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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

6 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Board Member

Rating: 5

As a board member I am proud to serve this organization. Services that are provided and directions to aid the disabled are outstanding. Staff are sensitive to the needs of all. They go above and beyond their regular duties. We are very fortune to have an organization within our communities with high standards.

Judi Wisla

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have been on the board for 12 years and just finished two years as Chairman. In my years of Association with the agency, I have been extremely impressed with the staff's determination to ensure that the work they do supports the tenets of social justice. Individuals coming to independencefirst for help, will always get the support they need and will be treated with respect.

Board Member

Rating: 5

I am fortunate to have the opportunity to be a member of the IndependenceFirst Board of Directors for the past four years. IndependenceFirst is an incredible community resource. In the cause of Social Justice they provide daily assistance to members of our community with varying degrees of disability so they can live normal lives, go to work, live in their own homes and participate in all social aspects of life in the Greater Milwaukee Community. We are also a resource for other CIL's (Centers for Independent Living) and they are always looking for opportunities to collaberate with other organizations to make Milwaukee a better place to live!

Board Member

Rating: 5

As a board member I am impressed with the work the organization does for the people within the community. We cover many facets of needs, for the disabled they are provided with contacts, direction, and support. Staff acts as mentors and family. Until I became a member of the board was I aware of this caring organization. When in need there only one place to go, INDEPENDEENCE FIRST.

Previous Stories

Board Member

Rating: 5

As a board member of this organization for the past 2 years I have been exposed to the fantastic work this group does to help the communities. The work that the employees & volunteers do is outstanding. I don't believe the public understands to what degree and lengths this organization works to provide services to the disabled.
It has been a great learning experience to say the least. More people need to become involved, so that they would understand the complexities of this organization.
This group is #1.

Board Member

Rating: 5

Independence First as President Lee says it's top three in the nation for Center of Independent Living (CIL's) Independence First has amazing services and they want people to get highly involved. They are an organization that always makes sure your on top of your game to helping out people with disabilities. But also they make the staff and volunteers feel very good about themselves when there are often times award ceremonies. My story in how I got involved with independence first was word of mouth. I was at my IEP meeting for my Junior year in high school which was a few years ago. Where a representative from WI FACETS told me about this youth leadership submit that was offered through WI FACETS and also Independence First. I went to this submit and gave a week of my time and I really took a lot out of it. I thought that my whole life in having high functioning autism that if I get social security I could live off of it the rest of my life. Even though in reality I found out I couldn't when everything in life in so expensive when we went through a simulation of having SSI or SSDI and expenses. Then there were some youth leaders through WI FACETS and Independence First in where I got promoted to be on both boards. One being on the Independence First board of directors and the other being through WI FACETS Youth Information Training and Resource Center (YITRC) When I am on the board of Independence First. They really have helped me a lot to be a lot successful today then I was yesterday. Without them I probably wouldn't be where I am at today in helping out people with disabilities but also advocating strongly while I strive for independence as a whole.