About Us

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Who We Are

At Ability1st we are a team. We work together, debate strategy, and cheer each other on. We are passionate about what we do and inspired by our mission to empower people with disabilities to live independently and enhance their quality of life.

Our Team

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Mandy Bianchi

Executive Director

Jackie Fortmann

Deputy Director

LaTunya Pritchett-Arnold

Human Services Outreach Manager


Operations & Human Resources Manager

Our History

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Ability1st is The Center for Independent Living of North Florida, Inc. We began in 1978 as a long-term residential program, providing all of the necessary support services to allow significantly disabled students to attend Florida State University. This included student housing, personal care, meals and transportation.

In 1980, the organization was incorporated as the Leon *Center for Independent Living (CIL). Four years later, we changed our name to the current legal name, The Center for Independent Living of North Florida, Inc.. In 1994, we converted our long-term residential program into a non-residential community-based CIL and began providing services to people with disabilities throughout a fourteen county region.

In 2003, we celebrated 25 years of service to people in our community living with disabilities and changed our business name to Ability1st. Throughout 2001-2005, Ability1st successfully fostered the growth of the Disability Resource Center, a satellite office in Panama City, which became its own CIL, serving the eight western counties in our region.

Since 2005, Ability1st has prioritized adding and expanding programs that target the most vulnerable people with disabilities in our community. Our focus is developing and implementing three different high-impact services: A Place Called Home, providing stable housing and support for chronically homeless people with disabilities; Crime Victim Assistance, providing support and advocacy for people with disabilities who have been victims of crime or who have a disability because of a crime; and Access to Independence, providing home modifications for people with disabilities to enable them to remain in their homes rather than moving to a more expensive and restrictive institution.

As we look to the future, Ability1st continues to expand access to private foundations and resources that will help us reduce our dependency on government funding, which can change significantly from year to year, and that more directly allow us to serve people with disabilities.

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