Access to Independence, is a federally funded Center for Independent Living (CIL). CILs are non-residential, non-profit organizations run by people with disabilities for all people with disabilities, in any age group. We currently provide our free services throughout San Diego and Imperial Counties in California and on the island of Oahu in Hawaii.

Our mission is to promote full participation of people with disabilities; to help maintain, sustain, and maximize independence.

At the center of the Independent Living Movement, are people with disabilities advocating for systematic change regarding the human and civil rights of all people with disabilities. As we often say, “nothing about us without us.”

Organizational History

It was not until the last century in the United States that significant federal legislation and funding have been considered for providing services to people with disabilities. In 1976, San Diegans with disabilities, Ray Zanella, Betty Bacon, and Ray Uzeta, established Community Service Center for the Disabled (“CSCD”), the third center for independent living (“CIL”) in the United States. CILs are consumer controlled, community based, cross disability, nonresidential private nonprofit agencies that are designed and operated within a local community by individuals with disabilities and provide an array of free independent living services. Today, 40 years later, CSCD is known as Access to Independence of San Diego, Inc. and is led by Executive Director, Letty Zuno.

Access to Independence provides a variety of programs and resources to people in San Diego and Imperial Counties and on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. We consider advocacy and transition to be the foundation of independent living and, with this strategic focus, expect to accomplish greater life-changing outcomes for our consumers while achieving our mission of promoting independent living and full inclusion of people with disabilities into the community. With continued state and federal funding, as well as the generous support of corporations and individual donors, we have been successful in providing the opportunity for our consumers to self-advocate, live independently, seek gainful employment, enjoy educational and recreational opportunities, and make decisions about their own medical care, assistive technology needs, and services that will be of the greatest benefit.

Our desire is to continue to remove obstacles and create possibilities that had previously been unavailable. As we celebrate the 40-year journey of Access to Independence, we pause to reflect on how far we have come and look forward to our continued journey to create new possibilities for people living with disabilities.


2018 – Hawaii Advisory Board is formed to provide local insight to the local needs of our Hawaii branch

2018 – The organization is awarded the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Transition grant, specific to our Hawaii branch

2017 – Letty Zuno becomes Executive Director of the organization

2014 – Access to Independence was awarded Federal funding on October 1, 2014 to provide independent living services to people with disabilities living in Oahu, Hawaii.

2014 – Access to Independence signs long-term contract to reduce healthcare costs for Care1st Health Plan.

2013 – Access to Independence excels in passing a six-month pilot project to reduce healthcare costs for Care1st Health Plan.

2012 – 1st Annual Employment Fair is hosted in our Imperial Valley branch, under the direction of Program Manager, Letty Zuno and staff

2010 – Louis Frick, Executive Director joined a four person delegation to Washington DC to stabilize federal funding; which became the H.R. 5610 bill; signed into law by President Barack H. Obama in July 2010.

2006 – The Access Center evolved and changed its’ name to Access to Independence.

1993 – CSCD changed its name to The Access Center of San Diego, Inc.

1992 – CSCD received a grant from the San Diego City Council which led to the purchase of our first building.

1982 – CSCD established the Spoke Shop which provided wheelchair rentals, sales, and repairs to the disabled community.

1977 – CSCD Executive Director William “Bill” Tainter opened the Independent Living Center.

1976 – San Diegans with disabilities received funding from the State Department of Rehabilitation and the Easter Seals Society to establish the Community Center for the Disabled (CSCD), the third Independent Living Center in the USA.