NCIL Statement on Equity & Race

This statement is also available in Word or plain text.

January 20, 2020

Introduction & Problem Statement

The 2019 Annual Conference was a flash point for discussions of race and equity within NCIL and the Independent Living Movement. These discussions were set off by xenophobic statements by NCIL’s former President, but racism and discrimination in the movement are nothing new. Many organizations and movements have grappled with this issue as they strive to dismantle centuries of systemic racism and discrimination and be more intersectional. While many attendees expressed their discomfort with these conversations, these discussions and this work are necessary for us to be a movement that addresses the independence and empowerment of all people with disabilities.

Some people have told us that they think these conversations around race are a distraction from our work on disability rights. Some people have said these conversations are divisive. We believe this work is critical to effective and inclusive disability advocacy. Further, we believe it is much more divisive to remain silent and allow people of color with disabilities to be excluded or exposed to discrimination or violence. We must commit ourselves to the promise that the IL Movement belongs to everybody with a disability. The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) will do the work necessary to build an intersectional Independent Living Movement. NCIL will work to fight racism in the Movement and elevate and support disability advocates who are people of color across the Movement. We ask for your support and participation as we engage in this work that is long overdue.

How Intersectionality and Antiracist Work Support Disability Rights

Our efforts to be intentionally antiracist and to plan our work through an intersectional lens will make us better disability rights advocates. Antiracist work and intersectionality are key pieces of effective advocacy to dismantle oppression and ableism in our society. Just as our mantra states, Nothing About Us, Without Us!, we cannot advocate for all people with disabilities if people of color with disabilities are not at the table. Our organizing and outreach must include everyone with a disability.

Multi-marginalized disabled people, especially people of color, face significant barriers to community living, economic independence, and information about Independent Living and empowerment. If we focus our advocacy priorities on the most marginalized and oppressed people with disabilities among us, we will certainly benefit all people with disabilities. We must ensure that NCIL and our CILs and SILCs are safe, welcoming places for people of color and other multi-marginalized people. This is our responsibility and we should welcome and celebrate this work. This is disability rights work; it is rooted in love, empowerment, advocacy, and the dismantling of oppression, racism, and ableism. Let us embrace it and honor it for what it is.

What NCIL Is Doing to Address Racism

NCIL has put time and effort into this work and our work is ongoing. We are also making an effort to do a better job of communicating those efforts to our members. Here are some of the things that NCIL has been doing since our conference to improve equity and inclusion within NCIL:

  • NCIL’s President is currently assembling a NCIL Task Force to bring together a team of people who will intentionally focus on race and equity, including leading this work, advising the Governing Board, and making sure that this work is effective and creates real change throughout NCIL.
  • NCIL hosted a 3-day, national, on-location training: “Disability, Diversity, and Intersectionality in CILs” to help CILs work towards achieving an intersectional, antiracist approach to disability rights work for their organizations. 67 people from CILs across the country attended this training in Atlanta. We are committed not only to transforming NCIL, but also to supporting CILs and SILCs in advancing their own knowledge and action to be antiracist.
  • NCIL’s Governing Board contracted with a nationally recognized trainer on race and equity to provide a training session and discussion on antiracism and racial equity at its October 2019 Governing Board Meeting.
  • NCIL has contracted with the trainer from the antiracism and racial equity training to:
    • Develop an antiracism and equity Action Plan
    • Provide an additional coaching session on NCIL’s work in this area
    • Hold a follow-up meeting with NCIL’s Governing Board at their next board meeting in March 2020
  • NCIL will use the Action Plan on equity and antiracism to organize, monitor, and make progress on its work in this arena. Once it’s finalized, NCIL will publicize this document so our members know exactly what we’re planning to do to address equity and racism in NCIL.
  • NCIL has continued to work on numerous strategic plan goals related to intersectionality and diversifying leadership within NCIL and the broader Independent Living Movement. Those goals include:
    • Increase representation and leadership of multi-marginalized people with disabilities throughout NCIL’s structure.
    • Participate in coalition efforts that advance civil and human rights with a focus on intersectional advocacy.
    • Increase media relationships and coverage with emphasis on ensuring diverse representation.
    • Increase representation and leadership of multi-marginalized people with disabilities throughout the Independent Living Movement.
  • The theme of NCIL’s 2020 Annual Conference on Independent Living will be “Evolution of our Revolution”. This theme is a statement of our commitment to improve NCIL, our conference, and our movement to include people of color and other multi-marginalized people with disabilities, as well as people with disabilities underrepresented in IL and others who have not been included or welcomed in NCIL or the Independent Living Movement.
  • The conference will include an entire track of workshops on antiracism, inclusion, and intersectionality to help NCIL, CILs, and SILCs learn to do this work well in their communities. “Inclusion, Intersectional Work, Race & Equity: Workshops by and for multi-marginalized people with disabilities, workshops by and for people whose disabilities are underrepresented in IL, and topics related to race, equity, and full inclusion of multi-marginalized people with disabilities in the IL Movement.” We have had tracks and workshops on intersectionality and inclusion in the past, but we hope that these workshops will be especially popular and impactful in 2020.

Commitment to Leaders of Color

The commitments herein and the work that has taken place are NCIL’s responsibility. Unfortunately, we have seen a number of people of color become undeserving recipients of criticism and threats as a result of their leadership and labor on these issues. NCIL unreservedly supports its leaders and members of color working to dismantle racism and oppression. We ask that any and all feedback or criticism be directed to NCIL’s Executive Committee or staff leadership. NCIL will not tolerate threats or attacks on individuals. NCIL recognizes and thanks the people of color within NCIL and the Disability Rights Movement who have put so much labor into advancing this work and holding NCIL accountable. NCIL wishes to specifically thank the National Alliance of Multicultural Disabled Advocates, Reyma McCoy McDeid, Keri Gray, Stan Holbrook, Jessica Jimenez, Dustin Gibson, and so many others who have poured themselves into this work, providing guidance and well-placed criticism to hold us accountable for a more equitable future together.

Vision for the Future

The Independent Living Movement is built on advocacy, love, and empowerment. We must fulfill this promise through discussions and real work to include and elevate individuals with disabilities who have been excluded or harmed. We recognize that this is only the beginning of this work. We are committed to the long-term work of transforming NCIL into an antiracist organization. We ask that you not only join us in this work but that you consider how your own organization can engage in this same work as well.


NCIL’s Executive Committee

Sarah Launderville, President

Cliff Perez, Vice-President

Reyma McCoy McDeid, Treasurer

Lou Ann Kibbee, Secretary

Sheri Burns, Regional Representatives Chair

Jessica Jimenez, Diversity Chair

Kelly Buckland, Executive Director