Story and photo by Anja Benjamin
The Independent Living Council is a group of consumers who work with Ability360’s Independent Living staff to provide invaluable input and direction to the Independent Living classes and programs. All Council members are active participants from a cross section of IL programs, providing a direct link between consumers and staff, participating in regular Council meetings, and initiating projects to benefit all consumers, including the Emergency Preparedness kits project.
In addition to being Ability360 consumers, IL Council members are advocates, volunteers and leaders. They are involved in a variety of events, including the AZ Youth Leadership Forum, AzDAC Day at the Capitol, the Ability360 Independent Living Fair, and more.
Valentina Tarango, an Ability360 consumer and IL Council member, expressed how important the IL Council’s role is in providing consumers with information about resources available to them at Ability360 and beyond. The Council was established in 2008, and as Valentina has experienced, its activities have made an impact on people with and without disabilities. People with disabilities are more aware of the resources available to them, while disability awareness has been heightened in the larger community.
Valentina captured the spirit behind the IL Council as she shared, “If you have a disability, as I do, it helps you know more about the community. Before the Council, I wasn’t very involved. Now, I feel more alive.”
Are you an Ability360 IL consumer who would like to provide input and direction to the Independent Living programs? Interested in developing your advocacy and leadership skills? Join us for the IL Council Kickoff on October 27th, from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm at the Ability360 Center in the first-floor conference center. Learn about the IL Council and how you can get involved. RSVP by October 20th by calling Stacey at 602-296-0534.
During the past months, Ability360’s Independent Living Council has been busy developing Emergency Preparedness kits for other consumers with disabilities and raising the funds necessary to create the kits. To date, through hamburger and hot dog sales during Friday lunches at the Ability360 Center, the Council has raised $550, allowing the Council to sell the kits for half price at only $5 each.
Learn more about the Ability360 IL Council at www.Ability360.org or call
Ability360 Executive Assistant
A transplanted Southern belle, Anja Benjamin has lived in the Valley of the Sun for 5 years. Married to Dennis and mother to a 19-year-old cat, Jett, she loves Jimmy Fallon, Twizzlers and cheering on SEC teams. Anja has been the Executive Assistant at Ability360 for just over 5 years and is currently enrolled in a graduate program at Grand Canyon University.