What is the VT SILC?

The Vermont Statewide Independent Living Council is an autonomous organization that represents the disability community in the state of Vermont.  Its charge is to promote the principles of the Independent Living Movement and advocate for every Vermont resident living with a disability from a systems level. 

Per the WIOA (Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act), the SILC must be comprised of a representation of the disability community in the state.  Membership must consist of at least 50% people with lived experience with a disability. It must also consist of representation from agencies that support PWD in the state.  A liaison to the state must also be appointed.

Whom do we support?

The VT SILC has two member organizations that it supports: The Vermont Center for Independent Living and The Division of the Blind and Visually Impaired.  It also has partnered with many other organizations through its committee work. These include VTrans, VABVI, Pathways VT, and others. Through this network of partners, the VT SILC ultimately works to support people with any form of disability living in Vermont.

Our Members

Theo Kennedy – SILC Chair

Mr. Kennedy was born in Brunswick, Maine, and grew up mostly in New York. He graduated cum laude in 1983 from Middlebury College. Theo received his Juris Doctor in 1991, and a Master of Public Health with a concentration in Environmental Health in 1994 from Boston University.

Theo was licensed to practice law in Massachusetts in 1994, working in real property, banking, and debtor-creditor law as a title examiner and lender counsel performing closings, as well as handling a motion practice and banking litigation support for a private law firm in Boston. He also spent a year with a sole practitioner doing plaintiff-side personal injury law before returning to the areas of banking and real property as a senior counselor for a statewide not-for-profit in Massachusetts that assisted elders in financial distress and foreclosure.

Intent on returning to Vermont, he joined the Vermont Department of Public Service in the Consumer Affairs and Public Information Division in January 1999, becoming conversant in public utility regulatory and consumer matters.

In 2001, he joined the Vermont Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration as a Staff Attorney and Director of Health Rates and Forms, where he developed expertise in the health insurance industry and legislative and regulatory healthcare issues.

Prior to joining Otis & Kennedy in July 2010, Theo helped oversee legislative, regulatory, data analysis, and policy matters for seven years in the Vermont Department for Children and Families as Director of Planning, Policy, and Regulation.

Sharon Henault – SILC Vice Chair

Sharon Henault is a 70 year old woman with cerebral palsy who is lucky enough to have lived through the civil rights and IL movements for people with disabilities.

She has worked for the Governor’s Committee on Employment for Persons with Disabilities (GCEPD) (formerly “for handicapped,”), as a Vocational Rehabilitation counselor, an advocate for United Cerebral Palsy and a navigator for the Federation for Children’s Mental Health.

She has served on many boards and commissions that work to protect and expand the civil rights for people with disabilities. She also helped start the Vermont Center for Independent living (VCIL).

Sarah Wendell Launderville – CIL Rep

Sarah Wendell Launderville has worked in the disability rights movement since 1997, and has a psychiatric disability. She has a MS in Human Services, Organizational Management and Leadership. She is the Executive Director of the Vermont Center for Independent Living. She serves on various councils and boards connected to disability rights at the state and national level including the President of the National Council on Independent Living, President of the Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights, President of Disability Rights Vermont and the Chair of the VT State Rehab Council.

In addition, she teaches about politics, economics and advocacy at Springfield College. She is the mother to three children and in her free time likes to participate in direct actions for disability rights.

Fred Jones – SILC State Liason

Fred Jones is the Director of the State Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired and has been in this role for the past 18-years. He currently also serves as the Designated State Entity as a liaison between the State of Vermont and the SILC. Other professional experience includes 7-years as a Special Education Consultant at the Vermont Agency of Education, and 7-years as a high school special education teacher and a teacher of the visually impaired. He was also Chair of the Governor’s Committee for Employment of People with Disabilities for several years. He believes strongly that people with disabilities can achieve their goals and live the life they want. Fred has a Master’s degree in Education from Vanderbilt University.

Vicki Warfield – SILC Executive Committee At-Large Member

Vicki Warfield is the Outreach Coordinator for Vermont Psychiatric Survivors. Before joining VPS, Vicki served as Coordinator for the Wellness Workforce Coalition – a collaboration of organizations focused around training and advocacy for peer support services in Vermont. Prior to moving to Vermont in 2016, Vicki spent many years working with and advocating for the needs of individuals with dementia and end-of-life issues in Colorado, Florida, and British Columbia. Vicki serves on the Adult Standing Committee of the Department of Mental Health and with Montpelier Community Justice. She graduated from the University of Colorado with a Bachelor’s in Psychology and from Selkirk College with a Social Service Worker Certification. Vicki is passionate about dismantling institutionalized systems of oppression, building strong communities, individualizing healthcare within a broad social perspective, and advocating for greater acceptance of and respect for neurodiversity.

Brian Smith

Bio to come.

Hillary Melton – SILC Housing Committee Chair

Hilary has 20 plus years of experience in managing non-profit programs. She has worked in shelters, street outreach, and administered supported housing programs in New York City and Vermont. Hilary is currently the Executive Director of Pathways Vermont which was initially funded with a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to bring the Housing First model to a rural state. In addition to people experiencing chronic homelessness, Pathways Vermont also supports people returning to the community from institutions (correctional facilities and psychiatric hospitals) with housing and services.

Allen Sherman – SILC Education Committee

Allen Sherman received his Masters degree, in Arts and Liberal Studies, from Dartmouth College in 2004. He is dyslexic and has ADHD. The confluence of these disabilities made it impossible for him to read until he was 11 years old. Mr. Sherman grew up at a time when dyslexia was barely understood in public schools. The embarrassment and humiliation he experienced from teachers and students Instilled in him a passion to understand why our species treats its fellow beings so poorly. Mr. Sherman, now 75, is still trying to figure it out. In his teenage years he began studying Literature, Philosophy, Religion and History. Mr. Sherman has lived an eclectic life. He has been a mediator. He collaborated on a play performed in venues throughout Vermont. His photographs have been exhibited widely. Mr. Sherman taught high school in an alternative school, focusing on critical thinking, philosophy, history, literature and disability, including the biographies of Helen Keller, Christy Brown and Jacques Lusseyran. After graduating from Dartmouth he taught Comparative Religion and a course on The Holocaust at Community College of Vermont.

Mr. Sherman worked as a teacher’s aide in Granville, Vermont’s one-room schoolhouse where he worked intimately with students with disabilities: Down Syndrome, Autism and emotional and behavioral problems. At the request of the students of Rochester, Vermont High School he directed their production of The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde.

Disability has been a central factor in Mr. Sherman‘s life personally and as a teacher. 
Mr. Sherman believes that because dyslexia and ADHD are hidden disabilities they continue to be misunderstood. He is committed to supporting children and adults with disabilities by increasing the understanding of disability in our culture and society.

Whitney Nichols

Although some people emerge from homelessness and never look back, Whitney chose to use his experience to help others avoid personal setbacks. He has been a consumer advocate since 2005. Previous employment includes natural history travel and special education.

State policy formerly determined that he no longer qualified for the Medicaid for Working People with Disabilities at retirement age. Vermont has since restructured Medicaid buy-in regulations to allow for retention of eligibility for older persons with disabilities. This rectification is an important step toward acknowledging the value of continued employment for all seniors with disabilities.

Whitney continues to serve as a consumer representative in various sectors including the Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness, the Brattleboro Retreat Consumer Advisory Council, Groundworks Collaborative Homeless Shelter, the National Independent Living Council (NICL), and the State Independent Living Council (SILC).

He is a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) facilitator and is working on Intentional Peer Support (IPS) certification.

Timothy Bradshaw – SILC Transportation Committee Chair

Timothy Bradshaw (SILC Transportation Committee Chair): Public Transit Program Coordinator, joined VTrans in October 2015. Tim started as a CDL driver with Chittenden County Transportation Authority in 2000. He has been in the public transportation industry for over 19 years and was most recently the Director of Operations for CCTA for their rural operations. Tim has extensive knowledge in bus operations including route planning, driver training, fleet management and union management relations. He has managed in both the urban and rural side of public transportation and is very customer service driven with a strong focus on providing safe, friendly, reliable, accessible and sustainable transportation for all Vermonters. Tim has an accounting degree from Champlain College and lives in Burlington with his wife Susan. They have been married for 31 years and have two children. Tim is an avid Boston sports fan and grew up in historic Lexington Mass. He loves playing golf, basketball, skiing, hiking and spending time with family and friends.

Steve Pouliot

Steve Pouliot has been the Executive Director of the Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (VABVI) since 2001. This was a promotion from his former position of 8 years as the Controller and Assistant Executive Director for VABVI. Prior to that, he was the controller of various companies and worked for a regional CPA firm. He received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from the University of Vermont; and is a Certified Public Accountant. Steve came to VABVI as their first Controller with the task of helping to stabilize and help improve their budget. Once he learned about, and saw what the mission of the Agency was and how they helped people with visual impairments stay independent, he decided to stay with VABVI for the long term. He also wanted them to be a strong Agency as his daughter had diabetes, and if she ever developed diabetic retinopathy, he wanted the Agency to be there to help her. Steve is a member of several advisory boards for the State of Vermont; including the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living, the State Independent Living Council, the State Rehabilitation Council, COVE, and is a member/treasurer of the Vermont Coalition of Disability Rights.

Tom Hamilton – SILC Executive Director

Tom Hamilton is a graduate of Montpelier High School. His experience with disability started in 2005 after losing an eye. After returning to Vermont after travelling, he started doing youth advocacy work later that year and has since then worked as an advocate for alternative education models and for students with disabilities. He has a Bachelor’s degree focusing on Education Theory from Goddard College. He has found that his focus on vocational and skills-based learning aligns with the Independent Living philosophy, and has worked within that movement since 2017.