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 "Living Independently in LA"

UCLA and the Westside Center for Independent Living have launched a groundbreaking online resource for people with disabilities, bringing together cutting-edge interactive mapping technology with grassroots knowledge and government databases to promote independent living.

The Living Independently in Los Angeles (LILA) information system (http://lila.ucla.edu/) enables users to navigate Los Angeles and learn about community resources-ranging from the locations of wheelchair repair shops to community service agencies to clubs and social activities-through
LILA Meeting
cyberspace. LILA was publicly launched March 19th at the Westside Center for Independent Living in Los Angeles (WCIL).

Through a collaboration of public, private and academic institutions, LILA was developed by WCIL the Advanced Policy Institute of the UCLA School of Public Policy and Social Research, in partnership with the City and County of Los Angeles. In it's development phase, major funding for LILA has been provided by Microsoft Corporation and the Community Technology Foundation of California. As the website grows and develops further, funding from the County and City of Los Angeles will allow local government data of interest to people with disabilities to be included among LILA's many resources.

"LILA is a prototype for a regionally based information system designed to narrow the digital divide and empower the disability community," said Alan Toy, UCLA project director who is overseeing the development of LILA. "LILA provides a one-stop resource center and a virtual community for people with disabilities to gather and share information online. It is a tool to take people out of their homes and into the community."

With its easily accessible resources and information, the LILA project creates shared knowledge and empowers people with disabilities by promoting independent living, adds Mary Ann Jones, executive director of the Westside Center for Independent Living.

"What makes the project truly dynamic and interactive is that LILA is an interactive project. People with disabilities throughout Los Angeles County are able to input their own experiences and knowledge into the site," Jones said Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky was instrumental in enabling LILA to receive pertinent county resources for people with disabilities, including information about social service, health and rehabilitation programs as well as data sets such as Americans with Disabilities Act access features of public buildings.

LILA Meeting
"These services are very much in demand, but it's an overwhelming task for those who need them to wade through all the agencies and programs involved," Yaroslavsky said. "Quick and easy on-line access will empower people with disabilities to take full advantage of the assistance available to them."

The website provides access to disability-related information such as equipment needs, adaptive technology, medical services, recreational programs, accessible trails and beaches, social clubs, support networks, and other social services. Ultimately, users will be able to find the access features of public buildings, such as libraries and courthouses, or map the accessible bus stops, blue parking curbs, and curb cuts to pinpoint accessible paths of travel, Toy said.

The site also features a public forum and a community bulletin board to generate discussion and participation in disability issues. There are also links to hundreds of local, state and national websites addressing a wide range of disability issues and needs.

"Microsoft has seen first-hand how advances in technology have made a strong impact on the lives of individuals with disabilities and can be a key component in enabling people with disabilities to engage with their local community," said Bruce Brooks, director of community affairs for Microsoft. "We are a proud supporter of the LILA program in its use of technology to create an information solution here in Los Angeles."

The LILA project also received support from the GTE Foundation and Hewlett Packard Corporation, which donated the server computers.

"We've been very fortunate to have gotten a lot of support for LILA from many different sources," said Toy. "I think we've captivated people with an exciting new way to share knowledge and create better communities."

Contact Alan Toy via email at atoy@ucla.edu or visit LILA at http://lila.ucla.edu for information on accessibility around Los Angeles.
by Carol Tucker

source: EnabledOnline.com - YOUR CORNER, July 2001

last update: 04-08-06
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