Empowering Everyone to Live Their Fullest Life
What is Independent Living
What is Independent Living?
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. For many people with disabilities, barriers in their communities take away or severely limit their choices. These barriers may be obvious, such as lack of ramped entrances for people who use wheelchairs, lack of interpreters or captioning for people with hearing impairments, lack of Brailled, digital or recorded copies of printed material for people who have visual impairments. Other barriers—frequently less obvious–can be even more limiting for efforts on the part of people with disabilities to live independently, and they result from people’s misunderstandings and prejudices about disability. These barriers result in low expectations about things people with disabilities can achieve.
So, people with disabilities not only have to deal with the effects of their disabling conditions, but they also have to deal with these barriers; otherwise, they are likely to be limited to a life of dependency and low personal satisfaction. This need not occur. Millions of people all over America who experience disabilities have established lives of independence. They fulfill all kinds of roles in their communities, from employers and employees to marriage partners to parents to students to athletes to politicians to taxpayers–an unlimited list. In most cases, the barriers facing them haven’t been removed, but these individuals have been successful in overcoming or at least dealing with them.
A DEFINITION OF INDEPENDENT LIVING
Essentially, independent living is living, working and playing 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 are not disabled 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 people without disabilities do.
There are, of course, individuals who have certain mental impairments which may affect their abilities to make complicated decisions or pursue complex activities. For those individuals, independent living means having every opportunity to be as self-sufficient as possible. Independent living, it isn’t easy, and it can be risky, but millions of people with disabilities rate higher than a life of dependency, narrow opportunities and unfulfilled expectations.
THE INDEPENDENT LIVING MOVEMENT
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, this idea led people with disabilities from around the country to take active roles on local and national levels in shaping decisions on issues affecting their lives. A major part of these activities involved formation of community-based groups of people with different types of disabilities who joined together to identify barriers and gaps in service delivery. To address barriers, action plans were developed to educate the community and to influence policy makers at all levels to change regulations and to introduce barrier-removing legislation. To address gaps in services, a new method of service delivery was conceived – one which has people with disabilities determining the kinds of services essential to living independently, has people with disabilities directing the delivery of the services, and has people with disabilities actually providing these services. The catalyst for this new service delivery system was called the center for independent living.
The earliest center was formed in 1972 in Berkeley, California, soon followed that same year by centers in Boston and Houston. In 1978, following effective advocacy by people with disabilities and their supporters all over the country, federal legislation was passed that provided funding to establish centers for independent living, under (Title VII of the Rehabilitation Act). Today, there are centers in virtually every state and U.S. Territory.
About Florida Centers for Independent Living
Centers for Independent Living (CILs) empower persons with disabilities to take charge of their lives and guide their own destinies. In addition, CIL staff, boards, and consumers work together to remove barriers and prejudices in society so that all individuals can live and work and enjoy all that their communities have to offer. Fifty-one percent of the staff and boards of CILs are persons with disabilities, which means that they play significant roles in the decision-making responsibilities of the Centers.
Nineteen percent of all Florida residents have a disability. That number may seem high, but remember that not all disabilities are visible. The Florida network of 15 Centers for Independent Living serve persons with all types of disabilities. CILs serve all ages from children to seniors. Every Florida county is served by this network, both urban and rural areas. CILs offer a unique and wide diversity of services designed to maximize the ability for persons with disabilities to live and work in their communities.
The CILs are federally mandated under Section 725 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act as amended in 1998. They are funded with Federal and State dollars, and through local community grants and private donations. CILs fall under the authority of the Health & Human Services and Florida Department of Education, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. CILs are represented through the Florida Association of Centers for Independent Living (FACIL) as an advocacy and support organization.
Information & Referral
We have the answers to your questions and provide guidance to community resources.
Independent Living Skills
We offer individual and group training that enables you to live independently.
We encourage and facilitate sharing knowledge among individuals with similar life experiences.
Advocacy – Individual & Systemic
We provide Individual Advocacy resources which include assisting persons with understanding the community and state services available and helping individuals determine how to gain access to such services that may be needed to help them gain or maintain community independence.
Throughout its history the Center has played an active part in systemic advocacy at the local, state and national levels. It has lead the way on issues as diverse as adaptive accessible technology, education, employment, healthcare, transition, transportation, and voting. Often times, the personal self advocacy of a consumer points the way for systemic advocacy.
The Center facilitates the transition of people with disabilities from nursing homes, hospitals, and other institutions to home and community based living, as well as the transition of youth with disabilities to higher education, the workforce and/or the community. This includes Diversion services that assist those who are at risk of entering an institutional setting.
Each CIL also offers unique services tailored to the needs of its community, including but not limited to: home modifications, equipment loans and repair, computer skills training, recreational activities and community events.
Other Programs include:
- Medical Equipment Recycling Program (MERP) – DAC accepts your gently used durable medical equipment. These items are refurbished and given to a person with a disability who is unable to afford such items.
- Consumer Equipment & Modification Assistance (CEMA) – DAC provides direct assistance for equipment and minor home modifications to enable independence as funding is available.
- Employment Services – Helping you find and retain competitive employment, which includes pre-employment skills training, placement and employer mentoring.
- Home Modifications Assistance – Connecting you with available resources to make your home more accessible.
- Deaf & Hard of Hearing Services – Providing independent living services for the deaf and hard of hearing.
For more information on Centers for Independent Living in Florida, see the “Map of Florida’s CILs" for a link to the CIL near you.