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What is Ability Montana?

Posted on: Apr 25, 2024

Ability Montana is one of four Centers for Independent Living (CILs) across the state of Montana. With offices in Butte, Helena, and Bozeman, we cover the area of Southwest Montana, promoting independence and advocating for people living with disabilities.

But who we are goes beyond a location and a mission: it’s all about community and connection. Community includes everyone. And people with disabilities deserve the opportunity to live independently, like their friends, loved ones, and neighbors. That’s what we’re all about.

What is a Center for Independent Living? 

CILs like Ability Montana are independent nonprofits. We receive partial funding from the Montana Department of Health and Human Services, as well as from federal and private grants and donations. That’s how we can offer free programs to help people with disabilities access the services they need to live independently, on their terms.

We’re not a group home or an assisted living facility. We’re a doorway to resources, promoting the five core pillars of independent living.

Five Core Pillars of Independent Living

The five core pillars of independent living include providing information and referrals, offering advocacy, peer support and counseling, building independent living skills, and assisting with transition services. But what does that really mean?


Self-advocacy, systems advocacy and individual advocacy all play a role in our work at Ability Montana.

Self-advocacy can mean many different things. It can be assessing needs, communicating assertively, or fighting for individual accommodations. But it also might mean building self-esteem, developing strong relationships, or understanding our rights and responsibilities. Our goal is to help people feel empowered to advocate for themselves.

Individual advocacy involves standing up for an individual or a group. Often, family members or friends of people with disabilities can practice individual advocacy when they stand beside their loved ones to show support. It could also be members of a peer support group who help others in the group learn about resources.

Systems advocacy is all about changing policies on a social and political scale. It might mean lobbying at the state legislature for legal change, or working to adapt policies to make a local school’s classrooms more inclusive.

Peer Support

Peer Mentors are at the heart of the independent living movement. They work with anyone who wants to increase their independence or adapt to living with a disability. Working with a Peer Mentor shares lived experience and learning, helping people with disabilities reach their goals for independent living.

Transition Services

Transition services are all about helping people with disabilities stay in their communities. We often help people who are aging or who have a disability to hire their own caregivers. This gives them the power to make decisions about care in their own homes.

Information and Referrals

If you have a problem or a question that you can’t find an answer for, get in touch. Chances are if you’re wondering about something, someone else is too. We work to think creatively and know the resources out there so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time something comes up.

Independent Living Skills

These are the skills needed to live life well. Sometimes it’s finding help to get a washer and dryer working. Or it might be learning the local bus system to get around easier. What do you need to live more independently?

If you’re living with a disability…

It comes down to independence and self-advocacy. You can steer your own future. We’re just there with a helping hand to find resources when you need them. Ability Montana offers a range of programs that fit within these five pillars. And all the programs we offer are free for you.

When you’re living with a disability, access to housing, transportation, employment, and healthcare can all seem like impossible hurdles. At Ability Montana, we’re working to pull down those barriers that keep people from being able to live independently.

That might mean we help you hire a personal care attendant to aid you at home. Or it could be connecting you to options for financial assistance. We’re here to break down barriers to accessing our basic needs.

If you’re a caregiver…

Parents of minor children living with a disability can now be caregivers paid through Medicaid. And as of last year, spouses can be too. This can help ease some of the challenges that come with helping your loved ones access care.

It can still be an overwhelming job, and it’s easy to fall into burnout. If you or someone in your care is struggling or you need help accessing programs, reach out. We can help.

That’s a little taste of what we do. But there’s always more. If you’re not quite sure where to start, contact us to learn more about Ability Montana’s services. See how you can gain independence and live the life you want.

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