Independent Living

Independent Living is a philosophy about disability, society, and a worldwide movement of people with disabilities working for self-determination, self-respect and equal opportunities. The Independent Living Movement grew out of the Disability Rights Movement of the 1970s. Independent Living means being included fully in the community. People with disabilities have the right to go to local schools, use the same public transportation, work along side members of the community. The movement seeks to the end of the special but separate mentality.

What are Centers for Independent Living?

Centers for Independent Living (CILs) are NOT where people with disabilities live. They are non-profit organizations that are places of action and coalition, where people with disabilities learn empowerment and develop the skills necessary to make lifestyle choices.

Centers provide services and advocacy to promote the leadership, independence, and productivity of people with disabilities. Centers work with both individuals as well as with the local communities to remove barriers to independence and ensuring equality of persons with disabilities. A center’s core services are: advocacy, peer counseling, skills training, information and referral.

Centers for Independent Living are created through the efforts of local people with disabilities, their family members, friends, and other interested persons. As people become organized, they begin to assess the local needs, level of local interest and support for a Center. Successful establishment of a Center for Independent Living often depends on networking, personal involvement, coalition building, and a commitment to the empowerment of persons with disabilities.

History of Independent Living

Ed Roberts (1939-1995) founded the first Center for Independent Living in 1972 at Berkeley, California. He was an international leader and educator in the independent living and disability rights movements. He fought throughout his life to enable all persons with disabilities to fully participate in society.

Roberts, known as “The Father of Independent Living” contracted polio at the age of fourteen in 1953, which caused him to become paralyzed from the neck down except for two fingers on one hand.

He organized a group called, “The Rolling Quads’ to protest the inaccessible University of Berkeley campus. That was a success and he went on later to found Centers for Independent Living (CILs). Those grew to over 400 independent living centers across the country. Learn more about the Independent Living Movement and its history.

Independent Living in Action

Ironically, in most cases a person with a disability living in their community does not mean they can do so independently. Many people need assistance. What it does mean is living a full enriched life included in the community, to have access to everything citizens have, and to make everyday choices.

Assistance for some people with disabilities can come in many forms and cover a wide range. Support can come from friends, neighbors, and service providers.

Services may not and probably won’t cover everything which is why it’s important to build community supports. This can be done by finding a common interest with others around. For a much safer environment the person with a disability must build connections within the community. Independent Living IS people with disabilities that are empowered to live the life they want.

Learn More About Independent Living