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Voices for Independence | TRPIL Community Center
Voices for Independence | TRPIL Community Center

Life Changing Is ... Empowering Independence

Voices for Independence/TRPIL Community Center

“We believe that ‘nothing about us without us’ is a true statement.”

A ribbon-cutting ceremony at the newly renovated Voices for Independence/TRPIL Community Center symbolized more than a celebration. It was a life-changing moment for how the center will be able to support people in the community with disabilities.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Shona Eakin, chief executive officer, Voices for Independence, says of the six-year renovation project. “We are about service, and this building is going to be used to do that.”

The 28,000-square-foot facility is located in a former YWCA on West Maiden Street in Washington, Pa. It offers training to individuals with disabilities on how to live independently.

Funding from UPMC Community HealthChoices helped make renovations possible. The renovations include a new internet cafe, health and wellness center, and accessible training kitchen.

“UPMC has been an excellent partner with us through this entire process,” Eakin says. “We are hoping that today's event highlights the fact that this is a community center where people can come in and take full advantage of our facility.”

The facility also offers advocacy and employment services, information referral, home modifications, and “assistive technology for anything you can think of.”

“Our name is Voices for Independence for a reason: because we believe you should use your voice to become as independent as possible,” Eakin says. “So, any questions about any disability issues, this is the place to come. If you have a need and you think, ‘They can't help me with that,’ I bet you're wrong.”

The community center also features weekly activities and a calendar of events.

But what makes Voices for Independence different from other organizations is that it is comprised of people with disabilities serving people with disabilities.

“We believe that ‘nothing about us without us’ is a true statement,” Eakin says. “People with disabilities living this experience should influence their independence as they go.”

Eakin says they’re proud to be centered in the heart of downtown Washington. They hope to be a beacon for the community they serve.

Eakin believes people with disabilities, whether they are acquired or something an individual ages into, oftentimes tend to isolate. She wants the opposite to happen.

“We can help people with disabilities," she says. "With any need they have, with designed services to the individual. So, your services will be unique to you. And if we don't know how to solve a problem, we'll figure it out.

"So, just come on in and be part of us and see for yourself." Eakin wants the new center to serve as a resource for the community.

Part of that plan involves listening to feedback and adapting as they go along.

"Come in now while we're on the ground floor of our program development because that's how we work,” Eakin says. “If we hear from folks that they would like a new program or a new service, that's how we develop the things that we offer.”

Eakin emphasizes she wants people to recognize that Voices for Independence designs services to meet the needs of the individual. She says “disability crosses all spectrums” and cautions against thinking “that won’t work for me” before having a chance to talk to them first.

“Whether you're blind. Whether you're deaf. Whether you're both. Whether you're a wheelchair user. Whether you are someone who aged into a disability," Eakin says. "The barriers that exist in this community for people with disabilities are the same.

“It doesn't matter how you got your disability. If there's anything that's keeping you stuck in your home, don't let it. Come talk to us. We can help."

At UPMC, Life Changing Medicine means empowering people with disabilities to live independently.

Learn more about how Voices for Independence assists people with disabilities in our communities.

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