Free Tax Help for Illinois Residents With Disabilities, Others in Need

March 18th, 2024

The display screen of a calculator with the text, "Tax Hep"

Programs offering free tax preparation and help filing tax returns are available to eligible individuals and families across Illinois.

People with disabilities, families with low income, taxpayers who speak limited English, and individuals over the age of 50 can receive tax help through in-person and online programs.

Many of the programs will provide help through April 15, the deadline for filing your 2023 tax return. The type of services and programs available will vary by region.

The Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs offer free basic tax return preparation to qualified individuals.

VITA sites offer free tax help to individuals, including:

  • People who genrally make $64,000 or less
  • People with disabilities
  • Taxpayers who speak limited English
  • People 60 years of age or older

The AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Service focuses on providing in-person and online tax help to people over the age of 50 or who have low-to-moderate income. You do not need to be an AARP member to receive assistance.

The AARP Tax-Aide Site Locator can help you find a site where an IRS-certified volunteer can help you prepare and file your taxes.

Tax-Aide also offers free virtual coaching and software for state and federal returns if you prefer to do your own taxes. You must:

  • Have an income between $16,000 and $79,000
  • Be an active-duty military member making $79,000 or less

In the Chicagoland area, taxpayers can also access the Ladder Up Tax Assistance Program (TAP). The program provides free basic tax return preparation for:

  • Families earning up to $64,000 and individuals earning up to $32,000 per year
  • Full-year Illinois residents

You can also contact your local library and government offices for information about free tax preparation services in your area.

Applications Open for the 2024-25 IL LEND Fellowship Program

February 8th, 2024

IL LEND logo

This free training program prepares graduate students, self-advocates and family members to be leaders in improving health services for people with disabilities.

Family members, self-advocates and graduate students can apply for a free training program to build your skills and improve the quality of life for people with disabilities.

The University of Illinois Chicago’s (UIC) Leadership and Education in Neurodevelopmental and related Disabilities Program (IL LEND) training program is now accepting applications for the 2024-25 school year.

This yearlong interdisciplinary program will provide participants a deep dive into areas that include:

  • Cultural competence
  • Emerging issues
  • Family-centered care
  • Leadership
  • Advocacy
  • Serving children with autism and other disabilities and their families
  • Services and systems change

IL LEND is housed in the Department of Disability and Human Development at UIC. It is part of LEND’s nationwide network providing interdisciplinary training to improve the health and well-being of individuals with disabilities. LEND focuses on providing individuals with the skills necessary to create positive change on all levels, from the individual to systems.

The IL LEND fellowship program brings together trainees from diverse backgrounds. Trainees will participate in classroom learning and a wide variety of hands-on experiences.

Training will focus on serving individuals with disabilities and their families through coordinated, culturally competent and family-centered care and gaining a deeper understanding of public health services and policy systems change.

Training will include:

  • An individually tailored mentorship
  • Weekly didactic (classroom) sessions
  • Research or leadership projects
  • Community outreach
  • Policy and advocacy training
  • Clinical training with a focus on Autism

There is no cost to participate in the fellowship program. Eligible trainees can receive a stipend.

This program is open to graduate students, adults with developmental disabilities, parents and/or siblings of individuals with developmental disabilities, and individuals from diverse backgrounds.

IL LEND trainees from the Chicago metropolitan area meet in person at UIC for their LEND training. Trainees can also join remotely through training sites at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIU).

The program gives priority to the following applicants:

  • Family members
  • Self-advocates
  • Graduate students in the represented disciplines, which include nursing, social work, developmental pediatrics, disability studies, and public health.

See the IL LEND graduate program brochure for more details and a complete list of study areas.

Download the IL LEND Fellowship Program application flyer to review or share.

Read more about applying on the IL LEND website. You can also click on the links below to download the:

The deadline to apply is March 25.

If you have questions about the fellowship program, contact Kruti Acharya at or (312) 413-1495.

To learn more about IL LEND, visit

Sensory-Friendly Holiday Happenings in Illinois

November 22nd, 2023

An older, dark-haired boy in a wheelchair smiles at the Christmas trees and holiday decorations that surround him

Fun, inclusive events the whole family can enjoy throughout Illinois!

How will you make memories this holiday season?

There are light displays, sensitive Santa opportunities, parades and more going on throughout Illinois.

Our Special Events page includes a roundup of opportunities designed specifically for youth with disabilities and special healthcare needs.

You can also browse this collection of special programs and event guides for opportunities to create some holiday magic and plenty of smiles:

We will continue to add holiday events and activities, so please check our Special Events page often throughout the season.

If you know of a good sensory-friendly event to share, please email us at

Please note, the University of Illinois Chicago’s Division of Specialized Care for Children (DSCC) is not involved in organizing or scheduling these holiday events. If you have questions about a specific event, please contact the event sponsor or organizer.

Upcoming Education and Scholarship Opportunities for Young Adults with Disabilities

April 7th, 2023

diverse group of college students taking a selfie in a grassy area outdoors on a college campus

Learn more about the Illinois Community College Initiative and 2023 CSBG Scholarship Program

Finding the right programs and resources is key when planning for the future as a young adult with disabilities.

Two programs currently offer valuable education, training and scholarship opportunities for Illinois youth interested in college or joining the workforce after high school.

Illinois Community College Initiative

The Illinois Department of Human Services’ Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) wants to help people with disabilities in their quest for success.

The Illinois Community College Initiative provides academic and vocational training programs for eligible students with disabilities at in-state public community colleges and approved community colleges bordering the state.

People with disabilities who are eligible for the DRS vocational rehabilitation program are eligible to participate. You may complete community college coursework leading to an associate degree or to a degree, certificate or other industry-recognized credential or certificate.

DRS will help you with:

  • Tuition
  • The cost of fees, books and supplies
  • Transportation costs
  • Other eligible costs

See the Illinois Community College Initiative flyer for more details.

Spanish-speaking families can listen to the radio ad or read the ad transcript in Spanish.

Ready to get started? Contact your local DRS office using the locator tool or call (877) 581-3690. TTY and relay callers can dial 711.

2023 C.E.F.S. Economic Opportunity Corporation’s CSBG Scholarship

C.E.F.S. Economic Opportunity Corporation has a scholarship program to help students pay for college or occupational training.

The CSBG College Scholarship program provides financial help to income-eligible students living in the following counties:

  • Christian
  • Clay
  • Effingham
  • Fayette
  • Montgomery
  • Moultrie
  • Shelby

You can use the scholarship to pay for formal education or occupational training in an accredited Illinois educational institution. Training and degrees may include:

  • Associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree, post-secondary education
  • General education, short-term training (two years or less) in growth occupation skills

The CSBG scholarship is competitive and awards students based on:

  • Income
  • The interview process
  • Choosing to go into high technology areas or other growth occupations

Previous scholarship recipients can submit an application. You must be enrolled or intend to enroll as full-time students for the fall 2023 semester in an Illinois-accredited college. Full-time is 12 hours or more.

Click on the CSBG Scholarship application or get an application at your county C.E.F.S. outreach office. The application includes contact information for each local office.

You can also visit the C.E.F.S. website for more information.

You must complete your application and submit all requested documents to your local office by April 14 at 4 p.m.

All eligible candidates will have an interview in May.

Find More Transition Resources

Visit the Transition Tools section of our website to find more programs and information to help with planning and paying for college, getting a job and more.

You can browse the Transition: Education Resources and the Transition: Work Resources categories to find what you need.

Our team is also here to help partner with you and your family to help make the transition to adulthood as successful as possible.

Contact us to find out more!

Affordable Connectivity Program Helps Lower Internet Costs

May 13th, 2022

Affordable Connectivity Program graphic

Eligible families can receive discounts on internet service and devices in their homes

Having affordable and reliable internet service at home is more important than ever.

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a federal program to help families afford the cost of internet service and devices in their homes.

Households can qualify in a number of ways. Eligibility can be based on income, participation in other assistance programs or if anyone in the household already receives a Lifeline benefit.

Under the ACP program, eligible households may receive:

  • Up to $30 per month discount for broadband service
  • Up to $75 per month discount for households on qualifying tribal lands
  • A one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, desktop computer or tablet purchased through a participating provider. The household must contribute more than $10 but less than $50 toward the purchase price.

The ACP is a program of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The program is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household.

To apply, go to You may submit your application online or print a mail-in application in English or Spanish.

Applicants also must contact their existing or preferred provider to select a plan and have the discount applied to their bill.

For complete details and to access American Sign Language videos about the program, visit

The ACP Support Center is also available to answer your questions daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at (877) 384-2575 or

For more utility and financial assistance programs, visit our online Resource Directory.

Supported Employment Listening and Learning Sessions

March 28th, 2018


Discuss existing barriers to employment for people with disabilities.

Individuals with disabilities and their families are invited to join the Arc of Illinois, the Self-Advocacy Alliance, Sibling Leadership Network and Illinois Assistive Technology Program for a series of Supported Employment Listening and Learning Sessions.

You’ll have the opportunity to discuss the barriers you see in employment for people with disabilities and learn more about policy changes that could affect people with intellectual and developmental disabilities through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and Illinois Employment First in Illinois.

Sessions in Chicago and Edwardsville are to follow.

Email Meg Cooch at or call (773) 558-5136 for more information.