COVID-19 has affected everyone, but one segment of our population has encountered a unique set of challenges when navigating through this pandemic. Individuals with disabilities often have additional hurdles to clear since the country and its services have shut down due to the health crisis.

Since 1977, the Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU) program has provided information, training, research, and technical assistance in independent living across the United States. The group is housed at TIRR Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center and is led by Lex Frieden, Director of ILRU and a pioneer in accessibility research and access, and Richard Petty, Co-Director of ILRU and an advocate who has spent decades working to advance consumer‑controlled community services for persons with disabilities.

ILRU has stepped forward during the pandemic to help people with disabilities during the global health crisis.

Through ILRU’s IL-NET National Training and Technical Assistance Center for Independent Living (T&TA Center), ILRU has provided specialized technical assistance and training pertaining to COVID-19 for nearly 500 centers for independent living and statewide independent living councils across the nation.

“ILRU’s consultants, trainers and researchers have continued to support the independent living field throughout the COVID-19 emergency,” said Petty. “The team has worked remotely through the emergency, as have most of the constituent organizations supported by the center.”

Through their remote work, the center presented three major webinars to adapt and succeed in the COVID-19 environment. The topics covered were:

  1. CIL Response to COVID-19
  2. Technology Options for CILs During the COVID-19 Pandemic
  3. Statewide and Systemic Responses to COVID-19 and Other Emergencies for CILs and SILCs

“The webinars have been well attended and well received,” said Petty. “About 690 people attended the CIL Response to COVID-19 webinar, 550 participants attended the Technology Options for CILs During the COVID-19 Pandemic webinar and 250 participants in the Statewide and Systemic Responses to COVID-19 and Other Emergencies for CILs and SILCs webinar.”

In addition, ILRU’s IL-NET T&TA Center has conducted focused technical assistance sessions for CIL directors, CIL managers and SILC executives.

The center has also posted daily announcements through much of the pandemic. Links to webinars and a subscription-based announcements link are all available on