Advocacy for Independence

February 2024

Black History Month and Advocacy for Disability Rights

As we celebrate Black History Month in 2024, let’s remember back to 1977. The 504 sit-ins were a series of nationwide protests against the lack of enforcement of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibited discrimination against disabled people and people with disabilities in programs and activities receiving federal funding. Some 150 people in San Francisco occupied the Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) Federal Building until demands of the movement were met.

Government opposition to the protest led to the water being turned off in the building, phone lines being disconnected to prevent communication, and denying protesters food, water, and medication. Many community organizations provided support to the protesters. One group that should be especially credited for their role is the Black Panther Party (BPP). Black disability activists Brad Lomax and Chuck Jackson were both participants in the sit-ins as well as responsible for coordinating the hot meals that the BPP provided to protesters.

Brad Lomax, center, next to the activist Judy Heumann at a rally in 1977 at Lafayette Square in Washington.

Lomax had multiple sclerosis and was a wheelchair user, and the 504 sit-ins only scratches the surface of his significance in the disability rights movement. Two years earlier in 1975, Lomax identified the need for additional disability services to be available in his East Oakland community. While meeting with Ed Roberts, one of the founders of the first Center for Independent Living (CIL) located in Berkley, Lomax proposed and succeeded in setting up a CIL in East Oakland to provide peer counseling and attendant referral services to other disabled people in his area.

It is important that we recognize the work that has been done and is being done by Black disability advocates, both during Black History Month and all year-round.

For further resources on the intersection of Black identity and disability identity, please access the links below:

Exploring the Intersection of Black History and Disability Inclusion

Black Disabled and Proud: College Students with Disabilities

Understanding the Policing of Black, Disabled Bodies

Disclaimer: The information and links provided in this newsletter do not necessarily reflect the views of CILO’s staff, management, and Board of Directors.


CILO Advocacy Updates


The Center for Independent Living Option’s (CILO) 2024 advocacy plan is full of opportunities for you to get involved in the work we are doing to grow and better our community.


Disability Q*mmunity 

CILO's Disability Q*mmunity is a peer support and self-advocacy group for 2SLGBTQIA+ people with disabilities to talk about shared experiences and take action to make our communities safer and more accessible for us. People of all identities are welcome at the Disability Q*mmunity. Our next meeting will take place on Tuesday, March 12th at 6:00PM. Contact Dee Henry for more information!


CILO Community Walk and Rolls

Starting in mid-2024, our advocacy program will begin hosting CILO Community Walk and Rolls. These events will take place in local areas around Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, where we will invite consumers, neighbors, and community organizations to join us in a community audit. A community audit means that we, as community members, will come together to get to know each other and to assess the current state of our community in terms of accessibility and mobility freedom. CILO will provide a short educational experience so that all participants are aware of what accessibility means and how to notice and report ADA violations.


Please contact Dee Henry if you or your organization are interested in being part of the planning committee for CILO Walk and Rolls.


Local Advocacy News


Breaking Silences

The Breaking Silences Advocacy Committee (BSAC) is a group of disability advocates who started meeting in May 2020 to focus on efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of emergency preparedness for individuals with disabilities. Their main goal is to create an active space for advocates to work together to develop and create community awareness and change in the communities that we live, work, and participate in.


CILO’s Disability Rights and Advocacy Specialist, Dee Henry, serves on BSAC’s Accommodations Subcommittee, which advocates for inclusivity throughout Ohio by means of accessibility and disability accommodations. The subcommittee’s most recent efforts focused on making accessibility improvements to the Ohio Statehouse. One specific issue is the lack of a universal changing table in the building. You can learn more about the movement for universal changing tables on Changing Spaces Ohio’s website.


Anyone who is passionate about disability rights advocacy can be part of BSAC. The meetings offer the opportunity to speak with local/state officials, organizations, and stakeholders regarding the right for people with disabilities to be involved in decision-making that impacts our lives.


Interested in joining the Breaking Silences Advocacy Committee? Contact BSAC leader Maria Matzik.


All BSAC meetings have live C-Print Captioning and are recorded. The recording link is available upon request. A C-Print transcript is sent to Committee participants and is available upon request. An ASL interpreter is available upon request for any meeting without guest presenters. Most meetings, with guest presenters, have ASL interpreters streaming live. 


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