ECNV Celebrates It’s 28th Anniversary on April 1

March 30, 2010 at 2:22 pm Leave a comment

Celebration Hats It’s hard to believe but the ENDependence Center of Northern Virginia (ECNV) is 28 years old today! That’s almost 3 decades of providing services to people with disabilities in the Northern Virginia area.

Here’s the history of ECNV:

Back in 1981, members of Handicaps Unlimited of Northern Virginia (HUNV), a local coalition of people with disabilities, served on the Fairfax County Committee on the International Year of Disabled Persons (IYDP). One of the goals of that committee was to establish an independent living center (ILC) for Northern Virginia.

The help of individuals with disabilities and community activists from Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, and Falls Church was enlisted, and a small subcommittee, chaired by Tony Young, a resident of Fairfax, was formed to plan and write a proposal for an ILC.

The committee’s vision was to establish a community resource center that could:

  • Assist persons with disabilities to find accessible housing, transportation, and personal assistant services necessary for community living.
  • Provide independent living skills training, and information about community services and resources serving the disability community.
  • Inform citizens with disabilities about their rights and provide them with training to enhance their self- and group advocacy skills.
  • Augment and encourage the individual’s efforts through peer counseling and support.
  • Provide training and referral of personal assistants through a registry that the center would maintain and update.

The committee that prepared the proposal leading to the founding of ECNV was comprised of volunteers who spent nights, weekends, and holidays drafting and redrafting the proposal, and then they presented it to the Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services (DRS).

DRS representatives liked the proposal and worked with the IYDP Committee to submit it to the U.S. Department of Education. Several months of waiting followed, but finally, in September 1981 the center was funded!

DRS decided to award HUNV a contract to operate the ILC for Northern Virginia, which was named ENDependence Center of Northern Virginia. The name was chosen to emphasize the ECNV’s mission to end unnecessary dependence by individuals with disabilities and to encourage them to take control of their own lives through self-directed decision-making.

Founder and first Executive Director of ECNV, Tony Young cuts the ribbon at the Grand OpeningThe actual date of ECNV’s Grand Opening celebration was Thursday, April 1, 1982 – a memorable day (not only because it’s April Fools’ Day), because its auspicious choice humorously speaks to the perseverance of the hardworking, core group of people whose vision brought ECNV to fruition despite the abundance of nay-sayers.

ECNV’s Grand Opening was a lively, community affair, well attended by persons with a wide variety of disabilities, political leaders, government agency staff, volunteers, community activists and local service providers from non-profit and for-profit business communities. HUNV successfully operated ECNV for three years from 1982 until the end of 1984. In January 1985, ECNV was incorporated as a freestanding, not-for-profit corporation and HUNV relinquished its formal affiliation with the center.

ECNV has had five homes since it was established in 1982. First, it was located in an office building on South Ninth Street in Arlington. Then, in June 1983, it moved into a freestanding building on North Ninth Street, directly adjacent to the Ballston Metro Station. Urban redevelopment caused ECNV to move to an office building near the Arlington Courthouse. In 1999, ECNV moved to storefront space at the Clarendon Metro Station in Arlington. In January 2009, ECNV moved to its current location at the Courthouse Metro Station (2300 Clarendon Blvd., Ste 305).

ECNV's Open HouseECNV’s current space was chosen because it was a space that would work, or could be made to work, for people with disabilities. Getting to ECNV is very straightforward for those using public transportation; the building, 2300 Clarendon Boulevard, is located right next door to the main Arlington County building. It includes a conference room with state-of-the-art assisted listening equipment. Even after a year and a few months, ECNV is still learning about our new location and changes are sure to be made in the future.

With our geographic proximity to the nation’s capital, advocacy by ECNV staff and volunteers over the years has been instrumental in securing the enactment of local, state and federal legislation that ensures the civil rights of persons with disabilities.

In recent years, ECNV has collaborated with other Virginia CILs and the Disability Services Boards (DSBs) to successfully advocate for adoption of legislation by the Virginia General Assembly that has significantly increased the services available to assist Virginians with disabilities.

ECNV continues to provide the services its founders wanted and we are constantly looking to expand all of those services so that we can serve all people with disabilities. We currently are introducing a new Travel Training program (being jointly undertaken with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, WMATA, and the District of Columbia Center for Independent Living) in hopes that teaching people with disabilities how to best utilize Public Transportation, can help to end dependence.

Follow ECNV on Twitter!ECNV is moving toward the future and we are proud to introduce our new website (www.ecnv.org) that has new and cutting-edge technology (like Twitter and this blog). We have made every attempt to make all this new stuff accessible to all, but if you find anything that is not accessible, please let us know. We will do our best to address them.

In retrospect, ECNV has come a long way since it was merely the dream of a small group of Northern Virginians with disabilities. It has served its intended purpose as a vehicle for empowering individuals with disabilities to take charge of their own lives and a focal point for facilitating disability rights advocacy in order to secure needed social change. New challenges lie ahead in the new millennium. There are few obstacles that can stand in the way of our success, however, if we meet new challenges in the same spirit with which we faced former ones.

By Tony Trott, ECNV Peer Mentor & Editor

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