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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Centers to Support the Independence of Specific Populations, Civil Rights, Disabilities, Disabled Persons Rights, Human Services

Mission: IndependenceFirst is a non-profit agency directed by, and for the benefit of, persons with disabilities. We primarily serve the four county metro Milwaukee area.  Our vision is for full inclusion of people with disabilities in every aspect of our community.  With over 20 programs to benefit independent living and access for people with disabilities, we serve thousands each year.  We’re the community’s FIRST resource when they have questions about disability and access, answering nearly 6,000 information and referral calls each year.  We serve people with all kinds of disability, in all age groups.  Over 51% of our staff, managers and Board have disabilities themselves.

Target demographics: People with disabilities of all kinds, in all age groups.  Family members or other service providers who are interested in independent living for people with disabilities.  Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha counties primarily, but some statewide programs.

Geographic areas served: Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha Counties primarily, some statewide programs

Programs: Advocacy - individual and Systemic, Assistive Technology Consultation, Independent Living Skills training for youth and adults, Benefits & Employment Counseling, Job Club, Peer Support, Information & Referral, Accessibility Consultation, Counseling & Services for Victims of Abuse who have disabilities, Personal Assistance Services, Attendant Referral, Wheelchair Sports & Adaptive Recreation for Youth and Adults, Youth Leadership Training and Skill Building, and MUCH MORE!

Community Stories

12 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

BVCILTexas

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I live in Texas and for a few years, I have "followed" Independence First via Twitter to keep abreast of IL topics. In the summer of 2010, I reached out to IF with the idea of bringing a CIL to our area. I did not know Lee or any of the staff at IL personally at that time. In the true spirit of peer mentorship, resource development, etc. Lee was very instrumental in helping me refine my ideas and giving me technical assistance. Our CIL was born October, 2010. Since that time, I have visited IF twice, continually learn from Lee and his staff and have recently been the recipient of some "mighty fine" peer mentoring services from his staff related to fiscal management. I'm looking forward to growing our center over the next several years and consider IF to be a flagship CIL that I am proud from which to learn! Thanks! Jackie Pacha, M.A., CRC, Executive Director, Brazos Valley Center for Independent Living.

1 Kelly41

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

As the director of the National Council on Independent Living, I can tell you without hesitation that Independence First is a true leader in Social Justice in our nation!

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I have had the distinct pleasure of working with IndependenceFirst over the past 5 years. I run a similar organization in San Diego County and consider IndependenceFirst to be the preeminent organization off it's type in the country!

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Independence First representatives have support the Washington County Students with Disabilities and their families for many years. They participate in the activities of the county Transition Action Committee by sharing their expertise with parents and students at Transition Fairs, attending monthly meetings and visiting schools to provide informational presentations. The help they provide is up to date, easy to understand and always helpful.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Independence First is highly regarded as one of the premier organizations in training individuals with disabilities in the area of assistive technology. From simple to complex tools, this organization finds ways to assist youth and adults in leveling the terrain.

Jan D.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I have worked with Independence First for over 20 years. They have always been on the cutting edge of ideas on how to work towards independence for people with disabilities. If someone said it couldn't be done, they would do it. From peer support, nursing home transition, heck even bingo, Lee Schulz and his staff have set the bar for the rest of us in the CIL community

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

The advocates at Independence First are savvy about their community, about the gifts people with disabilities can bring to their community, and smart about moving policies and programs forward.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Independence First is a leader in the greater Milwaukee community for individuals with disabilities, their families and professionals. I thank them for their vision and commitment!

Jill K.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

IndependenceFirst puts its money where its mouth is. More than 1/2 of the employees and board are people with disabilities themselves. The Independent Living Skills Coordinators are role models, peer supports and examples to the community as a whole but particularly to others with disabilities and their families. They are proof that people with disabilites CAN and DO succeed when given the opportunity. I've seen with my own eyes peoples' lives changed by the Independent Living philosophy and the living examples set by the staff. Independence First doesn't do FOR...they do WITH!

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

IndependenceFirst is a true leader in the greater Milwaukee area. The depth of their programs, their commitment to those they serve and their partnerships with other organizations is outstanding.