CIDNY Receives 40th Anniversary Proclamation from NYC Council

The Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York (CIDNY for short) was honored with a proclamation from NYC Council for our 40th anniversary today. It was presented by Speaker Corey Johnson, who thanked us for our advocacy by and for people with disabilities. He said that the City “needs to do better” to reduce barriers and make the city more accessible.

We are grateful for the recognition of our efforts and our history as the first independent living center in New York. And we agree that our work is far from over.

You can see the proclamation in our Manhattan office.

It reads:

The New York City Council is proud to honor the Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York (CIDNY) for its 40 years of outstanding service bringing people with disabilities closer to full and equal access to health care, housing, public services, education, employment, voting, emergency planning, and transportation; and

WHEREAS:  On July 26, 1990, the United States enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the world’s first comprehensive declaration of equality for people with disabilities and one of our nation’s most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation. In addition to prohibiting discrimination and guaranteeing that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life, the ADA also mandated the establishment of TDD/telephone relay services; and

WHEREAS: The significance of the ADA cannot be overstated. In the United States, nearly one in five Americans lives with a disability. In New York City alone, nearly one in eight residents live with a disability. For people with disabilities, the ADA is a monumental piece of civil rights legislation, providing them with increased access to critical services while empowering them to reach their greatest potential. The ADA has also benefitted their loved ones as well as every person without a disability too for it has meant greater inclusion, diversity and community – all the traits that have defined our nation since its earliest days; and

WHEREAS: CIDNY, a non-profit organization founded in 1978, serves as the voice of people with disabilities in New York City. Its staff and board include social workers, lawyers, and other highly qualified professionals, most of whom are people with disabilities. Racially and ethnically diverse, they all share a strong belief in self-determination and bring invaluable life experiences and insights to their critical work; and

WHEREAS: From its start four decades ago, CIDNY has passionately advocated for civil rights and a strong safety net of benefits and services, while ensuring that the concerns of people with disabilities are heard whenever and wherever issues affecting their lives are being decided. Additionally, it advises government officials on ways to make public services like transportation, health insurance, education, and entitlements work better; monitors public and private initiatives that affect people with disabilities and offers constructive solutions to problems; and conducts a wide range of training and technical assistance activities to public officials, health care workers, and other service providers on disability awareness and disability-related issues; and

WHEREAS: Since the ADA was enacted 28 years ago, CIDNY has witnessed even more people with disabilities strive and succeed in education and in the workplace, live independently in the community, and access and benefit from services provided by schools, hospitals, and public transportation – all of which has greatly strengthened our city, state and nation; and

WHEREAS: Even with the ADA, removing all barriers for people with disabilities has remained a challenging goal. Yet, thanks to the collective action of activists and organizations like CIDNY, great advances continue to be made in society, in courtrooms, and in our communities; now, therefore

BE IT KNOWN: That the New York City Council is proud to honor the Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York in celebration of its 40TH ANNIVERSARY and for its extraordinary service to people with disabilities throughout New York City’s five boroughs and beyond.

Signed this 18th day of July in the year Twenty Eighteen.

Yes We CAN: CIDNY Action Network Members Share Their Experiences, Featuring Elizabeth Melas

For this series, students from Hunter College interviewed CIDNY Action Network members and staff about their work with us and what brought them to organizing. Author Nadia Guennouni is currently working towards her Masters in Mental Health Counseling.

Elizabeth Melas was born and raised primarily in Greece as an American citizen living abroad, until she came to the United States for high school in 2004. During her junior year of high school, Elizabeth developed a large tumor around her brain stem that required immediate removal. The removal of the tumor left lasting damage that caused neurological ataxia, which in turn caused speech and vision problems as well as the inability to walk. She went on to get her Bachelor’s degree in International Criminal Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

“I did not let any of that stop me from being me,” Elizabeth says. She identifies as an activist, first and foremost. Elizabeth is deeply rooted in justice in all forms, particularly political, social, and environmental. She is a strong advocate for the rights of people with disabilities, the rights of immigrants, and the right to a clean environment.

Her first foray into activism was at a Bernie Sanders rally in 2014, which changed how Elizabeth viewed her role in the world of activism. Prior to that rally, she always had an interest in activism, even as a child. Elizabeth says, “I’ve been an activist mentally since I was 7 years old, but I did not know how to get involved until recently when I started going to rallies.”

Since that rally in 2014, Elizabeth has gone to several more rallies and marches, even speaking to a crowd of 13,000 people. Elizabeth has also participated in events with New York Progressive Action Network (NYPAN) and Rise and Resist. NYPAN mobilizes citizens and advocates for, and defends, the well-being of the people within its communities through conferences and lobbying at the local and state level. Rise and Resist (RaR) are a direct action group committed to opposing, disrupting, and defeating any government act that threatens democracy, equality, and civil liberties. CIDNY partners with RaR on some actions and events, particularly on health care and subway accessibility.

According to Elizabeth, “Facebook has made it so easy to find events and organizations to get involved in.” Facebook is also what brought Elizabeth to CIDNY. She joined the group a few years ago, but became more involved in the past year through a mutual friend she shared with our Executive Director, Susan Dooha.
Group photo of advocates at Lobby Day in Albany with a multi-colored striped painting the background.

Elizabeth has taken trips to Albany with the CIDNY Action Network to lobby for the rights of people with disabilities. She finds this very fulfilling because “instead of talking about politicians, I’m actually talking to the politicians trying to affect change.” She has also gone to the Supreme Court of New York recently to fight against the MTA. Elizabeth views these lobby trips as doing her civic duty for the community. She intends to continue to work with the CIDNY Action Network to lobby Albany for the rights of the disabled and she hopes to one day lobby Congress in Washington DC. As she tells it, “it really feels like my voice matters and that is all I really want.”

Campaign for New Leaders

We are launching our first crowdfunding campaign from May 10-June 10th! Please join us in raising money and awareness to support our Campaign for New Leaders. Together we can cultivate new disability organizers in NYC.

Our goal is to raise $40,000 to fund:

  • developing new organizers to work on reducing barriers for people with disabilities
  • providing accessible transit and meals for lobby days in Albany
  • media training and creating peer videos on transportation, health care, and other advocacy issues
  • getting people to rallies and events and supporting our participants in telling their own stories
  • building awareness on how independent living centers (ILCs) work for you and your community

We can’t do it without your support! Please donate here. Come back to this page for updates on the campaign, post in the comments, share on social media, and check out our stories. Stay tuned for updates! 

Monday, May 14th: We have an anonymous matching donor until midnight! Every dollar you donate today will be worth double. 

Monday, May 21st: CAMPAIGN EXTENDED. We haven’t reached our goal yet, so we’re extending our campaign until June 10th. It’s not too late to donate and spread the word.

Friday, June 1st: We’re halfway there! Please give if you can and share with your friends.

Monday, June 11th: We didn’t quite make our goal, but it’s not too late to give to this Campaign. Thank you to everyone who supported us by donating and sharing. We’ll still be able to do a lot and look forward to joining you at lobby visits and rallies to support New Yorkers with disabilities.

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