The Florida Independent Council with Beth Myers

Beth Myers is the Executive Director for the Florida Independent Council (FILC). She joins us today to talk about how her role and FILC’s role with the independent living network aligns. We hope this conversation helps our listeners better understand the independent living network, how it can better support people with disabilities, and to serve and meet their needs. FILC is responsible for ensuring that Centers For Independent Living have access to effective communication and programs needed by people with disabilities to live the independent life.

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SPEAKERS: Tony Delisle, Beth Myers

Tony Delisle  00:00

Never underestimate the ability of a small group of dedicated and committed people to change the world. Because truly, it is the only thing that ever has. And that comes to us from Mahatma Gandhi. So on today’s episode, we have Beth Meyers, who is executive director for the Florida Independent Living Council, otherwise known as FILC. Coming on our episode to talk about how her role with FILC and FILC’s role with the Independent Living network all aligns. This is a very important conversation to better understand the Independent Living network, how it can be more supportive of people with disabilities to serve and meet their needs. filk is a very important part of the Independent Living network is responsible for a many different things that ensures that we make sure that people with disabilities we Centers for Independent Living, are have access to effective communication and programs that they need to live the independent life. So she’s going to be on board with us today to talk about her role in the Independent Living network. We are, you know, a relatively small network within the you know, different types of services that state and federal agencies that are charged to do their work with, but we are very powerful one. And so that’s why I started the quote, with the ability of you know, small groups of people to make significant and impactful changes in the world. And our need to be dedicated and committed to this change. Because this is really the formula needed to make the impact that we want to see in ourselves, in our community and in the world. So I look forward for your you to meet Beth, she’s an amazing person has a great story and experiences related to disability that she shares as well. So I hope you enjoy this guest will know a little bit more about her, and the Florida Independent Living Council as it relates to the Independent Living network. Enjoy. I am so excited to have you here, Beth and answering some of the you know, questions that are very important for us to hear from you, you know, you and I go back a little ways here and we’ve done so many things together. I know we got really close, you know, during some of our efforts related to disaster and emergency management and preparedness in so many different things. So it’s wonderful to have you here and thank you so much for participating in our in a conversation and and sharing the wisdom that you have.

Beth Myers  02:36

Thank you for asking.

Tony Delisle  02:39

All right, so you know some questions for you. There’s a lot of synonyms for the word disability that has been thrown out there. I wonder if you could share with me a few that you’ve heard not ones that you necessarily would recommend that we use, but but have been synonymous with the word disability, we say disability a lot in this podcast. So I want to kind of like, start asking some of the guests, you know, some of these questions because we do use this word a lot. And words matter. So want to get the perspective of people, you know, so what are some of the synonyms you’ve heard?

Beth Myers  03:09

Okay, well, first of all, it’s yeah, it’s these are words we definitely wouldn’t support using anymore, but it does show the evolution of, of language, words matter, and that the ADA is really a living, breathing component, because the words are changing all the time. In fact, our state laws and federal laws, they’re not even matching sometimes, because they’re always changing. But words like handicapped, challenged, people that might be special needs or mentally challenged, impaired, crazy, things like that. Those are words that you know, historically have been used, and there’s a lot more, but it is evolved. And it’s kind of ironic, because it’s evolved at a very special time in our in our country at unique time in our country. So a lot of things are evolving. And so this is a great opportunity to embrace the, the appropriate language and an understanding that it’s changing. Because it is a new law. Ada is new. So you know, there’s a lot of things that are that are changing with that, relatively speaking as a law goes for our country.

Tony Delisle  04:29

There’s many other books for a while, were 30 years and now and, you know, the D in ADA is disability, it’s used in the medicine, it’s used in education, it’s used in employment law, it’s used in legislature, it’s the adopted word, it’s a word that we use here on the podcast. And and I know it’s a charged word. So just you know, we’re gonna be asking some of our guests that question back and forth, but is there a word that you would replace it with if you had the change it to something better than disability.

Beth Myers  04:57

Well, if you would have asked me maybe six months ago I would have said 100 words I would have said differently abled or our unique ability, something like that. But since we’ve really kind of gone through a journey of understanding that, you know, the, the history and the words and the language and the inequities, it really is about what that individual chooses to identify with, and being open enough to just be flexible to accept that. And that is a that’s, that’s hard, because we would want rules. And you know, we want the, the the words all approved and checked. But you know, I think that this is it’s a different type of, or a different place. And so identity first language is pretty much opposite of what people first languages, which is where we were told to go, you know, your person first not the disability. Sure, now we’re really what’s happening is the identity first language is kind of taking a hold of, of that. So I think we just have to be open to understanding who you know, our fellow human and being okay, and, and being okay with saying, if we say something wrong, saying, Okay, what would you What do you choose to be called, and then understanding what that means, and, and then adopting that, and just saying, you know, my apologies, this is okay, I’ve learned something new today. And that, that spirit of trying to do a little bit, meeting the individual human with the human type of concept?

Tony Delisle  06:43

Well, yeah, you know, and I appreciate how, you know, you threw out there, there’s been a lot of softeners to the word disability, handi capable, you know, whatever, you know, can can be that, but it just seems like there, there hasn’t been, to my knowledge been a consensus on a word that people would land on, and everyone would agree that Oh, yes, that is the word that, you know, we all agree to. And then even people will say, Well, why do we have to have a word? Why do we have to have a label, that’s another interesting discussion, you know, to have as well and I look forward to continuing the discussion. As it is important, I think you bring up a really important part of there and people first terminology saying person with a disability versus a disabled person, and now this shift towards, you know, well hey, you know, want to you know, that’s a part of my identity, that you know, I’m not ashamed of and actually, you know, want to put out there on display as a part of my identity. First and foremost, there’s almost a you know, a lot of pride to the best word, but you know, people that might be proud and want to, you know, have that first and, and there’s there there there is that, but I guess it does go back to the individual in many ways, and you know, how they kind of see it and feel and that is appropriate and respectful. So, a lot a lot to be said here for that. So, another thing I wanted to, you know, kind of unpack with you and get a better understanding from you is, what is it you would want people to know about people with disabilities, so, you know, one of the things that this podcast that we’re trying to offer is a lens into the world of people with disabilities and who they are and what they are about. And even if people have those experiences, I think hearing from someone else, you know, about what they see, you know, people with disabilities and you know, what it means to have a disability and and, and how they see it when other people to know about their experiences is an important part of it. So I would wonder if you could take us through what you what you would want people to know about your perspective and experiences and disabilities?

Beth Myers  08:38

I’ll start with saying they are the reason I even that I’m involved with this community for you know, almost 30 years is because of having a great grandmother, who talked about her sister who was institutionalized and, and died in the institution and how her father who was a physician could not even get out of that, that that institution, and she went into for something that was, was a concern of the families and she couldn’t get out. And so I watched the really the pain of my great grandmother who had to take that with her, knowing that that’s where her sister was, and and she did not have the right and could they could not get her out once she was in. So institutionalization, to me, was really the primary focus of when I started becoming involved at even, you know, at an early age and understanding people had rights. And so people with disabilities have rights to live, where they choose to live and participate in life where and how they choose to participate like everyone else. And And quite frankly, anyone at any time could become disabled. So you know, we have to we have to be We have to understand that it is, at any moment whether it’s a sickness or an accident that we could become disabled. And so back to the your questions of what do I want people to know is I want them to know that it could happen many times to any one at any, any time. And that dignity and a right, the innate right to fully participate in our community is, it’s not a consideration, it’s the right in our country, this is the right, and we should care about that, because we should all care about that. And I think it is really important that there is a self control component. And that’s why I love night owl so much is because of that self control, self determination, you know, that that part of IML philosophy, like speaks to my heart, because it is, it’s so important that people have the opportunity and option to participate in what I think is about as basic of a human rights as you can, is, can be, you know.

Tony Delisle  11:10

I do and thank you for sharing about your grandmother and working to have her in a place where she could be more in the community and less than any institutional care and that really I can see where it has driven you have a tremendous amount of experience in the Independent Living network, both working at you know, the center’s and from what I understand the city and, and now as executive director for the Florida Independent Living Council. So, you know, you you serve a very important position there in the Independent Living network. And one of the things of having you on is, you know, in addition to get your insights into the, you know, different conversations that are had to be around disabilities, we’re going to start to you know, better understand what it is that the Florida Independent Living Council is your role there, how it fits into the Independent Living network, and and, you know, some of the things that people can learn to better understand what it is all about that, that that’s near and dear to your heart here. You know, I was gonna ask you first, what do you see is some of the, you know, current challenges, the biggest issues, areas that are related to people right now, with disabilities that you see out there?

Beth Myers  12:25

Well, you know, taking COVID just putting that on the, on the side for a moment, it’s so important that we keep keep talking about this, because it’s the same challenges that have been around from really the beginning. And so we still have so much work to do. So, you know, when we have education, employment, transfer, they all transportation, they all go together, everything goes together, they interlock, so incredibly, it is something that we can, you know, we can’t get away from, because we’re gonna have to look at this as a broad picture, and then and then start breaking down and making adjustments as we go because education impacts employment. employment is impacted by transportation and housing, health care, is a is a, you know, a 300,000 foot but own, you know, you know, type of thing. But, you know, are you even able to go, you know, receive a mammogram, if, you know, you use, you know, a wheelchair, what, what is what, you know, where are we at with that? And is that not, you know, something that is so incredibly important. So it’s sad that it’s the same kind of topics, however, we’re getting better, but we’re not there. We have a lot of work to do. And and I think the conversation is going to be ongoing with that. COVID is different, a different topic. But…

Tony Delisle  14:05

No, I’m glad you brought all this up. This is why we’re having you on is to really kind of throw out the current issues in the ever present issues and starting out with the ever present issues, people with disabilities are less likely to, you know, graduate from high school, their unemployment rates are two and a half times greater at any one point in time in the economy, whether it’s doing good or bad. The unemployment rates usually two and a half times more in people with disabilities. And we look at health outcomes. Unfortunately, the data shows that people with disabilities are more likely to, you know, have the chronic diseases that are the top causes of death, then people without disabilities, and these are preventable diseases. And people with disabilities are less likely to have access to adequate and affordable housing and transportation and all income, you know, and socioeconomic status and all these other kinds of things are intertwined together. Like you said, is an ever present issue and one that, you know, I you know, it’s really wonderful to be a part of an independent living network that’s really advancing, you know, the the conversation around these areas and to do better and promoting equitable outcomes. And, and and all of it we have our work cut out for us, that’s for sure. Yes, well, you know, and go into COVID, you know, we’re in the midst of, you know, recording this in a time where there’s a race to get people vaccinated, getting people with disabilities as a priority population, to get vaccinated, you know, how people are getting vaccinated in the state of Florida, depending on the county, getting the information out to people getting people registered for it, getting people actually vaccinated, all the access and functional needs that are in play, there are plenty, and certainly can be some, you know, points of discussion for this discussion, and many more to come to have you back on here. Because you and I certainly have a long track record in terms of the mileage at the very least, in terms of, you know, working together with emergency management, Department of Management, emergency management, and ensuring that, you know, we get the needs of people with disabilities met during times of disasters, and this is certainly one, and it’s so wonderful to be, you know, working with someone like you, that’s actually helping to coordinate efforts to make sure that, you know, those, those barriers are mitigated and overcome along the way, and that’s something that we seek to go and do along the way with this platform here is try to get the best communication out that we can get to people about a lot of these issue areas that are unfolding before our eyes in real time. So feel free to feel free to open up that can of worms anytime in this conversation.

Beth Myers  16:48

Okay, by then I think that and I appreciate, you know, what you said and, and I think, you know, for, you know, it’s it’s when we are, when we are making sure that there are distributing, you know, 7000 vaccines are vaccines to the 7000 nursing homes. And and, and knowing that 50% of the individuals who have who have died are It’s the result of nursing home and that type of institutionalized care, saying that we have so the vaccines are going into the the group homes, nursing homes, and, and what we see is program access, which means that, you know, people are not able to get the vaccine, who live independently. So here we have the individuals that live independently that don’t live in, in a institutionalized care facility, and yet our highly are vulnerable population, and their their PCs are going back and forth between people and without being a priority to receive the vaccine, as frontline workers are in hospitals, and and people are going from, you know, home to home to home to home, and with no vaccines available. And so I think we have to understand that, you know, the isolation of COVID has been, it’s been just catastrophic, really, I mean, just unbelievable for our children, in education for our seniors that are at home for our individuals, that people that we serve people with disabilities in home, that are that are trying to follow the rules, right, but they are there, they’re isolated. And in addition to that the process to get the vaccine is not as accessible as it could be because of the communications. All of the communications are down to the counties, all the counties are doing it differently. Some counties are doing fantastic. other counties are not because they they just don’t know. So you know, our skills are so important to to our counties, the sills provide a very specific skill set and knowledge and we know that keeping people at home it’s better for our it reduces cost. And it is you know if we want to talk about the business side of it, but more importantly if an individual is is is sheltering at home and they are at home. We need to make sure that we understand that they still have the access to the vaccine is everybody else you should have act we should have access to it.

Tony Delisle  19:41

I 100% agree Beth and we just had Dr. Vince Venditto. He’s a professor of pharmacology at the University of Kentucky and his studies, you know, vaccines and their efficacy and Immunology. And, you know, we talked about You know, the prevalence of, you know, the impact of COVID on people with disabilities, you know, has been, you know, significant people disabilities are more likely, you know, to have the secondary risk factors that are associated with the COVID vaccine, I’m sorry, the COVID, you know, virus, but yeah, it’s not a priority population, at least in the first round to get vaccinated, unless you’re a person with a disability that’s institutionalized. But there are many people with disabilities that you know, are living at home, that are still just as, you know, physically, you know, vulnerable to getting the COVID vaccine and dying from the COVID vaccine, they’re just not in institutionalized care, but they are in their homes and, and are less likely to be leaving their homes because of their risk. And, you know, what is their, you know, ability to access this, you know, especially when it becomes, you know, their turn to get vaccinated, you know, there’s so much to unpack there in terms of their ability to find out, you know, how, when, and where to get registered, and to get the vaccine and all the different, you know, needs that they’re gonna have along the way, perhaps for for accommodations to be had. And this is a massive lift to get so many people vaccinated, and to ensure that people with disabilities, you know, the most likely to be excluded from something that requires program access and effective communication, to ensure that along the way, is also going to be a huge lift, and I look forward to, to working with you and others and independent living network, and with other people that are responsible for making that happen to make it happen. And being a conduit, you know, to get the right information out to people about, you know, how to do this. And to work with people to mitigate these any of these access and functional needs that we see along the way, it can be very common, and we communicate appropriately about these issues. And and we definitely are creative enough to come up with the solutions, you know, will I think be able to do some real good here in terms of getting the vaccine out to folks?

Beth Myers  21:56

Yeah, I agree with you. I think that what what I’ve found is that, you know, there is a misconception, I feel like within some not all government entities, but some, there’s a misconception that that disability rights are, that’s a negative. And it’s not a negative at all. When we take care of our people, that are Floridians, all Floridians, all taxpayers, all human beings, all people, if we are taking care of our citizens, this is not a negative. It’s like watching something that two pieces of metal that won’t change, you know, won’t give won’t well, budge.

Tony Delisle  22:49

My gears are all jammed up. Yeah.

Beth Myers  22:51

Yeah, the gears are jammed, and you want to say, wait a minute, this is an easy fix, we can help you. I think we have we’ve been doing that during our, our hurt hurricanes that we’ve we’ve had, we’ve stepped up and we’ve done more, and there are there is a wave of pause that where people are saying, hmm, they really helped us with this. And it wasn’t that they weren’t looking at that we help them we’re serving the population, if people were charged for serving, and what they don’t understand it, program access might just mean a process change, it doesn’t mean $5 million, this is gonna cost us to do blah, blah, blah, this is a process change, and your government people will be better equipped to serve all people, all citizens with disabilities. And so I find it interesting that it’s, it’s a negative because it’s not a negative, you know, when I was at a coordinator, I if I did my job, right, I serve our community, and I also protected the process of our government. It can be if you do it, right, both things go to the top. And it’s not, it’s not difficult. You know, disability is like a natural part of humanity. For some reason, I feel like it’s been put in a different category, it’s just a natural part of humanity. So embrace it

Tony Delisle  24:22

That’s one of the things that we really want to put on Front Street here is that it is a part of human nature. You know, I think for many, it’s it’s hard to embrace, you know, it’s a natural part of what it means to be human. And I think it’s synonymous with death, because that’s a natural part too, you know, one that people kind of run from, and maybe disability is you know, kind of a microcosmic of that life can be different after having a disability, whether it’s short or long term. And so it means the death of doing certain things that you might have had, you know, been able to do before seeing yourself as Are you wrapped in your identity and it’s a death of identity or who knows what it is. So maybe there is a you know, that kind of a you know, barrier to talking about it. But I think that those of us that, that do an exercise in that muscle and being able to have, you know, go through that, maybe if people are uncomfortable with it is so liberating. Because on the other side of that uncomfort is the ability to, you know, just, you’ll be real about a inevitable part of life and in to embrace it and not run from it. And you’re kind of like, perhaps the movement of people that want you know, disability first identity first, you know, terminology, you know, to put that out there and, and wear it on their sleeve and not be hidden from it, you know, like many, many people are, you know, so

Beth Myers  25:37

Well, I think it goes, right, it’s so interesting, because you go, if it goes, I feel like we’re talking about the medical and social model of the IOP philosophy that was like, from back in the 60s, we’re having that conversation because having a disability and being disabled mean two separate things. And one of them, you know, you know, it’s so, so under, so I feel like we’re having conversations of, hey, there’s nothing like you can’t you know, you’re you don’t try to fix me, I’m good, don’t try to fix me, I am who I am. And, and that, that, that concept of accepting that in society is what I feel like we’re going back to that medical social model that we used to teach way back when, and it’s like, coming full circle. Yeah. Do we want to or not?

Tony Delisle  26:30

And that’s new for some people, too, you know? Yeah. So. And it does evolve and I think it is an organic conversation. There’s nothing ever written in stone and you know, as time progresses, things, you know, in perspectives, and that’s what’s wonderful about this space, is we get to, you know, have conversations like this about a moving target. You know, that’s why why I’m asking some of those kinds of questions before we really you know, dive deep here on to more specifically about you, Beth Meyers, Executive Director for the Florida Independent Living Council, you know, which represents you know, one piece of the Independent Living network and that’s something that we’re trying to really explain more and better to our audience because it is you know, a vast network that is interconnected, we started explaining about what Centers for Independent Living are, you know, the how we all you know, deliver five core services and some of us have supplemental programs or most of us do, but you know, different programs may look different depending on the area that served and you who qualifies, you know, for programs free, you know, to people and all disabilities, all ages and all these other kinds of things, and grew that out to having, you know, Jane Johnson, Director for the Florida Association for Centers for Independent Living, you know, another piece of the Independent Living network were in the directors for the various senators which are 15 in the state come together and foreign membership, which does all kinds of wonderful things. So that’s another piece of the Independent Living network. And as is the Florida Independent Living Council, so there’s a lot of words here that are acronyms you know, so Florida Association for Centers Independent Living we call FACIL, but for you, Beth, Florida Independent Living Council, and where you are in reside, we call FILC. As a Florida Independent Living Council Executive Director, I want to first and foremost, kind of ask you about your organization, and what it is that FILC does, but more importantly, and as you know, for me, the most important question is why why is FILC needed? Why is FILC important? Why should FILC exist? You know, so definitely a little bit about what FILC is, but you know, why is FILC so important and valuable to the Independent Living network?

Beth Myers  29:00

Okay, you know, just the The major difference between the two FACIL and FILC is that that FACIL can lobby and they can lobby and and and tackle problems differently than the Florida Independent Living Council. The Florida Independent Living Council is called FILC but it is actually a state Independent Living Council. The state Independent Living council there is one state Independent Living Council and every one of our states and including councils.

Tony Delisle  29:36

Spiffy, SILCs. State Independent Living Council, yeah, and I’m pleased about there. SILC.

Beth Myers  29:44

Yeah, we’re actually so itself kids like a go dog go. I know I might do something with that anyway, so I know. So um, So why does Why does thought matter? And why does Why does every state have one? You know, there’s a reporting mechanism that is in our Rehab Act about tracking these federal dollars and ensuring that, that the Independent Living Philosophy and those core services are being delivered in your state. And then it’s, it allows a roadmap or a process of describing what happens when we receive the state receives funding? Where is that funding going? When in relation to IPL? And then in addition to that, what does the State say? So we have public forums, and we reach out at these public forums to gather information and get input from individuals with disabilities. And we will, we would historically go to a cell and have a public forum. Well, now it’s everything’s virtual, and it’s a little different. And we’re getting creative on how we, you know, get that public input. But we wanted to know, what were the top challenges? What are the things that need to be addressed in our state plan for Independent Living, which is the document that we are charged with managing and the state plan for Independent Living is a contract between the federal government and the state on what we are doing and and how we are providing these services to our citizens with disabilities? And have we found areas in which we need that need to be addressed? Maybe we need additional skills? How do we how do we go about that, maybe that we need to change our focus from a goal that we had set forth to another goal, maybe we need to include housing this time. So we have four goals. And we had four goals this year, because there was so much work to be done, within the goals that we have set forth. The state plan is a three year plan, it’s only three years. So every three years, we are instructed to create a new plan. And your new plan has to have new deliverables, new actions, and new information, new data. And so if you are appropriately writing a state plan, you are ensuring that topics that are important to our citizens, and to our cells have been brought forward, and that we are going to prioritize them. So it’s a three year it’s really we were a group, a council that Governor appointed of members that are charged with managing a state plan, and then created a new one every three years. So we have a staff here, but we also are one of the few states that cover every county in the in the state, we have 67 counties of believers there 68 counties, 67, 67 counties, we have our 15 CILs, we have some satellite offices, it is a huge commitment to our citizens, Floridians with disabilities, saying that we have that we will do our very best to cover these 67 counties is a very important thing our state Independent Living councils because they really provide the necessary support to oversee that state plan and that state plan is that contract between the federal government and our state and ourselves. It kind of flows down that way but it is it’s very important and it’s codified in federal and state law and statute so…

Tony Delisle  33:51

You know I want to you know, kind of summarize what you said because you said a lot there and just so people you know that are you know external or just kind of learning what the Independent Living network is like a Florida Independent Living council, FILC is not Florida Association for Centers for Independent Living, FACIL that clarifies what it’s not. Alright, we’ll start we’ll start off with negation. First in the Florida independent Council is a state you know, part of the Independent Living you know, network, you know, where, where you’re, you know, you do, you know, kind of have a governor appointed board and, you know, all these other kinds of things that obligates you to certain guidance. Like you said, I’m glad you brought up the 1973 Rehab Act we want to remind people that’s where, you know, Centers for Independent Living got funding to provide services, which FILC as Beth is saying is the state Independent Living councils and FILC are one of the main obligations they have is to have oversight of those dollars that come through the 1973 Rehab Act to fund services for Centers for Independent Living, to assure that those dollars are being well spent and spent on people with disabilities, to receive services to live more independent. And so that’s a very important role. So it’s a steward of the good taxpayers money, that centers have to be able to go and do the wonderful work that we do to ensure that people with disabilities can live independently. And it’s a very transparent process and one that, you know, is very important that filk does. And then Beth, you talked about the state plan, state plan, warning, again, alphabet soup warning, we’ll do this along the way, just so that, you know, maybe people listened to more than one episode can start, you know, stringing along and reading the alphabet soup is state plan independent living. So the spill we often call is, is still as a state plan for independent living. And that, you know, is something that every state has to do as well, you know, is come up with a three year state plan for Independent Living, that the, you know, cilex, the state Independent Living councils, like ours, FILC, and the other centers, you know, and their designated state entity often participate on and come together into work and to draft and then to enact, you know, and directs the next three years of kind of efforts, resources and attention, you know, that many of the centers will be doing in terms of delivering that. So that’s a very important thing, I think, for people to know that the state plan does direct a lot of what we do, people should pay, pay attention to it. And when it comes around your time to you know, write the news bill, which doesn’t happen too late after we enact this other one, it’s almost, you know, we’re learning as we go. And with a year and a halfway through, we’re already started thinking about writing the next one, because there’s such a process to we get a public input, and to get public input on on it is one of the key variables to it, because that can drive what goes into it. Because we are driven by the people, the people we serve, and who better to know than the people we serve, and to what should inform our state plan, and where we direct our resources to be able to participate in advocating for that. So we want to make sure that this is also a platform where people can, you know, learn more and put in their feedback for it. So another good part of that, but I also want to add one more there if I can, you Beth, about why, you know, FILC is, is an important, but it’s also as a resource for, you know, the Centers for Independent Living, y’all don’t, you know, or deliver services by any means, but you understand some of the different services that we do, and how they’re consistent services that we provide across the board. But then how certain centers have unique services that they do tailored on the needs of their community that they serve, and you have a really good snapshot of what we all do, and you are often, you know, circulating with me and I know other directors to say, your What are your needs? What can I do better? How can I be informed and marshaling us together to tackle important issues, and have conversations together, which are, you know, very important conversations to have about, you know, how we run, you know, the centers throughout the state and, you know, ideas for doing it better for the future, and marshaling us, as well as being a resource and ensuring good communication happens, which is so hard to do, because there’s so many people doing so many different wonderful things, you know, that’s just a web of things to have to really navigate. And you do that as well. So I wanted to add on there some other things that I see FILC doing as well, and then the board that you know, FILC has a to it, it tends to be really well represented board, since I’ve been on that seemed very dedicated to really advancing, you know, the cause of, you know, independent living for people with disabilities. And so, you know, I look forward to fully appointed board for you all moving forward, something that you all deserve and need. So…

Beth Myers  38:43

I appreciate that. And you’re right, I mean, there’s a FIL or SILC here, as a state Independent Living Council, we really are charged with education and training, when required and providing communication platforms and we play a pretty big role during storms and, and we host other weekly platforms for aisle network group to come together that’s rather organic, and they get to work through some of the executive directors get to collaborate and share ideas. But really to provide that communication platform, we have grown with our emergency support by having a seat inside the emergency, the EEOC, the state EEOC, and part of that is to ensure that there’s clear communications for ourselves who are part of the solution and are able to reach and provide that expertise to our local counties that are that are necessary to serve it citizens. So we do educate and train and we are changing how we do business. Now that COVID is here because it’s everything looks a little bit different, but thank you, I appreciate you for your summary.

Tony Delisle  39:57

Well, yeah, and add that to the list too, is you know, a partner, a public private partnership that is going on right now in disaster preparedness. So you mentioned that the Independent Living network through your efforts has a seat at the state’s emergency operation center. This places like NASA when emergencies happen, and there’s an emergency declaration, the EEOC, the emergency operation center for the state gets activated, and it runs support for the county’s emergency operation center. So 67 emergency operation centers at the county level one at the state level that kind of runs back up as you know, if you need something, you know, that’s gonna be a lot of resources that the state’s on the standby to backup any county that asked for requests for any of that kind of information. And at the same time, because of our involvement with prior hurricanes, and everything that we did, having a seat at the state’s EEOC means that our network was there when Department of Emergency Management, the Red Cross, other first responders, other community based organizations that are on a very large scale, delivering resources and helping people prepare and recover, are they’re at the table talking about getting things done, and to be there and those conversations at the large systemic level, and to be able to always, you know, be in people’s ears and saying, okay, that’s a great plan. Now, how do we do that, to make sure that we get full access to everybody with people with disabilities, and to have them listen, and to want to listen and to have been invited to be there at the table. And for you to be at that table, I just want everybody to take a step back and think about, there’s not a lot of other disability organizations necessarily, that have that kind of access at that critical juncture, of decision making about these kind of disaster services and communications that are going out to people in real time with the COVID pandemic, what’s going on, it has led to so many great collaborations and opportunities and even new services for the COVID pandemic, at least, that have happened through that partnership.

Beth Myers  41:51

Yeah, right. And 100%. And I’ll add one other thing is that, you know, one of the reasons why, you know, I’m so passionate also about our Centers for Independent Living the IO philosophy is because it doesn’t matter the disability, it doesn’t matter the age, we are really very unique in that sense. And that is a difference. That’s why that’s why we’re in the Rehab Act, and not a lot of other agencies are, we are charged, federally charged to serve our citizens with disabilities and it’s really it doesn’t doesn’t matter the age or the disability, it they’re those five core services, you know, have to be you know, kind of punched through, but the ADA and our centers, many times what, what we know is that if a city or a county is operating off of and making good decisions and have good policy, many times, it’s because their Center for Independent Living is part of the solution. And that’s something that we have to you know, we should appreciate because that is something that is very much kind of like a cornerstone of the organization and the i o philosophy I’ll network so it’s really, really important that we give the credit to ourselves who are doing the work that nobody else is, really is nobody, nobody else is doing it, just like we’re doing it. So I’m, I’m proud to be associated with, with everyone, our IO family here.

Tony Delisle  43:28

I think you make a great point there, the next we have is that we serve all ages, all disabilities, and related to programs that promote keeping people in the community and living independently. And that is a unique space and when we do take all commerce in terms of what it takes to keep people in the community and that manifests into a lot of different types of services and programs that we could be offering and even new ones that we may not be offering but yet we know if it’s a need, and we don’t have it and we’re going to build it. I think that’s a very important part of you know, what we do that makes us unique and special and different. So Beth I’m interested to know we unpack a lot about what FILC does and and what’s what it’s not but you’ll take me into you know, you know, we got so many different things going on. But what do you what do you envision FILC doing and the independent living our being in the future that we can create here for Floridians with disabilities you’re envisioning you know, thinking 1000 mile vision and those kind of things. This is an opportunity to be maybe not necessarily over the top grandiose but also optimistic to at the same time I think a lot of us here as we go, especially with COVID can oftentimes feel the exhaustion of the resilience needed to keep going. We definitely have the ability to keep going but sometimes I think it’s always always good to hear someone’s vision of a better day in the future and of what it can be and people with disabilities and and what you have in store and in mind for film. So you know, feel free to take that wherever you want to go.

Beth Myers  44:54

One of the really important things was understanding Our use numbers and and what are barriers for some of our youth coming, you know, into their CILs, we saw the RS numbers going up, these are CILs, youth numbers for the first time going down. What does that mean and understanding. So the commitment was, let’s find somebody that’s going to be able to spend, you know, 100% of that time on dissecting that understanding that developing it, and really creating some synergy with our youth. And that’s why we hired Sarah Goldman and Sarah is amazing. And we’re very excited to have her brought on the full team. So Sarah is going to be able to focus specifically on the youth in rural for Florida, and and some of our populated areas, work with our youth, program managers, sharing data, sharing other resources that are available for programs, so that we can understand how we can get this done taking it back to, you know, our state agency and saying, okay, we need this to happen, and we need those referrals. And we need to work together. But I think it is an area which has been neglected by our team and Tallahassee a little bit. And that is developing a statewide youth program that can feed their our CILs, get ourselves connected and empower their youth program managers and really kind of evolve our YLF, which is now hosted by FACIL.

Tony Delisle  46:36

Youth Leadership Forum, another acronym, another acronym.


Right. But we’ve made the commitment to provide Sarah in her capacity to work with basl and NB, the staff that’s required to put on this large event. But this is a really important component of understanding and connecting our youth with the IL philosophy, understanding that they’re not a problem to be solved, but we want to encourage them to be the best version of them. And I think that that that in in a state where we have FSDB, and we have the Florida school for the deaf and blind sorry, is another acronym. And we have, we have a lot of wonderful services out there that we have an understanding of the community that is unique to us. And we are going to tackle that youth component and see our youth numbers go up as they should, because the IL philosophy is critical. It is it is critical for the community and that’s why the ADA is part of our Cornerstone so I’m really excited to see what happens in the next before the next bill is written. So in two years, where are we going to be because Sarah is already just doing a wonderful job and she is someone who went through the Youth Leadership Forum herself and she has her master’s degree in social work, she’s amazing. And we are we’re really excited about that addition, saying that the other concept is is the sills are such a critical part of response, our state response during emergencies and we have got to identify appropriate funding so our cells can do the job that they’re they’re there to do and I think that improving the funding and addressing the misconception of how much things cost is going to be critical but also really being an organization that’s at the table and we’ve delivered you know I feel like we’ve done time together a little bit you know Tony. We’ve done our time.

Tony Delisle  48:50

We earned our stripes a little bit in the fire together. Yeah

Beth Myers  48:54

That’s right. And so we need to make sure that our souls are properly compensated and that is a big ongoing thing. So we’re going to move into the next belt with housing and transportation and employment I’m sure being right there. And healthcare boom boom, boom education, all those things. But you know, I think that it’s I think we’re moving in the right direction.

Tony Delisle  49:15

We gotta do everything. So intertwined. Yeah, in so just point of order. So when you refer to youth, we’re referring to 14 to 24. Ages correct? Yeah. Yeah. Right. So so just yeah, people that may be listening to you if they might be thinking, you know, some some middle schooler but it really would be in fact, 14 being definitely a teenager and 24 being a young adult. And so you can be deceptive. So when I’m older on that is that when we talk about youth, we’re talking about teenagers who are in or at a highest School about to be in or out of high school, you know, transitioning. So youth transitions is one of the core services that our centers have to provide. And so from what I hear from your vision there, Beth, is that you envision us doing more in this area, in terms of understanding better what’s going on in terms of the barriers and facilitators to successful youth transition from high school to post secondary life, and how we can do better in those services and advocacy and be more of a partner in that space. And know that’s in our new spill, you know, I look forward to having more of a conversation about how that is. And I think this could be a platform to where students with disabilities in high school, and those that have transitioned out of high school, can have conversations, you know, about what it’s like to be in their world, you know, what are some of the benefits of, you know, and barriers that they see, you know, in their lives and opportunities, or lack thereof, or what it’s like to you know, live a day in the life and be able to share that with us and get a better picture, I think would be a really good thing, because then I think it would underscore what you I believe fully see is that this is a really important part, in terms of the life experience, going from high school age, to post secondary young adulthood, that transition there can set the trajectory for longevity, the quality of life, the ability to live independently, is so much impacted by those years, they’re such transformative and impressionable time. And so I can see why you wanting those efforts or centers to be involved more in that is so important, because that can certainly set the trajectory for a more independent life, if we’re able to be a support for people during those very formative years.

Beth Myers  51:44

And there’s a story there, and we need to understand it. And we need to improve our story here in Florida. And I think that that’s what we’re trying to do with our partner facile, we are trying to improve our story, and at least get this get the story out because the work that is done at our ourselves being boots on the ground, is so critical to our community, because we know that you provide a service that only you can provide. And the federal law, I mean, we are embedded in the federal law. And I think that that’s something those are conversations that I always have with some of our funders, this is not a nonprofit that decided to come together, we are entrenched in the history of the ADA movement, and we are entrenched in federal law, that puts us in a different place, we’re coming at things a little bit differently. And and it’s a wonderful, it’s a wonderful position to commit things.

Tony Delisle  52:47

You know, I think in explaining what independent living is, it is a network of services. It’s also a culture. And it’s a philosophy, you know, at least this is how I almost compartmentalize what independent living is all about. And so you have these different areas between the culture, the philosophy, and the services that drives a lot of that conceptual framework of what Independent Living means. They’re very intertwined. They’re To that end, someone that is on the service end, and it is tied into the 1973 Rehab Act, which you’re referring to there, to get people out of institutionalized care and back into the community. In 1973, the Rehab Act was passed to fund centers to make sure that the institutionalized and or to divert and prevent institutionalized care. And this manifests into many different programs and services. From that, again, very important, but also, as I alluded to the philosophy of independent living, and the culture around it, you know, and ask you about related to those, what is it in working with people with disabilities and promoting equity among people with disabilities? Have you learned that has helped you to be a better person or value about life that has been really near and dear to your heart that has come about through your commitment to serve people with disabilities?

Beth Myers  54:06

Okay, so that’s a big question. And it was a it was really a journey. So I started in what I thought was a place of great knowledge. And then I went to a different place where I understood that I didn’t understand anything at all. And I think that giving people I hope that made sense, but you know, I think giving people for me, my journey in this has been understanding that or requiring that I paused for a moment in my day to day activities in my work with the community, and I heard are I observed, or I perceived, just the person and its entirety and I always I never regretted stopping, asking More questions, trying to understand or just a perspective. And I believe that’s why I have made so many friends within the community. Because it wasn’t about me trying to impose anything on on my friend, it was about really just being a friend. And the statement is from Ed Roberts, nothing about us without us, and putting that sentence into context. So it’s not about me, it is about working on a with a team, and then stepping aside when I’m supposed to step aside. And I’ve had a connection with that. And I think you and I experienced that when we went to the conference. And we understood that we needed to just stop and listen to what was being said, and what was going on. Because there was an opportunity for growth and learning in that moment. And I think when I think about my relationships, and I think about my friends, and I think about my journey in this field, I feel like I’ve been very successful in the fact that I could pause my opinion, and my thoughts, and listen, and accept whatever it is that was being given to me. And then really learning. I’m an advocate, that’s who I am. I advocate, I was born like that, I think. And so I’ve had to advocate for family members, and it’s served me well. But the community has served me well, because I’ve learned so much. And this is going back to, you know, into high school where this was, you know, I would observe, stop and observe, it really has allowed me to get on a road that I’m I’m proud of the work that I’ve been part of, I’m proud of, my friends I’m proud of. But it’s not, it’s about being able to move aside and allow just greatness to happen, because that’s what happens if you could just be selfless.

Tony Delisle  57:14

So that’s what I hear you saying is the value of being present with people. And just being there being fully attentive, actively listening. And I think that’s very cathartic for people that we’re listening to, and for ourselves that are listening. And sometimes we’re on the other end of that foot as well. And we need that other person to listen to us, as well as me, perhaps that we share that we need someone else present. So I think presence is a huge gift to give to people, it’s our time, it’s the now. And when we fully dedicated to people, I think it’s a wonderful kind of space to come at that from so I appreciate where you’re coming from in terms of learning that path. So that’s amazing there. So thank you for sharing that. You know, I also want to thank you for what you just said there also about the value that you’ve learned, and, you know, working with other people and the collaborations of people. And that’s one of the things that we want to talk about here on the platform is that there’s a lot of unity through disability, that we can really come together and do a lot of good for one another. And it doesn’t matter, our beliefs about other different types of things, what politics we have, what religion we do, or have or don’t have, or your sports team, your fro or whatever it is, you know, when we come together and really work together to help serve others, we see that we have more in common than we do different. And it feels really good to be a benefit and help with other people. And I recognize that, you know, our independent living network does so much more than its size, relatively small compared to a lot of different other kind of state, kind of nonprofit networks that do good work. And so although we’re relatively small, I think our impact is so much larger than our size. So never under estimating the size of a group of people to make some change, because it’s really, truly anything that really ever has in a way. So I want to acknowledge that you are somebody that works I know very closely with a lot of people that are really working hard to make some change up there in Tallahassee throughout the different centers and support us and they’re doing that on a you know, one to one, and also a large group level, you know, you’re marshaling a lot of people who have a lot of different roles and responsibilities to come together and communicate and problem solve complex issues and have courageous conversations that might say, and to do that, and to do it with the kind of, you know, finesse and authenticity that you have. You’re no nonsense person, you know, I don’t have to wonder what’s on Beth’s mind all no good and well, because you’ll share it and so I really appreciate that no, it’s refreshing and you do in a respectful way it’s it’s good good to just be you know, kind of Frank and authentic and upfront and honest and and be able to willing to go into conversations to do to have courageous conversations about what needs to be done and ideas for you know, complex issues and not to be afraid to, you know, go into that so I appreciate the energy and enthusiasm you have to do. To the creativity that you have in going about what you do as well, to problem solve, you know, we definitely need somebody in your position there to really think about innovative solutions and what’s next on the horizon. And, and that’s more ambiguous than ever. And so I know you’re very creative in being able to do that, and Marshal those kinds of things together. So, you know, I want to acknowledge you in those areas in terms of how you are in terms of your efforts and character that you shown in your investment towards the Independent Living network and Floridians with disability. So I wanted to acknowledge you for that, Beth.

Beth Myers  1:00:34

Hey, thank you so much, Tony. I, you know, I appreciate the kind words that was gracious and thank you.

Tony Delisle  1:00:40

So we have a closing question that we tend to ask everybody, as well. And again, you know, kind of goes to your own philosophy of independent living. But to you, Beth Meyers, what is the independent life?

Beth Myers  1:00:53

Choice, freedom to choose is what independent living is, if you choose to live at a group home, that’s your choice, if you choose to live in an apartment, that’s your choice, if you choose to shelter in place, that’s your choice. It’s because that one action, if we take that away, I What do we have, and so the choice to be what we want to be and who we want to be, I’m about removing barriers, Call me if you need barriers removed, I’m really good at that there are other things not so much. But I believe that the ability to make a choice is is so critical. And that’s, again, why I love you know, the IML philosophy, we are consumer controlled, equal opportunity and not a problem to be solved. So it’s the choice to be who you need to be.

Tony Delisle  1:01:54

Yeah, the relationship between having choice is dependent upon having opportunities, and Centers for Independent Living in the ion network, really offer people with disabilities more opportunities than they would have had they not been exposed to a Center for Independent Living. And so I think being able to have more choices, because you are exposed to having more opportunities is always a great thing. So in that choice, fundamentally, is freedom, you know, to be free to make those choices. One distinction I want to piggyback on in terms of your response there, that’s also part of the Independent Living philosophy is to make informed choices, and to have the independence to make whatever choice that the people we’re working with one to make, you know, we give them the information, and they can make the choice that they think is best for them. And it might not be the choice that we are encouraging them to make themselves. One of the examples would be is that with this platform, decided to be pro vaccine in our messaging is a important thing for people with disabilities, in terms of health outcomes, but also getting back into the community and has been impacted their ability to work or go to school, or just get even, you know, essential items and groceries and everything else like that, yeah, that it could be a really good thing. And so I’m pushing that end of it. And that’s the information that I’m having. But I respect and trying to better understand why people don’t need vaccine. You know, with disability, there’s very good reasons for it. And so there’s no judgment on others that might be not on board with with, you know, US pushing a pro vaccine message, but might have their good reasons and want to better understand what those reasons are and respect them. But at the same time, for me and my perspective, if someone decides not to get one that, again, is one of give them the right information that I know of to the best of my abilities, they make the informed choice that they want to make.

Beth Myers  1:03:44

And there are ramifications to choices, there are actions, there are consequences, however, is the point of saying I know what’s best for you, and then allowing an individual to make the right choice, because we don’t know what’s best for anybody at all.

Tony Delisle  1:03:59

So true, we could be 100% wrong on this. You know, time will tell.

Beth Myers  1:04:03

 Well, you know, I think it’s it’s just being able to support informed choice, you’re right, it’s really important that that’s our job is to bring information to the present and communicate it in a way that is acceptable. And I think that that is it’s so so important. And our CILs do such a great job.

Tony Delisle  1:04:23

Yeah, that’s the thing is communicate the way that people can understand and act on. And that’s a very important thing. Independent Living is made up, as you know, a lot of times very small steps and small actions, but it’s no small thing. At the end of the day. 

Beth Myers  1:04:36

I think we meet people where they are and I love that especially in this community where we have people that they might have just recently been in a car accident and there’s a lot of things that are going on with this moment with this person. And we’re able to meet that person in their place and I just think it’s the beautiful it is. It’s an honor I do miss consumers, I can tell you that. But it’s on-

Tony Delisle  1:05:04

Yeah, you’re in a high administrative type role.

Beth Myers  1:05:06

I don’t get to… I missed that. But it’s it’s an honor to meet that person in that space and allow them to navigate through that and and to be present so..

Tony Delisle  1:05:19

Well, you’re one of those rare codified breeds that can be so good with working directly with people with and without disability. So I can see why you miss it. And I bet the people that you work with miss you very much, I echo that some of my most favorite time is working with people directly, and learn so much and grow so much just from those interactions. And, and I miss it to you, we get kind of removed from those positions having to do the responsibilities that you’re doing nowadays, which is to be an administrator and advocate and to oversee and make sure people are compliant, to make sure people have the resources they need to succeed. And having that your skill set directly working with people. Now being in a position where you’re making decisions that are going to be related to leveraging human material and financial resources to direct services is huge. Because oftentimes people are good at one or the other, but not both. That’s where it’s possible. And it happens you’ll be able to do that in the fluency is huge, but also to be able to help inform you and knowing what’s best for people. You have been working directly with people boots on the ground, and are making decisions that are kind of high level but come from an understanding that’s very grassroots in its nature. So I’m glad you brought that full circle as well Beth, Well, hey, I appreciate you having a conversation with us. It’s so enjoyable to talk to you, we have a lot more to talk about and look forward to invite you on for other episodes and discussions. I foresee hoping to bring you into other conversations to better understand what’s going on is going to be imperative with others and to understand the situation is to also to be able to do better with the situation because when we can understand more, we can do more. And I appreciate being along this path with you Beth. It’s an honor and privilege to work with you and I look forward to having more conversations with you.

Beth Myers  1:07:07

Pleasure is all mine and thank you for this is like this is very exciting. This podcast. I’m very excited about it. And I know it’s going to grow I think this is really very important and, and thank you for the work that you do. I’m grateful for that. I look forward to being on anytime. Thank you for this opportunity. It’s been great. I appreciate it.

Tony Delisle  1:07:28

Wherever it takes us. It will be onward and upward. Thanks again and we’ll

Beth Myers  1:07:33

Okay. All right, my friend. I’ll talk to you later.

Tony Delisle  1:07:37

Thank you Beth.

Amy Feutz  1:07:41

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 for call us at 352-378-7474. Thanks for joining us. Until next time, support, advocate and empower each other to live the independent life.