People’s Voice Newsletter: Winter 2018

That’s My IL: Darrell Wahl

What does “That’s My IL” mean? It means something different to each person who comes through our doors. IL philosophy values dignity, resourcefulness, and freedom of choice for all people with disabilities. The way someone overcomes barriers to living independently is a core part of what “That’s My IL” stands for. In this issue, we will highlight the story of Darrell Wahl.


1) Tell us about yourself.

My name is Darrell Wahl. I was born on August 17, 1949 in Harvey, North Dakota. I was diagnosed with Stage III Cerebral Palsy at childbirth and my disability affects my mobility.


2.) Tell us the story of your disability (how did it affect your life, your relationships, your living situation).

At age 13, I was admitted to Grafton State School and lived there 12 years. In 1975, the school began releasing people with disabilities that could live independently. Afterwards, I moved to Grand Forks and lived in a group home as I developed the independent living skills needed to transition into the community.

When I was young, I used to view my disability as an obstacle. However, I now live my life with a more positive attitude because my disability is just part of who I am. My disability has allowed me to connect with other people with disabilities and develop lasting friendships.


3.) What are some of the barriers you have overcome and are proudest of?

Some of the achievements I am proudest of include living independently in my own home for the past 42 years and cooking meals at home. I am also an active member on several boards throughout the state of North Dakota. I currently serve on the board of the North Dakota State Council on Developmental Disabilities, the Tenant Association at Milton Young Towers and I am the Board Vice-President of Self-Advocacy Solutions.


4.) How has Independence, Inc. benefited your life?

The services offered by this organization have been off the charts. Independence, Inc. has assisted me in improving my independence. I would not be on the state board today without the assistance of Independence, Inc. They are the ones that really supported me throughout the application process.


5.) What message would you like to send to other people with disabilities?

Don't be scared to get some assistance if you need it because it will enrich your life. Don't give up on your goals and aspirations because you have a disability. You can still achieve great things in your life despite the barriers you will overcome.

Peer Mentoring is No Joke

By: Trampes Brown, Peer Mentor Specialist

One day a blind guy is sitting in his office, an individual who is deaf, and one that is non-verbal walk into the room…  no, this is not the beginning of the joke a Rabbi, Pastor and the Dalai Lama walk into a bar. Although, I think we may have a good start. The three person meeting I described was myself being blind, Christy Coughlin being deaf and Creighton Reed being a non-verbal individual. Christy and Creighton were my first mentoring match at Independence. They continue to work on American Sign Language skills together and have proven how beneficial this program can be for people with disabilities in our community.  For example, “at first Creighton was only able to fingerspell words to me. As we have continued to practice, he is gaining new words all the time. He is fun to work with” said Coughlin. The ability for Christy to use her knowledge and experience provides her the opportunity to be involved and develop in many different ways. Creighton is grateful to work with Christy and recently described how the program has benefited him thus far. Reed stated, “Christy is a good teacher” and “signing personally helps me”.

Peer Mentoring at has evolved into a valuable program at Independence, Inc. For more information or to enroll as a peer mentor, please contact myself at 701-839-4724 or

My Voice


By: Scott Burlingame, Executive Director


In this edition of The People’s Voice, we highlight the last year of accomplishments at Independence, Inc. and in the local Independent Living Movement. As a change based agency, it can be easy to identify the hard work ahead of us and forget to appreciate our past achievements. Here are a few of my favorite accomplishments over the past year.

In January, Independence, Inc. celebrated Ed Roberts Day for the first time ever. Ed Roberts is the father of the Independent Living Movement and his life was a story that needs to be told. The Minot Daily News was kind enough to publish a letter to the editor I wrote about Robert’s life, and we had a small celebration in our office. I appreciate this because as long as we celebrate his life and honor his legacy, the story of Ed Roberts will never end.

Over the summer, Independence, Inc. worked with the guys from InDak Media to shoot a series of educational videos highlighting the local disability rights movement. These videos focus on topics such as advocacy, living at home, disability pride, and the values of our organization. I look forward to using this videos as yet another tool to tell the greater community about the mission of the Independent Living Movement.

At the end of September, we completed the first-ever Community Leadership Academy. The program helped nurture nine dedicated advocates and prepared them to become engaged in our community. However, this did not happen in a vacuum. As a result of providing quality services to individuals for many years, we were able to identify potential advocates who trusted us enough to show up for six weeks in a row to learn about topics such as board responsibilities, fiscal management, Robert’s Rules of Order, public speaking and professionalism. These leaders invested their time and effort in our movement because they have seen the value of our mission and that is pretty special.

I hope you enjoy this year-end review and we all look forward to serving our community going forward.

Upcoming Events

Ed Roberts Day- January 23, 2018

Join us for our 2nd Annual Ed Roberts Day Open House on Tuesday, January 23, 2018 from 1:00 to 4:00 PM at Independence, Inc. The event will include a special viewing of the film, Lives Worth Living at 2:00 PM followed by an art activity, games and refreshments. Admission is free and open to the public. For more information please contact, Independence, Inc. at 701-839-4724.

Chili Bowl III Fundraiser- February 1, 2018

Independence Inc. invites community members to attend the 3rd Annual Chili Bowl Fundraiser on Thursday, February 1, 2018 from 5:00 to 8:00 P.M. at the Sleep Inn & Suites in Minot. Event tickets can be purchased for $20.00 each (price includes all-you-can-eat chili samples and raffle entry). Tickets can be purchased in advance at Independence Inc. (2000 E. Burdick Expressway, Suite C. Minot, ND 58701) or at the door. Youth tickets must be purchased at the event. Proceeds will benefit the operations of Independence, Inc.