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Margie & Luis | TheCIL Residential Access Program

Updated: Apr 3, 2022

The Power to Empower: Luis's Story

Luis pushing onto his new ramp

With a smile possibly brighter than his blond curly mohawk, Luis pushed himself into his home for the first time.

Luis came to Oakland from Central America to seek new opportunities. He wanted to improve the life for his family as well as challenge himself. He worked to support his family as a painter, went to school to learn English, and participated in community sports, all with the goal to one day build his own business for himself and his family.

On his way home from a paint job in 2016, Luis was a victim of gun violence in Oakland. His life changed. Luis became a paraplegic. Things that were once accessible to him felt out of reach and he felt as though he may not be able to do the things - work, school, athletics - that he had been doing. During his recovery, John of Youth Alive met Luis who counseled him through the physical changes and the emotions that came with these changes. When Luis was ready to leave the hospital, John introduced Luis to the team at TheCIL.


Margie & Luis: A Story of Residential Access

In this video, "Margie & Luis", we talk with The CIL Residential Access Coordinator, Margie Cochran, about how Luis came to the attention of The CIL. Then, Luis explains how the new ramp from The CIL has helped him to live more independently.


Luis first discovered a new sense of independence through TheCIL’s Community Connections program with Catherine. He learned how to best maneuver in his wheelchair, transfer in and out of his wheelchair, and navigate the Bay Area’s public transportation system.

When he met Margie Cochran, The CIL’s Residential Access Coordinator, she helped him to further change his mindset. She oversaw the construction of a ramp so that Luis could enter and leave his house on his own safely. His father had built a makeshift ramp, but it was too steep for Luis to push himself up. An angle of a ramp surface is a critical consideration for ease of access. For Luis, the constructed ramp helped him see that there are still opportunities available.

The new ramp in place at Luis's home

“Where I am now is because of the people that support me, who shine light on opportunities available to me in order to make my dreams a reality,” Luis said.

He has enrolled in classes to continue improving his English and prepare for the GED exam. He’s also able to actively participate in sports. He has met new friends at a wheelchair lacrosse clinic and is now looking forward to learn how to drive.

Luis shared, “I also want to also inspire others, to let them know that things are not impossible even if they seem that way. It may be hard work and that it’s not going to be easy, but that there are still ways to achieve your dreams, even if it is a modified journey.”


Behind the Construction: Margie’s Story

A conversation with Margie Cochran, Residential Access Coordinator.

The CIL Residential Access Coordinator, Margie Cochran.
The CIL Residential Access Coordinator, Margie Cochran.

This is your 20th year at The CIL! What attracted you to work with us?

I've been a carpenter about 100 years, actually, and then I was a small contractor doing small projects like kitchens, bathrooms, decks, home offices. In my mid-50s, it became clear I didn't want to work physically five days a week into my old age, so I only work one day a week as a carpenter and the other four days I work at the Center for Independent Living. This job, for me, is a perfect fit. I really like people. I meet wonderful, interesting people in their homes and collaborate with them on how to provide a modification that will help them live more comfortably and safely.

What’s involved in the role as The CIL’s Residential Access Coordinator?

I oversee the installation of ramps and lifts and interior home modifications such as grab bars and flexible shower hoses for people with various disabilities so they can live independently, safely, and comfortably at home. My program is only for Berkeley residents, but with the state grant, we were able to work in Oakland. I worked with John (from Youth ALIVE!) closely. We met at the home, met Luis and his family to decide what was the best solution for his access in and out of the house.

How was the process to install the ramp at Luis’s home?

In this case, there were a couple of things that were, you could say, obstacles to the ramp. There was an outdoor sink that the family used and they still wanted access to, and there was also this beautiful jade plant that the property owner did not want us to get rid of. So, I had to extend the front landing of the ramp out more than usual so that the ramp could then avoid being in the way of that sink and the jade plant. But it worked nicely, and it also meant that the extended landing could be kind of like a little deck for the family, so it actually was kind of a win-win situation.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I do want to add one important thing. It's not only great that the person has access out into the community, so they can go to school or work or hang out with their friends. It's important to know that the community then has access to them, because many, many of these people are highly talented, ambitious. They want to be part of the community. So, by providing access for them, they can get out in the community and then the community benefits from their talents as well.

- The CIL


Designing a Ramp | The CIL Residential Access Program

In this short video, "Designing a Ramp", Residential Access Coordinator, Margie Cochran, explains the process behind designing a ramp for a Residential Access client.


To learn more about The CIL's Residential Access Program, visit

If you or someone you know needs a home modification to enhance accessibility of your living environment, please contact us for a consultation. While eligibility for free installations is limited to certain demographics, we can provide anyone information about feasibility and options.

Contact us by phone at 510-841-4776, video phone at 510-356-2662, or send us an email at

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