1 in 4 people have a disability.

That’s nearly 1 in 4; however, it is not only people with disabilities who are concerned about disability-related issues. Over 20.9% of families in the United States have one or more members with a disability.

What is RAMP?

RAMP is a non-profit, non-residential Center for Independent Living (CIL) that emulates the Independent Living Philosophy with a mission to build an inclusive community that encourages individuals with disabilities to reach their full potential. RAMP services enrich individual’s lives. Oftentimes we meet with individuals who have experienced a traumatic or life-changing event (i.e. child recently diagnosed with a disability, accident resulting in permanent disability, etc.). These life-changing events can leave an individual reeling, as well as their family, and not knowing where to turn or what to do. It is this grassroots effort and philosophy to “meet someone where they are at” that drives this organization.

Over 51% of RAMP staff and board of directors are individuals with disabilities and this peer-to-peer support from RAMP staff is a key factor in the successful outcomes RAMP produces.  RAMP is the only Center for Independent Living that serves Boone, DeKalb, Stephenson, and Winnebago Counties as well as the only agency providing advocacy AND independent living services for persons with disabilities which supports them in remaining independent in their own homes in the community. Most agencies focus on one disability (such as developmental disabilities or mental illness) and specific services (such as a sheltered workshop or counseling). These services and agencies are very much needed, however; RAMP is different. We provide services to anyone with a disability, regardless of their disability, age or economic status. We wrap our services around each person’s needs versus trying to make them fit specific program guidelines and parameters. We run the gamut from finding one person accessible housing while another learns how to manage their own money, someone else wants to pursue a career and another needs advocacy with being treated equitably.

Our Mission

RAMP’s mission is to build an inclusive community that encourages individuals with disabilities to reach their full potential. We take a creative approach to find resources and opportunities available to team up with individuals with disabilities to access the community where we live, work and play. 

Our History

In 1978, a man named Ken Kerns met Jim Hamilton and Jim was struck by the fact that Ken, this nice, bright, passionate guy who happened to use a wheelchair, was not working. Jim seized the opportunity to enlist his help and together they wrote a grant to begin RAMP.

“It was very seat of the pants. We were doing something that was brand new and because it was people with disabilities doing it, other people with disabilities could relate to us,” explained Kerns, who became the first Executive Director of RAMP in 1980.

Today, RAMP serves over 1,000 people annually from four full time offices serving Boone, DeKalb, Stephenson and Winnebago counties providing over 25,000 hours in community action and advocacy – all because a few people took a chance on an individual using a wheelchair.

Building on that, RAMP now offers a full continuum of services from four offices for individuals with disabilities, any age, any disability, so they can live, learn, work and play in our community.

View our Annual Report

Control and direct your own life

A Center for Independent Living is a non-profit, non-residential organization assisting people with all types of disabilities, regardless of age, to control and direct their own lives. Centers for Independent Living are extraordinary organizations that are operated by people with disabilities who, themselves, have been successful in establishing independent lives. These people have the training and the personal experience to know exactly what is needed to live independently. And, they share a deep commitment to assisting other people with disabilities to become more independent.

What is independent living?

Essentially is it living just like everyone else – having opportunities to make decisions that affect one’s life, having the ability to pursue activities of one’s own choosing – limited only in the same ways that one’s non-disabled neighbors are limited.

Most Americans take for granted the opportunities that they have regarding living arrangements, employment, means of transportation, social and recreational activities, and other aspects of everyday life. For people with disabilities however, the pursuit of independence and the realization of fundamental human rights is a relatively new concept. It was not too long ago that people with disabilities were routinely abandoned in institutions or hidden away in an upstairs room by family members.

The philosophy of the Independent Living Movement became: “All people, regardless of disability, have the right and responsibility to assume control over their own lives.” As one consumer stated, “I may not be able to put on my own shirt in the morning, but it is my choice which shirt I wear.”

Independent Living is, therefore, the right of all people, regardless of age, type or extent of disability to:

  • Live in the community as opposed to living in an institution
  • Have the same range of choices as everyone else in housing, transportation, education and employment
  • Participate in the social, economic and political life of their communities
  • Live as responsible, respected members of their communities, with all of the duties and privileges that this entails
  • Have the opportunity to unfold their potential

Board Officers

President – Alan Zais, Winnebago County Housing Authority

Past President – Jessica Koltz, Rasmussen College

Vice President – Arles Hendershott Love, Milestone

Treasurer – Craig Fetty, Raymond James Associates

Secretary – Kim Schweitzer, Aka Resources

Board Members

Jurea Crudup, Swedish American Hospital & Awaken Foundation

Bill Haynes, Retired from RAMP

Joe Marshall, Retired from Landstar

Lafakeria Vaughn, Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office

John J. Wett, DeKalb County Youth Services