(Bringing Youth on Board) 

young women  in wheelchairs talking in the foreground, a young man using a walker dancing with a young lady with her arm in a cast. in the background women dancing and laughing

APRIL has and still leads an ambitious and beneficial collaboration with rural youth with disabilities, recognizing that the young people of our country are our true leaders. With the support of the University of Kansas RTC on Full Participation in Independent Living (RTC:FPIL) and other national partners, APRIL focuses on bringing rural youth into the Independent Living Movement by:

Youth Conference 

Hosting the first large-scale gathering of rural youth with disabilities and CILs at the 10th annual APRIL conference in Minneapolis.

Continuing the youth pre-conference and conference workshops until the 20th Annual Conference when youth attendance grew so large they became an official conference rather than a precon.

Establishing an ongoing Youth Steering Committee to make sure the youth conference is for youth and by youth.

Working with noted photographers to capture the youth involvement at the Conference.

Early support from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation providing stipends to youth to help cover the costs of attending Conferences and continued outreach today to find support for youth across the country to join us every year.

Providing a "Youth Wrap Up" session at the conference each year- so the youth get the last word.

Creating an entire track at the APRIL Conference geared to those New to IL or Youth.

Leadership and Mentoring

Adding 2 youth designated seats to the APRIL Board of Directors, and continuing to fill other seats with qualified youth when applicable. 

Hiring a Youth Programs Coordinator to work on growing and sustaining youth related projects nationally.

Youth Peer to Peer Establishing a Youth Peer to Peer Mentoring program where we send young leaders out to help other CILS start, improve, or begin the planning process of including youth into their programs or creating a youth focused program.

Youth Topical Calls  APRIL understands that across the country the hot topic is youth and young adults.  We understand that many Centers for Independent Living and Statewide Independent Living Councils are unsure how to get youth involved.  This year we have asked our youth expert mentors to present on topics that could assist your goals of starting a program or growing the existing youth involvement you may already have.  Every other month we will have one mentor present on a topic that is often discussed in our Youth Peer to Peer Mentoring for a nominal fee of $25 each.  We will have 30 minutes that our mentor will be presenting on the topic.  Then the following 30 minutes will be an opportunity for an open discussion amongst all callers on that topic.  During that time, we can brainstorm, share experiences, and ask questions while we learn from each other with the guidance of our mentor. We understand that not everyone is at the point in their CIL or SILC to have a peer mentoring, but we want to support and assist the best way we can with these calls. 

June 7th, 2017 3:00pm-4:00pm EST Fee for Service and Youth Programs

August 2nd, 2017 3:00-4:00 PM EST Sexuality and Youth

October 4th, 2017 3:00-4:00 PM EST Creating a Curriculum


Join our youth advocacy committee today by contacting Sierra Royster @ This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


The APRIL Youth Advocacy Training Recordings

A training in partnership with University of Montana RTC: Rural Research & Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities. Learn more about self and systems advocacy, the disability right law and how they affect you, and how to speak up in your community to see change happen.  This was lead by Mike Beers and the Summit Independent Living Center, BASE staff. Click the palyer to listen. 

June 14th, 2017 

June 28th, 2017 

July 12th, 2017

July 26th, 2017 

University of Montana RTC: Rural Research & Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities.

Using Improv to Teach Advocacy: RTC: Rural Advocacy Skill Building Toolkit   

Direct Link is http://rtc.ruralinstitute.umt.edu/resources/advocacy-skill-building-toolkit/

RTC:Rural is excited to release the Advocacy Skill Building Toolkit, a new set of resources for Centers for Independent Living (CILs) and others to facilitate workshops to develop the advocacy skills of emerging Independent Living leaders and youth with disabilities. The Toolkit is a collaboration between BASE, an affiliate of Summit Independent Living in Missoula, MT, the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL), and RTC:Rural staff, and was developed in response to the needs and interests of CILs and other stakeholders.

This Training is a Partnership with University of Montana RTC: Rural Research & Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities. RTC: Rural research is supported by grant #90RT50250100 from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research within the Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services. The opinions expressed reflect those of the author and are not necessarily those of the funding agency.

For more information contact Sierra Royster, Youth Programs Coordinator at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 919-567-3602  

youth 2012youth with disabilities standing in front of the road to freedom bus. to the right a chalk drawn picture of justin dart jr.youth group photo 2014


Main Office APRIL

2001 Pershing Circle
Suite 200
North Little Rock

Telephone: Phone: 501 753-3400
Fax: Fax: 501-753-3406

Contact APRIL click here






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This "Accessibility Information" is provided to assist in utilizing this website. If there are areas or documents that are difficult to access please contact us. APRIL is a national membership organization dedicated to advancing the rights and responsibilities of people with disabilities in rural America.


il net







Peer to Peer Mentoring Program Overview

One of the key foundations upon which independent living was established and continues to thrive, is the concept of learning from one's peers.

People with disabilities know best what works and what does not work for them. We believe that “experience is the best teacher" when it comes to operating a CIL or SILC as well. While peer support has long been a cornerstone of the core services of Centers for Independent Living (CILs), it has only recently been developed as an approach to providing training and technical assistance to CIL or SILC staff and boards.

What Does a Mentoring Include?

  • A Peer Mentor, chosen by you because of skills and/or experiences similar to your requests, will make a two-day, on-site visit to your CIL to work with you, staff and/or board or council and then follow up through teleconferencing and email
  • -OR- You can visit the Peer Mentor's Site for two days with follow up to see how they run their programs,
  • -OR- Online/web trainings with your mentor. Whatever is best for your learning style and goals you set for your CIL/SILC.
  • Peer Mentors provide follow-up via phone and email and reports the final goals and progress made to the IL NET project for evaluation and quality assurance purposes.

How Much Does It Cost and How Do I Apply? 

  • If chosen for a competitive scholarship provided through ILRU and the IL-Net the entire $2500 fee of the Peer Mentor expenses including travel are covered; or vice versa- the mentee (your) travel expenses to the mentor's site would be covered.
  • Fee for service opportunities are available as well.
  • For more information about the CIL-to-CIL or SILC-to-SILC Peer Mentoring Programs, contact Mary Olson at P:406-243-5817 C: 406-544-1668 or email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or email a completed CIL Application or SILC Application to Mary. 

What CILs and SILCs are saying:

CILs and SILCs that have experienced this opportunity report, “I was very surprised to see this (as an offering) and looked at it as an opportunity - great thing for Centers to take advantage of.”

“It was very exciting and it came at a unique point for us - a new beginning where we can shape and mold the Center and go from there.”

“My interest was in having an outside presence who could talk to staff about customer service, CSRs, and the importance of clear documentation. My mentor’s info was not tied to a specific database, but was content-related and helped staff see new ways to talk to consumers and decide where to go for help.” 

“My overall impression was that I was talking to someone who was LISTENING. My mentor validated me!”

“I was concerned about serving rural counties and as a new director I had to learn everything. For me it was a game changer to put into place the tools we needed to move to the next level.”

“This was really worthwhile.  It’s great to have folks with experience who will share. It makes us all (CILs) stronger. It’s particularly great and interesting to hear what other states have done/are doing. It helps put things in perspective. We’re all different, but the same.”

“I am so glad to be a part of this. It is GREAT for new directors.” 

“She gave me a lot of ideas and resources on where to look for answers to the questions I had. Talking to an experienced director helped me to understand what the SPIL means and the roles of the board. I can call her whenever I have a question or something doesn’t feel right or like it’s the best thing for the SILC.”

“He really took the time to learn about the specifics of how our state operates in order to help me in this process. Questions still pop up, and he has made himself available to help me learn as I go.”



 For Youth Peer Mentoring See:

Youth Peer to Peer

Independent Living Resources

University of Montana Research and Training Center on Disabilities in Rural Communities

Kansas University Research and Training on Independent Living


Transportation Resources 

Current State of Transportation for People with Disabilities.  A 220 page report from NCD published in 2005.



The Federal Interagency Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility. Summarizes the United We Ride program and provides many tools for coordination. http://www.unitedweride.gov/


An excellent report on the status of senior transportation and recommendations. http://www.transact.org/library/reports_html/seniors/aging.pdf


Making Transportation Work for People with Disabilities in Rural America - A how-to manual in organizing and operating a voucher model.http://scholarworks.umt.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1026&context=ruralinst_independent_living_community_participation


Tribal Transportation: Barriers and Solutions http://aidtac.ruralinstitute.umt.edu/tribaltransportation.htm


Rural Transportation - A fact sheet that outlines national patterns http://scholarworks.umt.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1023&context=ruralinst_independent_living_community_participation


Inequities in Rural Transportation - A basic fact sheet on the allocation of transit  funds between urban and rural areas before the recent Act. http://scholarworks.umt.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1022&context=ruralinst_independent_living_community_participation


Websites with many resources for transportation advocacy:


Rural Institute Transportation Page



 Easter Seals Project Action Rural Transportation Page



APRIL’S Transportation Voucher project:

Operation and Results

As part of our transportation initiative APRIL has received a major grant to demonstrate the effectiveness of a voucher model to provide transportation for people with disabilities living in rural areas.  The grant is funded by RSA (U. S. Department of Education) for $1,494,218 over a five-year period (2001-2006).

Overview and Project Objectives

This demonstration of the TRAVELER’S CHEQUE (TC) program was designed to explore the strategy of using vouchers for transportation provision to people with disabilities living in rural areas and to provide effective strategies for addressing this important problem.  The demonstration focused on how small towns and rural communities can successfully organize and operate a flexible supported transportation program for people with disabilities.

The goal of our project was to demonstrate the effectiveness of a voucher model to provide employment related transportation for people with disabilities who live in rural areas.  Objectives included the following:

Select ten sites to provide diversity in geographical location, disability population served, availability of transportation resources and population density.

Implement the voucher model at each of the ten sites and evaluate the effectiveness of the model.

Develop operational strategies and resource materials and provide ongoing technical assistance to the sites.

Convene a national summit on accessible rural transportation and develop a replication kit that communities can use to operate a traveler’s cheque program.


We chose to work with CILs and Section 121 American Indian Vocational Rehabilitation programs across the US because their missions include creating community options for people with disabilities and their structure, goals, and knowledge base are similar.  Annually, the 336 CILs and their 253 satellite offices serve 1,896 counties (1,224 of which are rural) and approximately 212,000 people.  In addition, fifty Section 121 programs operate in 18 states.

A total of ten sites in ten states, Massachusetts, Utah, Kansas, New Mexico, Alaska, Montana, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Georgia, and Minnesota participated in the project.  Four sites, three CILs and a Section 121 project collaborated in the development of the grant proposal and were preselected to participate in the project.  We used a “mini-grants” program to recruit the additional six demonstration sites.

A total of 50 programs submitted applications to the competition and we selected the final ten sites to represent ten very diverse communities so that the results and replication materials developed could be widely applied. Diversity in location, population density, geography, minority populations, disability groups served, transportation availability and transportation experience were emphasized.  Table 1 lists the ten sites and highlights community characteristics.

Table 1
Ten Demonstration Sites and Their Characteristics

 SITE                                           CHARACTERISTICS

Homer, AK

Low population density; experience with a transportation voucher coupon program.

BAIN, Inc.
Bainbridge, Georgia

No transportation experience; 10% of county population has a visual impairment; large black minority population.

Hays, Kansas 

Transportation provider was the lead organization in partnership with a CIL; transportation experience; large rural service area.

Southern Illinois CIL
Carbondale, Illinois

Large rural service area; high unemployment; large black minority population limited transportation options.

South East CIL
Fall River, Mass. 

High population density, but many remote rural areas; partnership of three CIL’s; taxi service available

Marshall, Minnesota

Very large, very rural area; upper Midwest; rural transportation system available.

Salish and Kootenai Tribes
Pablo, Montana  

Section 121 VR program; high unemployment (49%); limited transportation options and experience.

Zuni Entrepreneurial Enterprises
Zuni, New Mexico  

Section 121 VR program; high unemployment (67%); transportation experience with tribal transportation system.

CIL of Central Pennsylvania
Camp Hill, Pennsylvania 

Rural area; several counties; transportation experience. Taxi services available.

Active Re-Entry
Price, Utah

Very rural area with population density of 5 people per square mile; no transportation experience and very limited transportation.

Each selected site received a standard contract listing the responsibilities of the site and the Project Staff.  Each TC site’s designated lead staff member or “Community Transportation Coordinator” (CTC) attended a two-day program implementation training in May, 2002. 

Service Model and Innovative Elements

At each site, the five key players are shown in the figure.  Each has significant roles and responsibilities as follows:

Sponsoring organization:  Establishes eligibility and other policies; ensures that appropriate liability insurance is available.

Community Transportation Coordinator (site program manager):  Establishes a Transportation Interest Network, which includes local providers, service organizations, consumers, and other community leaders to provide coordination and advocacy; Locates and works with consumers to establish an Individual Transportation/Employment Plan, makes mileage allocations to each consumer and trains consumers to use the vouchers (traveler’s cheques) effectively.

Bookkeeper:  Records all trips and associated data and makes payments to providers; Invoices APRIL for reimbursements and transmits data forms for record keeping.

Providers:  May be individual volunteers (paid at 34.5 cents per mile) or any public or private provider willing to accept the vouchers at the rate negotiated with the Community Transportation Coordinator.

Consumers:  Work with the CTC to complete all forms and develop an Individual Transportation/Employment Plan; carefully select providers and consider safety and insurance coverage when using individual volunteers; maintain an accurate mileage balance as vouchers are used.

Local Implementation.  The trained Community Transportation Coordinators (CTC’s) initiated the local programs.  First, they determined how to allocate TC resources (i.e., number of participants to be served, amounts per person, etc.).  We encouraged the CTCs  to negotiate with local public and private providers to accept the vouchers at a negotiated rate and then directed them to recruit participants.  Individual participants were enrolled and completed an extensive enrollment form.  The rider and the CTC then developed an Individual Transportation Plan designed to help each participant formulate a plan to effectively use the vouchers with either volunteer drivers, public, private, or other available providers in the community.  Participants calculated their needs in terms of number of rides and number of miles per ride. They then received an initial allocation in miles and an orientation in how to use TRAVELER’S CHEQUES. 

As the designated “bookkeeper” received each voucher they entered it into an EXCEL workbook (check number, date, the provider, the mileage, the number of one way trips, the trip purpose and the total mileage).  The spreadsheet automatically calculates current balances and summary numbers for each consumer and automatically posts them onto the summary sheet.  The site then issues a check to the transportation provider on a set schedule (normally once each week or on a biweekly or monthly basis).


To date, a total of 588 adults with varied kinds of disabling impairments have participated in the TC program.  Fifty-one percent of riders are male and the average age of riders was 41 years at enrollment.  Sixty-four percent of riders are Caucasian, 23% American Indian, Alaskan Native, or Native Hawaiian, and 10% are African American.  Thirty-eight percent live in a single person household.  Sixty-nine percent of participants report an annual household income below $10,000 and another 24%  annual household incomes between $10,000 and $20,000.  Forty-nine percent of the households did not own a vehicle.  Table 2 list the impairments reported by participants.        

Table 2
Impairments Reported by Voucher System Participants


Mental or Emotional


 Mobility or Physical



9 %


 7 %


 1 %

 Multiple Responses




Table 3 presents the total miles of transportation provided, the number of trips received, the average miles per trip and the average cost per trip over the three years of the project.  Table 4 presents the total number of riders, total number of rides provided, the total number of miles of transportation, the average cost per trip, and the average cost per mile across the ten sites.  Wide variations were seen among the various communities in terms of cost per trip ($1.15 to $16.80), cost per mile ($0.29 to $1.18), and number of consumers served (26 to 104).  Most of the variation is due to geography (longer trips required at some sites) and the use of higher cost taxi providers primarily at two sites (PA and MA). The number of consumers served was related to the priorities established by the sites.  Some sites elected to provide a large number of consumers with partial support of their transportation needs, while other sites provided full support to a smaller number of consumers.  

Table 3

Productivity of Program Over Four Years







Total consumers






 Miles provided






Trips provided






Payments to providers






Average cost per trip






Average cost per mile






Table 4
Riders, Trips, Miles, and Cost across the Ten Sites Over Four Years

















































New Mexico
























Table 5 presents the distribution of provider types across the ten sites over the three years of operation.  Taxi providers are used at four sites (GA, IL, MA and PA) although both GA and IL limit their use.  In five communities either rural transit (KS, MN and NM) or very limited Section 5310 federal program funds (MT and IL) cooperate with the Traveler’s Cheque Program.  In two states (AK and UT) only volunteer providers are used or permitted by the site.  Volunteer drivers are permitted and used at all the sites and are recruited and chosen by the consumers.  To reduce insurance liability issues the sites do not actively recruit, certify or recommend volunteer drivers who are reimbursed at the allowable federal rate.  The number of rides and the number of miles of transportation by provider type varied significantly by site.

Table 5
Distribution in Choice of Transportation Providers across Sites 




Public Transit









Although volunteer drivers provided only 43% of the trips, they accounted for 71% of the total miles used by consumers.  Transit systems provided 44% of the rides, but only accounted for 21% of the miles logged by consumers.  Transit providers tended to provide many short rides in the larger “cities,” for example Hays, KS and Marshall, MN.  Taxi providers also tended to be used for shorter trips within town and accounted for 13% of the trips, but only 7% of the miles.

Consumers could choose to use any providers available to them.  Their choices averaged over all ten sites were as follows: 42.2% of consumers used only volunteers, 31.5% used only available public transit services, 11.9% used only taxis, 9.5% used volunteers and public transit only, and 4.6% used volunteers and taxis.

Table 6 presents the distribution of rides by type across the ten sites.  Most of the rides provided were for transportation to and from work (84%). The remaining 16% were provided for MEDICAL, SHOPPING, SOCIAL/RELIGIOUS and SCHOOL purposes when these trips were documented as necessary to maintain, seek or prepare for employment.  Trips for SOCIAL/RELIGIOUS purposes were disallowed by the funding source during the second year of operation and were immediately discontinued.

Table 6
Number of Rides for each Trip Purpose across the Ten Sites Over Three Years

























































New Mexico




























The trip purpose percentages varied significantly by site.  For example, in Kansas only trips to and from work were permitted and 100% of the trips were for work.  In Utah, where a Center for Independent Living is partnering with the local Vocational Rehabilitation office only 35% of the trips were to and from work, while 44% of the trips were for transportation to and from school and 21% were for medical purposes.

Finally, Table 7 presents employment outcomes associated with the project.  At the time of enrollment 31% of riders were employed part-time and 14% were employed full-time while 13% were in a paid internship, in school, or in a training program. During the first four years of this project 171 people obtained employment (93 full time and 78 part time jobs).  The number of new jobs obtained during the third and fourth years was higher than during the first two years especially at sites where strong working relationships with VR have been developed.  A similar number of consumers who were employed when they enrolled in the program or who obtained jobs in previous years reported that the program has either helped them maintain their current job or improve their employment (found a better job, were able to increase the number of hours worked or obtained a more rewarding job with their original employer). 

Table 7
Employment Obtained Over Four Years







Total Consumers






Part-Time Jobs






Full-Time Jobs






Total Jobs






Lessons Learned

The Traveler’s Cheque voucher model pilot study clearly showed that, given the resources, people with disabilities can effectively meet their own employment and IL goals.  The TRAVELER’S CHEQUE program appears to be highly effective in helping people with disabilities in a wide variety of rural U.S. areas to develop and secure transportation.

Resources Required for Operation.  The role of the Community Transportation Coordinator was critical in effectively implementing and administering the TC program.  The coordinator needs to have the leadership skills and the time available to consistently develop and mentor the transportation interest network within the community and the CTC must monitor and manage the budget and the success and failure of the individual riders.  The duties of the CTC may be handled by a team, but the team must effectively communicate with each other and the consumers.

Community Transportation Resources and Program Utility.
  The program functioned effectively in two significant ways depending on the status of transportation options available in the communities:

In rural areas where there is little or no public transportation, this innovative strategy is a method for directly increasing opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in community life.

Where some public transportation is available, it offers a supplementary strategy that can make transportation affordable or provide transportation during time periods when public transit is not available.

Program Operational Stability.   Consistent and stable program operation is necessary to maintain a transportation program that is reliable and effective for consumers.  In a few cases it was necessary to temporarily interrupt or significantly reduce the number of vouchers available for transportation to remain on budget for the fiscal year at a few of the sites.  Program interruptions caused significant hardships for consumers who were relying on the program.  The most significant factor which led to spending levels that exceeded expectations was the use of taxi providers with the very limited budgets available for a site.  With budgets ranging from twelve to fourteen thousand dollars per site and with taxi providers costing approximately $1.70 per mile sites could only support six or seven consumers effectively and consistently if taxis were used.  With a small number of consumers on the program any changes in the use of vouchers by two or three consumers significantly altered the rates of spending.  If spending per consumer dropped sites expanded the number of consumers and then when circumstances of a few consumers changed, large oscillations in the rates of spending occurred.

Using primarily volunteer drivers at 34.5 cents per mile permitted many more consumers to be enrolled and changes in the need for transportation by a few riders did not drastically alter the rates of spending.  Programs with at least 20 or 30 consumers tended to operate with much more consistent rates of spending.  As long as budget levels were large enough to accommodate 20 or 30 consumers the use of higher cost providers would pose no significant operational problems.  The use of taxi providers raised the cost per mile and cost per ride, but consumers had much more flexibility in the communities where taxi providers were available to consumers.

Advantages.  The TC voucher model is extremely flexible and adoptable by any local public or private agency, or a consortium of agencies as a stand-alone program or supplement to existing transportation systems.  The TC model offers many advantages over traditional, agency-driven systems.  Unlike scheduled services, rides need not be restricted to hours and days of operation; more hours of service can be available to riders.  Second, service agencies (i.e. Area Agencies on Aging, CILs) may have lower direct overhead and administrative costs that can be shifted to actual trips.  Third, vouchers can increase public/private cooperation and business for local bus services or taxis.  Fourth, the TC voucher model can start with minimal investment or risk and grow incrementally as demand and resources permit. Finally, because the vouchers themselves document trips, their use can be monitored with a high degree of detail and accuracy.

Disadvantages.  Of course, there may also be disadvantages to voucher systems. Limited numbers of subsidized trips may be available to riders and a community may have few lift-equipped vehicles.  Without adequate monitoring, vouchers could potentially be misused.  Careful planning and management may overcome these obstacles and offer many rural communities and their citizens with disabilities a promising alternative for increasing participation in work and community life.

The TRAVELER’S CHEQUE program is a viable new transportation strategy for supporting people with disabilities that builds on the independent living paradigm and philosophy of consumer control.  Participants improved the quality of their lives and their community participation by creatively combining and using these and other resources.  Participants described their sense of relief and security, knowing that they could get a ride, if they needed it and they expressed their renewed self-respect because they were now able to pay for rides provided by others.

The Association of Programs for Rural

Independent Living (APRIL)


“The United Voice of Independent

Living in Rural America”



APRIL’s Response to the FTA Listening Sessions Regarding

The Federal Public Transportation Act of 2005

Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act – A Legacy for Users



The recent passage of SAFETEA-LU will provide unprecedented resources for accessible transportation in rural America. The Federal Transit Administration is currently holding “listening sessions” to assist in the development of the regulations and guidelines for the new programs contained in SAFETEA-LU. APRIL has encouraged the FTA to hold additional sessions at various locations around the United States. Currently three sessions are scheduled and APRIL is participating either in person or by teleconference. The following sessions are planned:


•New Freedom, September 113, 2005

•Coordination and planning, September 21, 2005

•Tribal Transportation, October 4, 2005


At the New Freedom Listening session APRIL argued for the following issues:


•The New Freedom Program should encourage innovative and flexible practices and models, especially in rural areas. This should include encouragement to the states to use flexible funding models that can be adapted to new programs.

•The New Freedom Program should not establish priorities for ride purposes. Transit riders should be able to determine their own priorities. Our goal is to enable full community participation.

•The selection process for the projects to be funded at the state level should include representatives of people with disabilities on the selection committee. This should include representation by cross-disability organizations such as the State Independent Living Council.

•APRIL supported the inclusion of the requirement for locally developed, coordinated public transit/human service transportation plans as well as the additional requirements for state transportation plans. We encouraged FTA to include the requirement that all states develop strategies to bring rural transit to all counties that are not currently being served.

•In response to a question regarding the use of New Freedom Funds to renovate DOT offices in California for accessibility accommodations for employees, APRIL and others suggested that the limited funds should be used to provide transportation to people with disabilities.

•States should be encouraged to provide a stable and reliable source of matching funds for accessible transportation. This could be encouraged during the RFP phase. Mike Collins.

•Additional opportunities for input to the FTA should be provided.

•Comments may be provided to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Bryna Helfer is the Team Leader for this project and for United We Ride.


At the Listening Session on coordination and planning the discussion was dominated by many large urban districts and how they would implement specific guidelines within the bill. APRIL advocated for the following the following ideas:


•In the development and evaluation of plans cross-disability groups should be at the table. For State Planning the SILC is a logical representative for people with disabilities.

•Technical Assistance activities should include rural counties and rural human service providers who have very limited transportation resources. The goal should be to bring rural transit to all communities throughout the United States.

•Additional comments may be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Implementation of the FAST Act

APRIL's guiding principles in addressing transportation needs in rural America include:

  • “All” public transportation should be accessible to “All” users, “All” the time.
  • Systems designed to meet the transit needs of people with disabilities will meet the needs of all transit users.
  • Accessible transportation means more than just having a vehicle available. It means people can actually use the transit service. It should also address the needs of people who are trying to be more energy efficient by reducing their use of private vehicles.
  • Accessibility and energy efficiency should not be separate competing priorities. They are equally important, and should be integrated. Vehicles and services need to be both accessible and energy efficient and that cannot be accomplished unless innovation takes an integrated approach to the two priorities.
  • Accessible transportation includes systems, services, vehicles, routes, stops, programs and all other aspects of transportation and must at least meet or exceed the minimum requirements set forth in the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Transportation Update: Where We've Gone and What We've Learned

Twenty-five years ago the Americans with Disabilities Act mandated a more accessible landscape for individuals with disabilities in this country, as well as a more accessible transit system to help them traverse that landscape. Fifteen years later, in 2005, the National Council on Disability published The Current State of Transportation For People With Disabilities in the United States, a major transportation overview report. That highly acclaimed report contributed to major developments in the field of transportation. In this report, Transportation Update: Where We’ve Gone and What We’ve Learned, NCD examines what has changed since the writing of our previous report. This update describes the last ten years’ numerous advances in the field of transportation for people with disabilities and recommends public policy to address new and persistent problems.  

For the Rural Chapter of the Transportation Report:

Rural Chapter of NCD Report

For the full report please see the National Council on Disability Website:

The Rail Vehicles Access Advisory Committee (RVAAC)

The Rail Vehicles Access Advisory Committee (RVAAC)of the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) was established on May 23, 2013, in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA).  The committee was established in the public interest to support the Access Board in performing its duties and responsibilities under Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which authorizes the Board to establish and maintain accessibility guidelines under titles ll and lll of the ADA. The committee was established to advise the Access Board on matters related to the revision and update of the guidelines addressing transportation vehicles using fixed guideway systems subject to the ADA.  The committee acted solely in an advisory capacity to the Access Board and did not exercise any program management responsibility nor make decisions directly affecting the matters on which it provides advice.

Read the Full paper here 

Rural Transportation Work Group Position Paper.

The Rural Transportation Policy Group is a national coalition of rural individuals and organizations net-worked through the National Rural Assembly.  Our goal is to ensure the next federal transportation bill strengthens and supports rural people, rural places, and sustainable commerce, acknowledging the interdependence of the nation's metropolitan and rural economies.  Full Statement Click Here 

Accessible Rural Transportation

Decades after the advent of the independent living and disability rights movements, transportation remains the number one issue for people with disabilities living in rural areas.

Society is trying to open all doors to people with impairment or limitation, yet most people with disabilities who live in Rural America continue to be isolated, frustrated, and cut off from going to work or school, visiting family or friends, participating in community life, or tending to health needs because of the lack of adequate transportation. 

APRIL Toolkit 


APRIL Travelers Cheque Final Data Analysis

This is the final numerical results of the Travelers Cheque program. The program was in operation from 2002 – 2006 in the following ten states: Alaska, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Utah. Full report click here.


Also See...

Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU)

Response to SAFETEA LU

Transportation Voucher Project

Reports from the past three years

Transportation Links

Youth Steering Committee Bios


The APRIL Youth Conference would not be possible without all the work of our dedicated volunteers. Thank you for your commitment to youth with disabilities and APRIL. If you see these young folks at our conference, congratulate them on all their hard work and accomplishments, and give them a huge IL Thank You for getting the next generation excited to LEAD ON.

                                                                                          - APRIL STAFF

Moriah Grace, Chair

Moriah Grace, Chair

What makes you want to lead?
I am not a natural leader if anything I am a reluctant leader. However when I see a time where a leader is needed and believe in the issue or event I take on the responsibility of leadership. What make me wanted to chair the APRIL Youth Conference is the belief and hope that I put into generations of youth out there to continue the Independent Living Movement.

Where are you from?
Madison, WI transplant from Duluth, MN

One statement that describes you?
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Where do you work/volunteer?
Access to Independence Madison, WI

What do you do at your job/volunteer site?
My official title is Independent Living Specialist. However I am pretty sure jack of all trades is a better description. I head the youth program, Green County program, provide independent living skills training, benefits help, and advocacy both individual and systems.

What does IL mean to you?
ILS means the freedom of choice. It means that you get to direct your life in all areas and have the same rights as everyone to choose what you want for your life.

What would surprise people about you?
I love Brussel sprouts! They are like mini cabbages. I love them.

What is one thing you want to see in Spokane?
Sasquatch J I would love to see if big foot is real. I would also love to check out the local food and hit up some local diners.


Brittany Hepler, Vice Chair

Brittany Hepler, Vice ChairWhat makes you want to lead?
For as long as I can remember, I have always found my way into leadership positions, whether it was bossing around my younger siblings or leading teams once I got into the workforce. I have a strong desire to make sure the things I am involved in go well and do my best to find balance in leading others and listening to them.

Where are you from?
I grew up in Moreno Valley, California which is about an hour away from Anaheim where I currently live and much more rural.

One statement that describes you?
My motto in life is “say yes.” When you say yes there’s no telling where life will take you.

Where do you work/volunteer?
I work at the Dayle McIntosh Center in Anaheim, California.

What do you do at your job/volunteer site?
I am the Operations Manager and I oversee our Clerical Staff, Volunteers, Youth Programming, Deaf Services, Interpreting Services, Independent Living Services, and Housing.

What does IL mean to you?
IL means that we as people with disabilities are given the same options and chance to fail as everyone else. That we are in charge and in the driver’s seat of our own lives.

What would surprise people about you?
I used to be an introvert and still sometimes need my alone time.

What is one thing you want to see in Spokane?
Spokane Falls.


Grant Heffelfinger, Social Media Laison

 Grant Heffelfinger, Social Media Laison

What makes you want to lead?
I lead to empower others to be their best self. There is nothing more refreshing than accomplishing your goals!

Where are you from?
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

One statement that describes you?
Call me the fireworks to your 4th of July.

Where do you work/volunteer?
I work for IndependenceFirst.

What do you do at your job/volunteer site?
Youth Leadership Coordinator

What does IL mean to you?
To me- IL means choice; an individual’s choice to shape their life, themselves, and the pride that comes with being responsible for your own success or the growth that comes from owning your areas of need/support.

What would surprise people about you?
People are usually surprised that I am a male cheerleader for Milwaukee’s Roller Derby league, the Brewcity Bruisers.

If you win money in Reno, what are you going to do with it?
If I win money in Reno, then I would probably use it to pay off my bills for the next 6 months and then backpack around Europe. I would need a pretty big backpack though.



Jaquilla Lee, Secretary

Jaquilla Lee, SecretaryWhat makes you want to lead?
I want to advocacy for others. Also, I was president for the Youth Advisory Committee.

Where are you from?
Pensacola, FL

One statement that describes you?
I like to help people advocacy for their self.

Where do you work?

What do you do at your job?
Customer Service (I handle all of the returns)

What does IL means to you?
Pay bills
Not asking for help all the time
Making decisions
Living on your own

What would surprise people about you?
I am well organized and I like to be on time for everything.

What is one thing you want to see in Spokane?
I just want to youth to have fun with each other and then take info that they have back to their center so they can use for their youth program.



billy website

Billy Altom, Executive Director

11324 Arcade Drive Suite 9
Little Rock, AR 72212

Phone: 501-753-3400
FAX: 501-753-3406

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 Elissa Ellis in front of ADA Banner  Elissa Ellis

Director of Operations and
Conference Coordinator

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 Mary Olson  

Mary Olson

Director of Training and
Technical Assistance

255 Corbin Hall
University of Montana
Missoula, MT 59801

Phone: 406-243-5817 or

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 Sierra Royster  

Sierra Royster

Youth Programs Coordinator

P.O. Box 854
Fuquay Varina, NC 27605

Phone: 919-567-3602

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 Welcome to APRIL!

Meet the Membership "Family".

Let us know if you would like your 

organization to join the fun.

Join Us

 Meet the Staff 

2016 Board

 Membership Data

APRIL Board of Directors and Members in the United States

 A Little Bit of History 

 The Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) is a national grass roots, consumer controlled, nonprofit membership organization consisting of centers for independent living, their satellites and branch offices, statewide independent living councils, other organizations and individuals concerned with the independent living issues of people with disabilities living in rural America.  Some highlights of accomplishments:

 •APRIL was founded in 1986 by twelve directors of rural CILs meeting in Houston, Texas. That meeting was sponsored by the Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU) in Houston Texas, who continued to support the organizing efforts for several years thereafter. 

•In 1994, APRIL attained its 501(C)(3) status and hired a national coordinator.

•The first monetary support for APRIL came in 1994 in a small annual contract with the University of Montana, Rural Institute on Disabilities.

•Other important affiliates over the years have included: University of Kansas, the Independent Living Rehabilitation Utilization (ILRU), National Council on Independent Living, Easter Seals Project Action, Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) Department of Education - Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the World Institute on Disabilities.

•In 1995, APRIL held its first National Conference on Rural Independent Living in Lawrence, Kansas with a gathering of about 80 participants.  Subsequent conferences have been held in Austin Texas, Albuquerque New Mexico, Shreveport Louisiana, Cincinnati Ohio, Salt Lake City Utah, Portland Oregon, Nashua, New Hampshire, Savannah, Georgia, Minneapolis Minnesota, Honolulu Hawaii, San Antonio, Texas and Missoula, Montana. Attendance numbers have now exceeded 400.   

•In the year 2000, the Rural Independent Living Leadership Mentoring Initiative, a five-year project in collaboration with the Rural Institute on Disabilities at the University of Montana was initiated

•In 2001, APRIL was awarded a major grant from the Department of Education to demonstrate a national transportation voucher model for rural consumers with disabilities. With the funding of this project came the development of an infrastructure that would allow APRIL to support phenomenal growth. Staff here hired, policies and procedures were developed and an array of services and fiscal accountability were put in place.  

•As a national advocate, APRIL has built a reputation as being the leading advocate in rural accessible transportation issues.  

•At present, membership has grown to over 250 members and APRIL’s budget has exceeded half a million dollars.  

•In 2008 APRIL collaborated with NCIL / ILRU to form the new CIL Net / SILC Net programs to mentor CILs and SILCs.  

•In 2008, the APRIL office relocated from Kent, OH to North Little Rock, Arkansas!  


APRIL is a national membership organization dedicated to advancing the rights and responsibilities of people with disabilities in rural America. 


Affiliate of Youth Transitions Collaborative