What Independent Living Means
means all disabilities are included. While the daily details of our disabilities are different, we are all experiencing the same societal barriers and oppression.
means that the individual with a disability must be able to make his or her own choices, and to be in charge of his or her own life. Consumer control also means that the organizations best suited to assist us are not run by parents, social workers, or medical people, but by us, people who have disabilities.
Self-help and peer support…
means that people learn and grow by discussing their needs, concerns and issues with people who have had similar experiences.
Equal access to society…
means that as barriers are removed and legal rights are honored, society in its broadest sense appreciates and includes people with disabilities in education, employment, housing, recreation, transportation, and all other forms of public and private group activity.
The traditional, medical model focuses on what is wrong with the person with a disability, and making efforts to "fix what is broken." In our philosophy, a person with a disability is someone identified as having one or more impairment(s) who has limited choices regarding participation in community life. These choices are limited because of community barriers, low community- and self-expectations, stigma, prejudice, and discrimination. Participation in community life includes getting an education, working, living independently, shopping, worshipping, using public transportation, and political activities. Societal barriers, not the disability itself, are the major reason many people with disabilities have problems living independently. Centers for Independent Living do not "rehabilitate" the person, but instead focus on reducing and removing the barriers that limit our choices.
Centers for Independent Living were created by the Rehabilitation
Act of 1979. There are almost 500 Centers nationwide. They operate
a wide variety of programs to address local concerns and priorities.
But every Center promotes the Independent Living philosophy and core
values discussed above.
Every Center for Independent Living has four core services that they must provide. These are advocacy, peer support, information and referral, and independent living skills training.
Advocacy is working to remove the barriers to independent living and full inclusion in all aspects of community life. Sometimes Centers will advocate for the rights of one person in his or her own community. Sometimes Centers work to achieve change that will benefit thousands or even millions of persons with disabilities all over the state or the nation. This kind of systems change is often achieved through legislative and regulatory advocacy. Systems advocacy focuses on barrier removal and equal access to society.
Peer support is providing the opportunity for people to learn and grow by discussing their needs, concerns and issues with people who have had similar experiences. Sometimes staff will provide the peer support, sometimes individuals will receive their support from another person in the community, and sometimes they will take part in a support group.
Information and referral gives people access to the information and resources they need to make informed choices and get what they need to live independently.
Independent living skills training helps individuals acquire the skills they need to live. Often it will include teaching people how to employ and manage personal assistants, or care for physical needs related to their disability, or how to communicate effectively. Who better than another person with a disability to show someone the "tricks of the trade?"
Other services commonly offered by Centers for Independent Living include…