Centers for Independent Living

Independent Living means having control of one’s life by creating informed choices that enable people with disabilities to realize their dreams and aspirations. Living independently does not mean doing everything for one’s self, but being in control of decisions made about one’s self. This is the foundation for Independent Living as it relates to the Disability Rights Movement.

A Center for Independent Living (CIL) is a non-residential, community-based, private, not-for-profit, consumer controlled organization that serves three major functions:
  • Systems advocacy to eliminate environmental, economic, communication, civil and human rights barriers;

  • Training and direct services that offer choice options to consumers that encourage them to make their own decisions about how they live; and

  • Public education to promote awareness of disability and accessibility to create equal opportunities for people with disabilities throughout their communities.
The majority of staff, management, and board members must be people with disabilities. By demonstrating that people with disabilities can be independent and productive, CIL staff acts as a role model. Their knowledge, support, personal experiences, and guidance give consumers the confidence to pursue their own independence.

CILs offer community-based services for people with disabilities. In contrast to more traditional medical models in which the “client” or “patient” is highly dependent upon “experts”, a CIL emphasis is on “consumer” self-direction and control. CILs promote a positive self-image, which is important to developing significant peer relationships. The most difficult barrier for people with disabilities to overcome is attitude. Thus, CILs advocate for changes in legislation, provide disability awareness training, develop technical assistance initiatives regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and promotes a strong community presence. CILs are not social service agencies, but agents for social change.