“Independent Living does not mean that we want to do everything by ourselves, do not need anybody or like to live in isolation. Independent Living means that we demand the same choices and control in our everyday lives that our non-disabled brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends take for granted. We want to grow up in our families, go to the neighborhood school, use the same bus as our neighbors, work in jobs that are in line with our education and interests, and raise families of our own. We are profoundly ordinary people sharing the same need to feel included, recognized and loved.”
– Dr. Adolf Ratzka
When people outside the disability community hear “independent living” they often think about residential facilities. Many do not understand that “independent living” is actually centered around disability rights and personal freedoms
The Independent Living Philosophy
In the Independent Living (IL) philosophy, people with disabilities are first seen as citizens and only secondarily as consumers of healthcare, rehabilitation or social services. The IL Movement asserts that persons with disabilities have the same right to everyday life, activities and projects as those without disabilities. Persons with disabilities should be able to have the same range of options, degrees of freedom, control and self-determination as everyone else.
These rights and opportunities are not always easy to assert. Persons with disabilities often come up against infrastructural, institutional and attitudinal barriers that prevent them from full community participation. Too often persons without disabilities do not realize support services such as assistive technology, income supplements or personal assistants are the tools not hindrances to achieve equal opportunities and independence.
The Independent Living philosophy firmly believes that persons with disabilities are the best experts on their needs, and therefore they must take the initiative, individually and collectively, in designing and promoting better solutions and must organize themselves for political power. Besides self-representation, the Independent Living ideology comprises de-medicalization of disability, de-institutionalization and cross-disability (i.e. inclusion in the IL Movement regardless of diagnoses).
Disability Rights are Civil Rights
With origins in the U.S. civil rights and consumer movements of the late 1960s, the Independent Living Movement grew out of the Disability Rights Movement, which began in the 1970s. The IL Movement works at replacing the special education and rehabilitation experts’ concepts of integration, normalization and rehabilitation developed by people with disabilities themselves.
The first Independent Living ideologists and organizers were people with significant disabilities. Today the movement’s message seems most popular among people whose lives depend on assistance with the activities of daily living and who, in the view of the IL Movement, are most exposed to custodial care, paternalistic attitudes and control by professionals.
Centers for Independent Living
A Center for Independent Living (CIL) was originally defined by Title VII of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as a community-based, consumer-controlled organization providing independent living related services to people of all ages with all types of disabilities. And although much of what defines a CIL has remained unchanged since 1973, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) of 2014 now governs the expectations of CILs and the services they offer.
For an organization to operate as a CIL, it must provide Core Services – Information & Referral, Independent Living Skills Training, Individual & Systems Advocacy, Peer Counseling/Support and Transition Services.
Prior to 2014, Transition Service was not listed as a core service for CILs, although many offered this as a service. WIOA added this service specifically relating to transitions from nursing homes and other institutions to community-based residences; assisting individuals to avoid institutional placement; and transition of youth with significant disabilities after completion of secondary education to post-secondary life.
Statewide Councils on Independent Living
There are multiple CILs in each state across the country, each with their own coverage area and citizens. Each state is required to maintain a Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC). Together with the CILs, each SILC develops a State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL) that is submitted to the government to indicate how the IL Network is going to improve independent living services for individuals with disabilities in the state over the next three years. The SPIL identifies the needs and priorities of consumers, providers, and other stakeholders and sets forth goals and objectives to respond to those needs.
Because Walton Options’ service areas cover two states, we are actively involved in both the Statewide Independent Living Council of Georgia (GA SILC) and the South Carolina Statewide Independent Living Council (SC SILC).
National Council on Independent Living
We are also actively involved in the National Council of Independent Living (NCIL). NCIL is the longest-running national cross-disability, grassroots organization run by and for people with disabilities. Founded in 1982, NCIL represents thousands of organizations and individuals including: individuals with disabilities, Centers for Independent Living (CILs), Statewide Independent Living Councils (SILCs), and other organizations that advocate for the human and civil rights of people with disabilities throughout the United States. You can find out more about NCIL including information about membership and the annual National Conference held in Washington DC by clicking here.
Association of Programs of Rural Independent Living
Because many of our counties have a rural population, we work with the he Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL). They are a national grassroots, nonprofit membership organization consisting of over 260 members from centers for independent living, their satellites and branch offices, statewide independent living councils, other organizations and individuals concerned with the independent living issues of people with disabilities living in rural America. APRIL stands as the united voice of Rural Independent Living. You can find out more about APRIL by clicking here.
Working together for the Disability Community
By working with the SILCs, NCIL and APRIL, Walton Options is able to advocate for persons with disabilities in the communities we serve. Through our partnerships and collaborations, we are able to offer a voice to an individual in their home, work, community, city, state and nation. We are also united in the belief that community-based, integrated employment for individuals with all types of disabilities should be the only option when it comes to employment. We support this through our Employment First position.
If you are interested in learning more about Independent Living, please contact Walton Options on 706-724-6262 to speak with an Information and Referral Specialist. Or complete the Self-Referral Form online by clicking here.
Looking for more resources? Click on the links below to find out more about Advocacy.