Centers for Independent Living (CILs) serve as the primary organizational service delivery and advocacy within the Independent Living Movement, embodying its core philosophy. The fundamental mission revolves around empowering individuals with disabilities to lead more self-reliant lives while maintaining control over their life choices. The definition of CILs, as specified by the Federal Government, encompasses several key principles:
- Community-Based: A CIL must be established and operated by individuals with disabilities within the local community it serves, mirroring the unique characteristics of that community.
- Cross-Disability: CILs extend services to individuals with diverse significant disabilities, ensuring services are accessible without requiring specific disability qualifications.
- Consumer Controlled: The essence of CILs is that 51% or more of their staff and board members are comprised of people with notable disabilities. This allows consumers to influence the services they receive and the goals they set.
- Non-Residential: CILs are designed solely for non-residential purposes, distinct from housing management or operation.
History of CILs:
The roots of the independent living movement lie in a philosophy that proclaims equal civil rights, choices, and autonomy for people with disabilities, akin to those without disabilities.
The independent living movement is closely intertwined with the civil rights battles of the 1950s and 1960s, with Ed Roberts often referred to as the “father of independent living.”
In 1970, Ed and fellow students with disabilities initiated a disabled students’ program at Berkeley. His group was called the “Rolling Quads.” Upon graduation, the “Quads” set their sights on the need for access beyond the University’s walls.
This new program rejected the medical model, prioritizing consumerism, peer support, advocacy for changes, and independent living skills training.
Establishing an off-campus program office, consumer interest surged, prompting Ed Roberts and associates to establish a Center for Independent Living for the wider community. This laid the foundation for the CIL model, rooted in principles of consumer control, self-help, self-advocacy, and community advocacy.
Through nationwide efforts, the necessity for services beyond traditional Vocational Rehabilitation Programs became evident, leading to the addition of Title VII within the Rehabilitation Act Title VII provides funding for CIL and IL services. Today, over 400 nationwide programs offer a range of IL services to help consumers achieve their goals.
To learn more about the history of the Centers for Independent Living and the disability movement, please visit https://www.ilru.org/sites/default/files/resources/il_history/IL_Movement.pdf.