TN State Plan for Independent Living Planning Begins - SILC
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TN State Plan for Independent Living Planning Begins

Participants at a Community Conversation.

TN State Plan for Independent Living Planning Begins

The primary duty of the SILC is to develop a State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL) in partnership with the Centers for Independent Living (CILs). This is a big undertaking, as the needs of our communities are diverse and unique to each person’s abilities and goals.

A good way to think about the SPIL is as a reflection of the state’s commitment to comply with federal requirements and as a three-year blueprint for Tennessee’s Independent Living Network’s goals and activities. These SPIL goals focus on addressing barriers to choice, opportunity, and community for Tennesseans with disabilities on a systems level (for example, through statewide education and outreach collaborations about policy issues), since direct services are provided by the CILs with direction from their immediate communities.


The first step in writing the SPIL for Tennessee is to gather data that captures what day-to-day life looks like for a person with a disability. Good data will not only shed light on what issues and needs there are, but also as to what services and resources are already working. The Independent Living (IL) philosophy firmly believes that individuals with disabilities must have a voice in determining solutions to problems we face as individuals and a community.

To accurately describe the complexity of the challenges encountered by Tennesseans with disabilities, a thoughtful, organized approach to gathering and reviewing relevant data is followed. The sources of data used in the SPIL are diverse and include disability statistics, surveys, focus groups, consumer satisfaction surveys, and an analysis of CIL’s service requests.

Disability organizations statistics can provide information, support, and clarity of complex issues, and reveal patterns or trends in our state’s needs. Examples include data gathered by state organizations, such as the TN Developmental Disability Council, and Disability Rights Tennessee, and government statistical information, such as the Annual Disability Statistics Compendium.

Some states, including Tennessee, are working towards the IL Network using a statewide database that combines individual data from each CIL into one single database. The data gathered from the CILs removes all names and identifying features and only the essential information is reviewed and used in developing the SPIL priorities. The trends in CIL consumers’ services received, identified needs, and consumer satisfaction survey results are key to developing the SPIL.

Community Survey

Community members can share their greatest concerns and areas of need via an online survey. Surveys are available in paper format by contacting the SILC. Surveys will also be available at CILs and other agencies across the state.

Community Conversations

Community Conversations are an important part of this year’s Needs Assessment process. The conversations focus on giving people with disabilities the opportunity to engage with one another in constructive problem-solving dialogues. Their ideas and key trends from these conversations will directly influence the SPIL goals and action steps.

The first Community Conversation was held at the Memphis Center for Independent Living (MCIL) in early April. Additional Community Conversations will be held in Paris, Jackson, Knoxville, Johnson City, Chattanooga, and Shelbyville. A full list of Community Conversations can be found here.

Focus Groups

Several Focus Groups will be held to flesh out detailed action steps once the SPIL drafting begins by dialoging with specific groups. For example, a focus group with service providers may help existing resources to reduce duplication of efforts, or a focus group with individuals with disabilities from one region may help address challenges specific to their area, such as limited resources in rural areas. As we move deeper into the focus group planning, specific opportunities will be posted here, so stay tuned.


The Data & Needs Assessment process is an important step in writing a SPIL that effectively supports Independent Living in Tennessee. If you’re organization would like to partner with the SILC, please email Edward Mitchell at This could be from having paper surveys onsite, hosting a Community Conversation, or sharing the online survey in your community newsletter or on social media.

The SILC will share the results of the data and summaries of the Community Conversations in the Fall of 2018, in preparation for the release of the first draft of the 2020-2023 SPIL.


What is a Community Conversation? 

Community Conversation Training Video from Transition Tennessee on Vimeo.

Information in this blog post is adapted from ILRU SILC Guidebook.