Legislation can set the path, but it is people who make the journey successful.
That was the message Tuesday as two legislators – one from Congress and the other from the State House – joined in the 25th anniversary of the Ocean State Center for Independent Living (OSCIL).
Congressman James Langevin, citing the accident that rendered him a paraplegic in 1980, traced the passage of legislation that has shaped how we, as a society, deal with people with disabilities. Prior to passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, Congress approved the Rehabilitation Act in 1973 but didn’t provide funding for independent living centers until five years later. The Ocean State center opened in 1988.
Langevin recognized OSCIL board chairman Henry Tarlian and executive director Lorna Ricci for their passionate and dedicated leadership and the OSCIL staff, some of who have been with the agency for 20 years. Ricci is the founding executive director of the agency.
“This is not only a testament to their own commitment and expertise, but to the positive culture and success fostered by OSCIL in its mission to provide Rhode Islanders with disabilities the highest level possible of independence and integration in our communities,” said Langevin.
Warwick Representative Eileen Naughton, who talked of her frequent breakfasts with Ricci to go over issues impacting the disabled, said it is not easy to change people’s mindset so that those who are disabled can enjoy their lives.
“It is fortunate for all of us that Lorna Ricci is executive director,” she said. And while a lot has been accomplished, Naughton added, “As you know, we’re not done.”
Held at the Airport Radisson Hotel, the celebration featured a breakfast punctuated with raffles of donated goods and services that ranged from jewelry to restaurant certificates and theater tickets.
A sampling of typical OSCIL services includes individual and community advocacy, information and referral, services for the deaf, nursing home transition, assessment services and peer support. The agency provided direct services to 318 people for the 2012 fiscal year. It reached another 2,000 through presentations and outreach and another 1,125 through its information and referral program. In the same year, OSCIL’s home access program assisted 170 people to make their homes more accessible and completed 42 major home projects.
“Everyone here has been a champion in the fight to empower people with disabilities across the state; and as someone who lives with the challenges of a disability, I am truly inspired by all your efforts,” Langevin said.
The Congressman said the rights and opportunities afforded to people with disabilities today “would never have been possible without people like you changing the hearts and minds of our communities.”
He closed, saying, “At the end of the day, it is our abilities, not our disabilities, that define who we are and what we can accomplish. And together, we can accomplish anything.”