The Bigger Picture, Issue 3

It’s that NWGA CIL time, and you’re on that NWGA CIL channel! Welcome back (or for the first time) to The Bigger Picture, our weekly organizational blog post that gives you news from the world of Independent Living, suggestions for apps, staff spotlights and recent events! Let’s jump right in!


There’s something really big coming…

It’s the Americans With Disabilities Act’s 25th Anniversary! July 26th will mark 25 years since the ADA was made into law, and each month we’ll be spotlighting different aspects of the ADA and how it affects our world. This month’s theme is “Traveling the World – Individuals with Disabilities”.

Sign the Pledge!

Sign the Pledge!

Here are a few links tying into this month’s theme from the ADA National Network:


A is for “Accessibility”!

Accessibility is a major part of disability advocacy and independent living. While this aspect of what we do seems to advance every day (especially with advances in modern technology), there are still endless places where better access is needed. That’s why we love to see anything becoming accessible to individuals with disabilities! Recently, the U.S. Department of Education launched the Accessible Television Portal project (don’t worry: it’s not an actual TV portal that you’ll fall through, only to find yourself in the Twilight Zone). This project is a free video-on-demand service that makes children’s programming accessible to students with vision or hearing disabilities through the use of closed-captioning and descriptive audio! Read more from the US Department of Education.

*Disclaimer: If you do happen to fall through the TV portal and wind up in the Twilight Zone, tell ’em NWGA CIL sent you!

Children’s Orchestra in Thailand

Turning our focus towards disability issues outside of the United States, we find the first blind orchestra in Thailand – and it’s for children, too! AP reported on this monumental new group in a country where disability rights and services are hampered by beliefs about karma. The conductor of the orchestra is also pioneering a new way for sheet music to be read and understood through Braille! Enjoy your smile for the day here with this story.


Staff Spotlight – Maia Santamaria

Each week on The Bigger Picture we’ll be bringing you a closer look at one of our wonderful staff members. This week our interview is with the intrepid and fearless captain of the starship NW GA Center for Independent Living, Maia Santamaria! (In other words, our Executive Director.)

Maia Santamaria and her handsome service dog, Sumner

Maia Santamaria and her handsome service dog, Sumner

What do you do at NWGACIL? Lead a talented, dedicated and passionate staff in carrying out our mission of empowering others who have disabilities.

How long have you worked with NWGACIL? Almost eleven years. I began as a volunteer in the fall of 2004, was hired part-time as an Independent Living Coordinator in the fall of 2005, and went full-time the next spring. I was promoted to Assistant Director in the summer of 2009. When our Executive Director retired in January 2012, I was appointed Interim Director, and when we became a stand-alone center in January 2013, I was hired as Executive Director.

Do you have a disability? Yes. I developed glaucoma when I was 16, and now, according to my friends, “only have enough vision to get in trouble”. I consider myself blind, since I do so many things differently than people who are sighted.

What topic of independent living do you find most important? “Nothing About Us Without Us” Do you really want someone else making your decisions for you?

What’s the best part of working at NWGACIL? It’s all about the people I meet. Seeing the joy in someone we have served who has grown in independence.  Working with the most amazingly wonderful staff, volunteers and board. Meeting members of the community all over NWGA.

What do you do for fun? Seeing family/friends as much as possible. Staying healthy, active and always learning. Reading, knitting, tandem cycling, preferably at the beach…!

Do you have any pets? We have several furry family members. Five very senior cats (from my fostering days), and two dogs, a lab and a golden.

Do you have anything on your Bucket List? I’d like to see both the sequoias again (I was 3) and the northern lights before I go blind. I crossed a big one off my list last year when we rode mules into (and out of) the Grand Canyon. I’d love to travel more in the U.S.

What would you most like to tell yourself at age 13? Nothing. I was good at 13. If you had asked “in my twenties”, I could certainly have used some advice from my more mature self…but I probably wouldn’t have listened!

If you were stuck on an island, what three things would you bring? My husband, water, and a means of transportation that would get us off the island and back home safely and quickly!

Any plans for the future? In the near future: staying with the center, downsizing to a smaller, accessible home…

Long-term future: consulting, writing, traveling, maybe living at the beach…

Reality: wherever God leads me…

Thanks for joining us for another week of The Bigger Picture! Please feel free to leave any thoughts you have down in the comments below. We hope each of you has a fantastic week, and please join us again next Wednesday for more updates!

2 thoughts on “The Bigger Picture, Issue 3

  1. Pingback: The Bigger Picture, Issue 4 | NWGA Center for Independent Living

  2. Pingback: The Bigger Picture, Issue 13 | NWGA Center for Independent Living

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