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What is Independent Living?

Independent Living Philosophy

In 1961, Ed Roberts was determined to attend the University of California at Berkley in spite of his severe disability related to contracting polio as a teenager. Influenced by the civil rights movement and the peer support model, Roberts formed a student organization to work for the barrier removal and support services for students with disabilities so that they could live independently while attending school. Ed Roberts is often referred to as the “father of independent living”.

What is a Center for Independent Living (CIL)

A Center for Independent Living (CIL) is a community-based, cross-disability, non-profit organization that is designed and operated by people with disabilities. CILs are unique in that they operate according to a strict philosophy of consumer control, wherein people with all types of disabilities directly govern and staff the organization. Centers for Independent Living were created by U.S. Congress in Title VII of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; today there are more than 400 CILS throughout the United States, funded with both public and private resources. The core values of independent living are dignity, peer support, consumer control, civil rights, integration, equal access, and advocacy.

How does a CIL differ from other service organizations?

Centers for Independent Living are unique in that they are governed, managed and staffed by a majority of people with disabilities. This is defined as “consumer control”, one of the CIL core values. Unlike other service providers, CILs believe that people with disabilities are in the best position to understand what services are needed, and how to assist and advocate in the independent living process. CILs utilize the term “consumer” rather than “client” in order to denote this peer relationship.