Founding director wins national honor

On July 26, 2017, INCIL’s Founding Executive Director Ann Ford was honored for her trailblazing advocacy by the National Council on Independent Living at the Annual Conference on Independent Living in Washington, D.C. Liz Sherwin accepted the award on Ann’s behalf, recognizing her lifetime of service to others.

Liz Sherwin Maureen Ryan NCIL award
Liz Sherwin of the Illinois Iowa Center for Independent Living accepts Ann Ford’s NCIL award for advocacy in Washington DC.

Following is the nomination for Ann:

Ann Ford’s entire career has been dedicated to the Independent Living movement. As the founding Executive Director of the Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living in 1999 until her retirement in 2017, Ann guided the association of centers with firmness, resolve and leadership by example.

Before her time at INCIL, Ann served as Director of the DuPage Center for Independent Living for nine years and the Central Illinois Center for Independent Living for three years. As a self-advocate who contracted polio at age 5, Ann faced and overcame tremendous personal adversity, using her life experiences to show countless others how to win victories large and small in pursuit of their own life goals no matter the obstacle. Her leadership made an impact locally, statewide and beyond.

She was a fixture in the Illinois State Capitol, known and respected by lawmakers of every persuasion and from every region of the state. She put countless hours volunteering her time, wisdom and expertise to help CILs in Illinois grow in reputation, capacity and strength. Ann made time to conduct board trainings, mentor staff and directors, teach IL history and philosophy lessons, organize or lead rallies — whatever the situation required. She was instrumental in efforts to pass and then demand compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and she retained a strong network of lobbyist and advocate friendships across the country.

As the association director, she was a solution-oriented, problem solver unafraid to confront those in power – in her signature, direct but diplomatic style. Not only did she bring passion to her role, but she was professional, persistent and committed to finding the right path to correcting problems wherever she found them.

With her career, Ann blazed a trail for other advocates, and she did so without hubris, anger or drama. Ann Ford set the gold-standard for the disability rights movement in Illinois. Her retirement from INCIL left an enormous void in the Independent Living community in our state, but her example provides clear, enduring inspiration for others to carry the torch forward.