“Opening Doors to Opportunities with the Disability Community”
What is Independent Living?
What is Independent Living? Essentially, it is living just like everyone else having opportunities to make decisions that affect one’s life, able to pursue activities of one’s own choosing—limited only in the same ways that one’s non-disabled neighbors are limited.
Independent Living should not be defined in terms of living on one’s own, being employed in a job fitting one’s capabilities and interests, or having an active social life. These are aspects of living independently. Independent Living has to do with self-determination. It is having the right and the opportunity to pursue a course of action. And, it is having the freedom to fail—and to learn from one’s failures, just as non-disabled people do.
Independent Living Philosophy
Most Americans take for granted opportunities they have regarding living arrangements, employment situations, means of transportation, social and recreational activities, and other aspects of everyday life.
What is Independent Living? Essentially, it is living just like everyone else–having opportunities to make decisions that affect one’s life, able to pursue activities of one’s own choosing–limited only in the same ways that one’s neighbors who do not have disabilities are limited. Independent living has to do with self-determination. It is having the right and the opportunity to pursue a course of action. And, it is having the freedom to fail–and to learn from one’s failures, just as people without disabilities do.
There are many different types of organizations which serve people with disabilities. These organizations provide valuable services and are important links in the network of services that help people with disabilities maintain independent lifestyles. What makes independent living centers very different from these other organizations is that centers have substantial involvement of people with disabilities making policy decisions and delivering services. Why this emphasis on control by people with disabilities? The basic idea behind independent living is that the ones who know best what services people with disabilities need in order to live independently are people with disabilities themselves.
(Taken from An Orientation To Independent Living Centers, published by ILRU Research and Training Center on Independent Living at TIRR, Houston, Texas.)
Consumers (individuals with disabilities) control all aspects of the Center including decision making, service delivery, management, administration and establishment of policy and direction. The Board of Directors, which establishes policy and direction for the Center, is composed of members from the local community, the majority of which are consumers. The Executive Director and a majority of the management level staff are consumers. All of the peer counselors, a majority of the direct service staff and the majority of the overall staff members are consumers. There is a wide diversity of types of disabilities of Board and staff members including sensory, physical and cognitive categories. The Center maintains working relationships with, and staff are members of numerous consumer advocacy groups and organizations on the local, state and national levels. This provides an opportunity to receive additional input and feedback from consumers on the grassroots level
A Consumer Advisory Committee, composed of active Center participants, evaluates and provides feedback on Center services. The Chairperson of this committee serves as an ex-officio member on the Board of Directors. Center participants also provide feedback regarding the services they receive through consumer satisfaction surveys and interviews. Center participants are involved in every aspect of the services they receive from the Center and in meetings related to their services.
To the greatest extent possible, the Center attempts to recruit and utilize volunteers, support staff and instructors who are individuals with disabilities. The Center also secures business from companies owned or operated by individuals with disabilities.