What is independent living?
Essentially is it living just like everyone else – having opportunities to make decisions that affect one’s life, having the ability to pursue activities of one’s own choosing – limited only in the same ways that one’s non-disabled neighbors are limited.
Most Americans take for granted the opportunities that they have regarding living arrangements, employment, means of transportation, social and recreational activities, and other aspects of everyday life. For people with disabilities however, the pursuit of independence and the realization of fundamental human rights is a relatively new concept. It was not too long ago that people with disabilities were routinely abandoned in institutions or hidden away in an upstairs room by family members.
In the mid-1960’s, a group of students with severe physical disabilities were enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley and were living in University arranged housing in the campus infirmary. They were dissatisfied with this arrangement and wanted more. They wanted what most Americans want and expect: privacy, responsibility, dignity and independence.
The students decided to pool their resources, found off-campus housing and hired their own personal care assistants. These events contributed to the birth of the Independent Living Movement and to the subsequent creation of Center for Independent Living.
The philosophy of the Independent Living Movement became: “All people, regardless of disability, have the right and responsibility to assume control over their own lives.” As one consumer stated, “I may not be able to put on my own shirt in the morning, but it is my choice which shirt I wear.”
Independent Living is, therefore, the right of all people, regardless of age, type or extent of disability to:
- Live in the community as opposed to living in an institution
- Have the same range of choices as everyone else in housing, transportation, education and employment
- Participate in the social, economic and political life of their communities
- Live as responsible, respected members of their communities, with all of the duties and privileges that this entails
- Have the opportunity to unfold their potential