumers above our board of directors, and so that allows us to be able to be flexible, and it’s been critical in the pandemic. So I would say a lot of our bigger programs, like you in Gainesville have a loan closet that loans out durable medical equipment. And you know, we’ve definitely had to flex to meet the need, because it’s still there, people still want to be discharged from hospitals, people still want to recover and go through rehabilitation and not have to pay or have insurance barriers. So we want to continue that. So you know, just like y’all, we had to be very flexible in that. And we were very lucky to have you know, Farrah and Farrah sponsor, wheelchair accessible vehicle for us. So we were able to load up electric wheelchairs, we were able to make deliveries, even though we were not meeting with consumers face to face, we were still able to do that contactless delivery and everything. So, you know, that’s one of our big programs. I think another one is employment, people looking for jobs, there’s been a lot of transition in this space, a lot of furloughs and layoffs and whatnot, people are looking for work. So that’s been critical for us and you know, our WIPA program which provides benefits analysis to SSI SSDI recipients that are looking to go back to work and making an informed choice. You know, those are some of our bigger ones. We do other fun stuff too, you know, interpreting services like y’all and we do… we have a mentoring program specifically, victims advocacy is huge and important especially when people are at home maybe with their abuser over the pandemic and victims advocacy is really important because we see the statistics and help with it so you know there’s kind of, I’m trying to think if I’m gonna offend everybody if I if I missed their program but you know, those are those are some of our big ones but we’ve had to add on additional services, much like all of our sales being flexible… meal deliveries, PPE, like masks and clear face or face shields. Those are some some big things for us. So..

Tony Delisle  13:49

You do so many different wonderful services there Tyler and yeah, one of them I want to go back to is that Victims of Crime advocacy, those VOCA abilities to hire on what I believe you have as victim crime advocates, and I do want to illuminate those numbers. Just offensive how people with disabilities are more likely to be victims of violent crimes, like many many more times, victims of assault, sexual assaults, rapes, murder, all these different kinds of things. It’s awful and when people are victims have disabilities and no social supports they’re really you know, then in a system and to have a center like you all to provide that kind of support to help them navigate and mitigate and you know, get back into the community. Some of them I understand are likely in shelters and you know, those kinds of things. So I really applaud you and the other centers in the state that does this kind of work and you know, we’re working to get ourselves get some kind of a program like that. It’s so needed, so needed.

Tyler Morris  14:44

It’s eye opening. I mean, we know that people with disabilities are twice as likely to be victims of crime, but three times as likely to be victims of serious crime like you were talking about assault, battery, murder, and those statistics are just you know, just because you have a disability, I mean, it’s just it’s eye opening. So, you know, we started looking at you know, we have a grant that we partner with the city of Jacksonville, JSO, Hubbard House, on, you know, looking at the systems of victims advocacy and justice, making sure that it’s inclusive, it’s open so you know, doing things where we are able to provide sign language interpretation for individuals to understand what their rights are, or so that was more of like a focus on the systems and making improvements to and then we actually, I think this is our fourth year with VOCA with the attorney general’s office. So we’re able to do that direct service meaning we’re able to serve people with with what their what their needs are to find justice.

Tony Delisle  15:50

And you know, I came one of the career paths I was on with the department children Family Services, I was working there in the state of Rhode Island for you know, youth remain in the state custody for being abuse, neglect, delinquency, or all of the above and you know, seeing many of them which had diagnosable disabilities and just being passed through a system where they didn’t have a lot of those opportunities or supports you know, to reach out to to be there for them you know, as they go through this and to even understand what’s going on have communication effectively delivered to them and all those wonderful things. So that does, that program does resonate with me, but you do a lot of wonderful things there. So we want to make sure that people can get in contact with your center so they can get linked in to your wonderful staff to do the wonderful things that they do. So we’re going to provide those contacts in the show notes. But you know, if you want to drop any contact information now or at the end, please feel free. Okay. 

Tyler Morris  16:42

Yeah, it’s pretty easy. I mean, you can look up ourselves anywhere you’re at, which is our membership Association. But our website here at in Jacksonville, for Northeast Florida is

Tony Delisle  16:55

Gotcha. Well, thank you. I put that out there. And we’re no means putting a wrap on this right now. I just wanted to make sure we illuminated your center and all the wonderful stuff that you doNo, no, no, we’re just like getting cracking, we’re warming up, man. You know, I just want to say I’ve been able to work with a few of your staff at the NICL conference and the National Council and independent living they were brought a bunch of staff there some receive awards, because they do such amazing work nationally recognized and then got to walk the Capitol with them and you know, advocate with policymakers and they’re just wonderful people and partnering in on you do all have done for I think it’s going on the 13th or 14th year, disaster preparedness Expo where you invite the community of people with disabilities to come to a place where you also have emergency management professionals and you know, people that work in departments of health or other agencies that are related to disaster preparedness and response and recovery come and share their wisdom and knowledge. And then you have like people tabling from other organizations that reach and provide resources for people with disabilities and, and you’re still well ahead of the curve there. We totally stole that idea over the last few years. And and you you provide us with staff, you’re like, here’s the playbook and you’re like, here’s the staff to really walk you through it. And I just love the partnership that we have with there, you know, so you just got wonderful people you work over there with I love when I see them working together, you know?

Tyler Morris  18:20

I do too, it really is. I’m lucky, definitely lucky. And it makes, I mean a lot of tenure here. I mean, I think someone that beats me, Margarita beats me by think like a couple of months, you know, but the majority of our team have been here, you know, around seven or eight years, and just really believe in the mission and the work that they’re doing, and including the emergency preparedness conference, which you know, I think that you know, this year might be our second virtual year but we’ve been very flexible and the team was ready to do it and tackle it so yeah, it’s it’s been it’s been really cool to work with y’all and see because you know, you might be doing it for Yeah, it might have been the 13th year but there’s always stuff to improve and the topics definitely shift, with the pandemic, all of that stuff. And so keeping that content fresh and making sure and seeing so you know, y’all y’all hosting your own is definitely a place for us to learn to. And we’ve been lucky, we’ve been lucky to do that. And and that’s that is in and of itself, how IL I think is the best model for empowerment because in the state of Florida, no matter which county you’re in, you’re going to get you have access to a CIL,you’re going to county that’s not served by a cell you know, we got to cover right so and we people move they want to go to UF or people want to move to Jacksonville. And so it’s really easy to know what to expect because we keep the standard high with whatever CIL or whatever CIL they’re at. So..

Tony Delisle  20:10

Well, I love that you brought to disaster preparedness yo is this model of where we really with your Expo, specifically, it brings in three different communities. It brings in the community we’re targeting, which happens to be the most vulnerable during disasters before, during and after. Many people who live in the community face institutionalized care due to disasters. So this is really an important area for us to be on. But here, you bring in this community, whose independent living is threatened, and are more vulnerable to a place where you’re also inviting the community of disaster preparedness and emergency management professionals who are wanting to reach this community, but don’t know how, yeah, but so we, they look to a community based organization, or we look to them to be the bridge, which connects these communities together. And as a community based organization that works with other community based organizations, that whole communities coming together. And I just like there’s this Venn diagram in my head of three concentric circles coming together. And, and we really have this overlap. And I think that’s one of the most powerful things that has really paid off you because of our ability now to be in the state’s emergency operation centers, to be able to be so responsive and participatory in the preparedness, response and recovery of disasters and working in tandem, because we have these relationships now. And so you’re you really set and many other directors in the state really set a high bar for this kind of collaboration is so relevant and impactful. And, you know, it’s really paying off now in the pandemic, like you said, you do food and resource deliveries, you know, to people now, this is a lane that centers have never had before, but nearly, you know, most the centers in the state are doing this, because of the the increase in food insecurity and lack of access to food right now, for many of our people is huge. And meeting this concrete need is a new thing for us. But I’m glad to see, you know, like because of our past relationships, we were able to create this lane. Because of that. So..

Tyler Morris  22:01

Yeah, I mean, we it’s been critical. And I have to say that, you know, our partnerships were very lucky and Duval, I graduated with a chief for disabled services division here in Jacksonville, and they’ve always had that willingness to partner and learn and collaborate. I mean, our mayor here, I think we had about 1000 hours of interpreting over hurricane Irma of just him making sure that it was that we had an interpreter for effective communication. But you know, those partnerships are important to to expand as you go on. Because, you know, as the mayor might have an interpreter there as well, advocacy has to kick in with some of our local news stations too. And, you know, stopping the crop of making sure that, you know, we keep our interpreters in the picture, providing that effective communication. So it does take a lot of people to make it happen. And so the relationships have been have been really critical for making it work. Because it’s, you know, we say nothing about us without us. And it’s not just for consumers, that’s, that’s as organizations too, and making sure that we can partner to get stuff done.

Tony Delisle  23:06

You know, you’re bringing up I think a really good aspect of disaster preparedness and effective communication is the requirement, you know, for interpreters to be there when public officials are doing public information announcements related to the disaster that are very timely and important, required by law. Many times unfortunately, to this day doesn’t happen, you know, despite time after time of people’s attention being illuminated to that, and you mentioned stop the crop. And I wanted to underscore that as like, you know, cutting the picture of the interpreter completely out of the scene. And those kinds of things are very important for people to denote and how you’re explaining that. So with your past, in working with people in the community who are deaf, you run a very robust sign language service program there. Jacksonville’s got a wonderful school, to train people to be interpreters. I mean, you were really steeped in this work in the community and those kinds of things. What would you want people to know about people who are deaf or hard of hearing in this community that might not be like super aware of the culture and what it’s like and your takeaways from it.

Tyler Morris  24:06

I’d broaden that by saying, you know, disability might be a trait and we see it as an asset, you have to look for opportunity past the barrier, and some of the assets that one might have, because of their disability, not that they might need a sign language interpreter or accommodation, but they’re intelligent, capable and ready individuals that offer a cultural perspective, that offer a unique perspective on the stuff that they’ve gone through. I mean, FSDB is as an example, Florida school for the deaf and blind. It’s one of the schools that I did part of my internship with an undergrad and, and seeing the community that behind it. I mean, it’s an asset, you know, not just individuals, but the culture. I mean, it definitely builds diversity and, and just, it makes I think the city and I think the state and nation including those individuals is just really cool to really understand diversity. Because when we talk about diversity, sometimes that disability component gets, it might be an afterthought sometimes. And I think that we’ve done a lot of work to make sure that that diversity is definitely included in that conversation. So yeah, I would say, you know, long, long answer short is that regardless of disability, whether it be deaf or hard of hearing, vision, mobility, there are great people that are just, it’s an honor to, to be a part of and to work with. 

Tony Delisle  25:33

Well thank you, Tyler, I appreciate you sharing that. Another area where you seem to have a lot of inspiration and really wanting to, you know, do as much as you can, and push forward is in what you were talking about diversity. And you and I have been participating in a workgroup, you know, that the Independent Living network has, by its own voluntary, you know, and whoever wants to come in and work on this bi-weekly work group that’s been going on since the end of June, you and I and many others in the network have just been, you know, in on these calls, you know, regarding equity, diversity, and intersectionality. And those kinds of things. And I know you got some really good insights into what that means and, and what it’s about going through those lived experiences yourself and working with others and doing those kinds of things. You know, is there anything that you would like to share in regards to where we are at now, in terms of, you know, these issues and where we’re heading that you would like to share some thoughts on?

Tyler Morris  26:29

Yeah, absolutely, I think I think we have a long road ahead, it’s been a long time coming, I think that it is definitely work that’s worthwhile. And diving deeper into disability in the groups that are within disability, or you know, whether it’s races, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, religion, all of those cool things that make us whole as individuals, I think that’s really cool, you know, the work that’s being done by the network is definitely an affirmation of, you know, looking in and looking out to where we need to go as CILs and, and who we need to bring along with us and make sure that we have, you know, all this stuff that can benefit our consumers and access to services. Because you did say intersectionality. It’s a word that, you know, when you’re combining disability with other other minority groups, how does that impact the individual on their access to, you know, daily living or enjoyment, whatever it may be. So, yeah, I mean, we’re working alongside all the other CILs and making sure that we do that work. And that that is worthwhile and is definitely needed. You know, targeted outreach, listening to our community, which is huge. We have town halls that are scheduled to come up that we’re working with university students to help us conduct with funding from Mayo Clinic, we’re really excited to listen and see what those needs are, and how they might have changed within the pandemic.

Tony Delisle  27:53

I would like to include in the show notes, the links to those community forums, that you’re all going to be host, and related to all that. So I really appreciate that Tyler, you know, thank you very much for sharing that. And yeah, we do have a long road ahead. And in working with you in the group. And, you know, this workgroup that I’m referring to is a voluntary workgroup that came together, you know, it’s probably around 30 people a little over 20, on average, that participate, and it’s, you know, staff from Centers for Independent Living and his leadership from Centers for Independent Living, filk and facile have representation and it’s really great to see and I know, your your, your center has several staff that participate on it. I know you got a board member Roosevelt who’s awesome and participates on it. And that just shows with your leadership, Tyler, your emphasis and importance in this direction, that you know, you you, you bring along others to the table for the discussion as well. And I think that’s a force that we need more of to get to where we’re hoping to get to which I’m not sure there’s a finish line to that. But I really have learned a lot from you, and how to do better in this area. So I just want to acknowledge you for that.

Tyler Morris  28:57

I appreciate it, Tony, and I think that we all have learned right and being open and vulnerable and comfortable to be uncomfortable and looking at things that are best practices and things that we can improve because if you’re not learning you’re dead, right? I mean, so you know, you got to keep learning and so yeah, it’s it’s an honor to work with y’all for that.

Tony Delisle  29:20

Whether it’s a fear or uncomfort related to you know, equity diversity intersection, I have those conversations and being vulnerable, or a disability and fear is it seems like there’s like fear seems to be like, a common element for us that we need to negotiate and get through to the other side. And and I’m sure you’ve had your fair experiences of rubbing up against that. And I would want to know how you Tyler, how do you when when faced with those kind of fears, or insecurities or doubts or whatever it might be, you know, to be vulnerable, to put yourself out there. What do you what do you do personally, to be able to get into that space to be able to do what’s necessary because it’s not easy, and I wonder if like some of us could also learn some of those tools you might use so that we can, you know, embrace that warrior ethos.

Tyler Morris  30:07

I don’t, I don’t know about that. I’m okay with being very right or very wrong, you know. And that’s I think that walking into is you don’t know everything, you can’t know everything. And though I might have lived experience in minority groups, I understand that there are other minority groups that exist that I’m not members of, and I don’t have that lived experience. So I do think it’s important for us to keep that communication and be able to have an honest conversation of this is how I’m doing it, but I’m not sure if it’s right, or this is what has worked for me, it might work for you, or looking and finding stuff to educate yourself and your team. But we’ve done a lot of work, I think, with our leadership team, specifically on on being vulnerable, and Brene Browns, you know, Dare To Lead is a really great book, I mean, I’d recommend anybody picking it up. But, you know, the emphasis is on having that, taking down your armor, and being vulnerable, and having those conversations in a safe space. So you got to build that safe space and, you know, understand that when you’re meeting with somebody they might not be with where you’re at, or vice versa. And that can also change on a daily basis. I mean, attitude situations happen, and you got to take all of that into account. So another long answer, I guess, but you know, just being vulnerable, you know, and being able to learn.

Tony Delisle  31:49

Well, you know, when you’re you were saying that a quote from Wayne Dyer came to mind is, you know, being open to everything and attached to nothing about being very right or very wrong, then I hear a lot of humility, you know, as being, you know, something that some ingredient I read into, and your answer there, but I love that you brought up Brene Brown, you know how to have these courageous conversations, she’s done some fascinating work on vulnerability, and courage and, and it’s almost like she, you know, her position is, is that, in order to have courage to be brave, you got to put yourself in vulnerable situations that are fear-inducing. And that’s okay. And she, you know, she knows she’s got this research on navy seals, and she asked them Is there ever been an experience that you had the required courage that you didn’t feel vulnerable or insecure have fear or doubt, and they all said every time, of course, you know, it just goes hand in hand, had to face those insecurities and those vulnerabilities and still move that path. Because that I think, for all of us, is something that’s in common disability or not, that we all got to face. And that’s where the growth happens, you know, so if we can, you know, so absolutely appreciate that. I appreciate that you brought up leadership, Tyler, I know you got it. Also in your heart among these other inspirations, you’re like multi-inspirational, you know, you have all these different things, I’d like to do it.

Tyler Morris  32:59

I need to sign up for more of these podcasts for affirmation.

Tony Delisle  33:04

Leadership is huge, all the different, you know, traits and attributes and skills that are needed to it, and mindsets and etc. and we can always that, again, no finish line and learning how to be a better leader, but you have a particular interest in youth leadership. Why Youth Leadership?

Tyler Morris  33:20

You know, looking at a lot of the laws that were passed, and people who marched and protested and demonstrated to fight for civil rights, like the Americans with Disabilities Act, they literally put blood, sweat and tears into getting the rights of people with disabilities into law. And so I think there’s a component and an obligation to continue that torch forward. I know it’s cliche, but like, you got to keep it lit, you got to keep it fueled, and you got to keep it going. Right. And I think that there’s probably a lot of youth that know that they might have an IEP, or they might have the right to accommodations for testing or for effective communication, or whatever it may be, and they’re going to have that when they get jobs and whatnot too but I think understanding where we came from, is really important to continue. And we have an aging population. I mean, 1990 was what oh my gosh, 30 years ago. I mean, it was 31 years yeah, yeah. Yeah, so I mean, that’s that’s quite a while so I think there’s an obligation to give those tools and that history to folks that can fight for for what that might need and and it shifts right so, we’re looking from equal access to buildings with ramps instead of stairs. to maybe and that’s still happening but and, but you know, now 508 compliance with websites, I mean, you know the world and everything like that. So, you know, learning the tools for advocacy is important for not changing self, but systems. Yeah, I think that that’s important for for youth and anyone to understand because knowing what your rights are, empowers you to not be in fear, to be able to advocate for yourself and make those choices for independent living.

Tony Delisle  35:25

So what do you think is some of the assets that youth do bring to leadership and advocacy for people with disabilities, that perhaps other groups that have been in it for a while are different, you know, in some other ways, may not bring into it? Like what in particular, is it about youth that could really have a potent impact on some of these issue areas that, like you said, have been going on for decades, or longer?

Tyler Morris  35:48

You know, looking at Parkland, and a couple other situations where there’s been a groundswell of youth to make change. People with disabilities have a voting voice, people with disabilities have the ability to make change. And so I think our youth given platforms that they are now afforded that might not have been there, you know, 30 years ago, have more opportunity to share their message, right. And so I think that that’s really one of the cool things that come along and lived experiences, you know, so..

Tony Delisle  36:20

Yeah, you’re able to tell their story. Yeah, exactly. And to be able to do that, so I really love that you’re into that. And, again, another inspiration you have is like, marketing, getting the word out about all these other wonderful services. And again, this is a different kind of marketing, like, we’re not marketing to make money, like we don’t get more money by more people that we serve. It’s just more work. And it’s the work we want, its the work we want. So bring it so so marketing and almost like a social entrepreneurial way, what recommendations do you have, in general, for centers that we could do better in marketing, because I find it to be very challenging to get our word out. And who knows we are, cliches of best kept secret or a mock and so so it’s help as Tyler I know, you got some expertise in this area, your moment, you’re talking about you, youth have these platforms and opportunities and all these other kinds of things that will be going leaders like myself don’t have so so. Yeah, man, lay it on us. How can we? How can we get the word out and do better, you know, as far as the Independent Living network goes?

Tyler Morris  37:21

Yeah, so I think for us as as CILs are best, our best advertisement is word of mouth. And I think that that’s because people have great experience with ourselves, and they recommend others in their network to get connection with us, right? Whether it’s an employee, or just someone in general, for day to day stuff, you got to market yourself, you know, and be able to talk about yourself and your program and your CIL. So yeah, I do think that is one of our strongest, but we’re definitely throwing a lot of coal into the into the fire of using social media, using podcasts like this one, I mean, genius, you know, in leveraging those tools, which don’t cost a lot to nonprofits, except time, which is pretty rare these days between Zoom meetings, but um, I think that that’s probably the thing is, is you don’t have to do a lot of work if you do good work. And if you’re having those good experiences, and you’re you’re providing a great service, then I think naturally it will happen. But, you know, you do have to question how do we get to rural areas? How do we get to people that might not have social media or technology or might have barriers because of their disability or not because of their disability? How do we get them because they don’t have to come to us for service, it’s choice. But I do think just knowing what services are available, definitely, like I said, is education, and choice, right? So you might not need it now. But I definitely know that you probably know someone who does.

Tony Delisle  38:58

That’s right. And that’s what we like to say on this podcast is that, you know, disability is something that touches everybody. It’s just a natural part of the human experience. And if you don’t have a disability, you know, someone that does, if you don’t have one and live the average lifespan, you’re likely going to get one yourself. So this can be a place that we all unify, we all come together. And it can be a beautiful thing that we learn all kinds of virtues, like you were talking about facing our fears and insecurities and vulnerabilities. And we can do this together. Don’t have to do this alone. Yeah. And so I think like, is so much is to be gained for you know, having people come into this space to talk, I think that can help out the word of mouth, too, is inviting more spaces for people to connect as a community. And now we do have these tools to be able to do that. So how can we leverage them for the greater good and be able to provide that for people and especially now for COVID. Social isolation and loneliness are killers before COVID and now with COVID it’s just amplified. So a lot going on over there. So Tyler, thank you so much. You know, you really gave us some rich information there. Just really appreciate it. You know, want to acknowledge you as a real leader. Among the leadership in the centers throughout the state, again, all 15 of us form a board called the Florida Association Centers for Independent Living. And we work together and collaboratively and for being the youngest one of the bunch, I think you’re the most mature. But you know, you just bring in like, all these wonderful things. And these are the kinds of things and again, you know, I just really want to commend you for taking the time to share yourself to share your ideas, you’re a great listener, I always find you to be one of those places that can provide equilibrium during tough conversations, to have problem solving and tough issues that we have, and all these other kinds of things. I think you demonstrate a really good, like emotional intelligence, as we have a capacity to, you know, engage through these conversations. So I just want to acknowledge you for all those kinds of things. And I’m going to now ask you five standard questions that we ask all guests, hey, would just love to know compare and contrast some of the answers that we get over time, so I’m gonna shoot them over to you feel free to take them with wherever you want, and have fun with them. Right? . Sounds good? How many synonyms? What synonyms Have you heard for the word disability? I’ve heard a lot of examples, not ones you necessarily advocate for right? Yeah, yes. Then had to be good.

Tyler Morris  41:12

Yeah. Yesterday, I heard what was it differently abled? A lot of differences, or ability differences, or, I’ve heard and have read in legislation that still exists to handicapped, there’s a lot of different labels that people use for synonyms.

Tony Delisle  41:34

Do you have a word that you would want to put out there and recommend, you know, that that could be something that would be better, more empowering, or anything else like that? And I asked because, like, I still haven’t necessarily found that word that everybody would land on and have a consensus on and say, That’s it, that’s the word that we can all go to bed sleep tight tonight, you know.

Tyler Morris  41:54

It might be an unpopular opinion, but like I said, I’m okay with being very wrong or very, right. But I think disability is disability, you know, I think that there’s a lot of able bodied individuals that use disability or the synonyms for disability to, to soften it in some capacity, some shape or form. But I think where it really needs to shift, Tony, is not having to excuse disability by offering a softer version, I guess, ofa label, you know what I mean, you know, being being proud of being a person with a disability and building an environment that sees disability as an asset. And I don’t think from that you need to decorate language on it. And I’ll end by saying this is that we, our young people are leading with disability, we talk about people first language, but they’re proud, they introduced themselves as disabled, you know. I am a big, I’ve been called a lot of things in my life. And some of them I don’t agree with others I do, but you have to respect and be open to whatever label someone assigns to themselves, just going in with the thought of wanting to understand and not necessarily put someone into a box that has a label on it, but learning from them how they identify, I think is really, really important.

Tony Delisle  43:16

Wow, I love your answer Tyler and for me, it I really resonate and I agree with a lot of it, you know, especially when running towards the word disability, don’t run away from it, run towards it, who is willing to be the face of disability or come underneath the tent, and like you said, be proud of it, put it out there on Front Street and you know, or you know, respect that choice at least because some people might again, you know, run away from it and for understandable reasons, but I like your attitude about running towards it, owning it, embracing it, and being something empowering and I did hear one person I think gave a really good answer that or you know, kind of underscores that he was like, You can call me you know, disabled, handicapped retarded, whatever, just don’t call me unemployed. Don’t call me an educated, don’t call me unhealthy on equal, you know, unsatisfied, all these other kind of things. Yeah, that was like, at the end of the day, that’s what matters. And it’s kind of tough because we know words do matter. And unfortunately, labels can be bad when you label me, you negate me. But at the same time, like in order to qualify for services, there’s got to be some kind of definable thing that we say is something and has a need attached to it in order for funding resources, people to be allocated towards that thing that has a word and a label. It’s just as conundrum and I’m not sure I’ve made I mean, is it possible to have two opposing thoughts at one time? I don’t know. It’s a toughy a conundrum in a way. Yeah. Yeah. So tell me Tyler, what would you want people to know about people with disabilities that might not have the level of experience interaction personal, professional relationship with disability that they might not know because they don’t have as much of that experience as you do?

Tyler Morris  44:59

I would say I would want them to know that it’s important to connect and understand advocacy, you don’t get to turn off that’s, that’s a day to day 24/7 thing, a lot of people that are coming into disability, you know, I see or, you know, want to learn sign language, or sometimes it’s a grievance that they want to, like improve, you know, HR processes or something. But I really hope that people understand that disability is is an asset. And that learning about that and being willing to step into the I don’t know, but we’d like to learn, I learned a lot, I came from deaf, hard of hearing, but had so much to learn because the spectrum of disability includes so many. So I think that it’s important for folks to be willing to learn about it, and continue to learn about it and take that into consideration for everything, whether it’s the step that you’re aware of that you have to take, that someone might not be able to access a building, or for some thing that might be an obstruction for someone that can’t see to make sure that you have to, literally if you don’t have that personal lived experience or connection to someone or have gotten that education, you got to step into that zone of being able to learn and apply it to your environment.

Tony Delisle  46:24

Last question, what does the independent life mean to you? 

Tyler Morris  46:28

Choice. Choice.

Tony Delisle  46:31

Independence is choice.

Tyler Morris  46:33

IL for me is his choice. And I think that is for a lot of folks. I mean, the IL philosophy is self empowerment, self determination and equal access. For me, IL is his choice. Being able to choose where I live, how I access Community Services, how I can get an education, how I can and whom I love, and all of that stuff. And like I said in the beginning, it’s just people fought really hard for that for making sure people with disabilities have that same opportunity for choice.

Tony Delisle  47:09

Tyler Morris, CIL Jacksonville, thank you so much for like sharing all your wisdom. And I just look forward to having you back on and working alongside you shoulder to shoulder as we work to make the lives of people with disabilities, our staff, the people in the great state of Florida and beyond a better place to be. Thank you so much, Tyler. 

Tyler Morris  47:30

Appreciate you, Tony. 

Tony Delisle  47:31

Appreciate you Tyler and all your staff that you’re doing all the great work over there to everyone out there listening onward… You know, Tyler, what’s the last part of that? 

Tyler Morris  47:40

And upward?

Tony Delisle  47:41

 And upward! Onward and upward, Tyler you take care my friend.

Tyler Morris  47:45

Alrighty. I’ll see you.

Amy Feutz  47:50

Thanks for listening to the independent life podcast brought to you by the Center for Independent Living of North Central Florida. If you like what you hear, please rate review and subscribe. And if you know anyone who might benefit from listening, share this podcast and invite them to subscribe to for questions, suggestions, or if you have a story you’d like to share, please email us or call us at 352-378-7474. Thanks for joining us. Until next time, support, advocate and empower each other to live the independent life.