Making St. Louis Accessible
for Over 40 Years

Independent Living Movement

Independent Living Movement

The Independent Living (IL) movement has its origin in the late 1960s and early 1970s when our society was in the midst of a growing civil rights movement. Ed Roberts, one of the founders of the IL movement, enrolled in the University of California at Berkeley but was denied admission due to his disability. He challenged that decision and won the right to attend the university, but he was forced to live in the infirmary.

Fighting against the restrictions and the image of being sick, Ed and other students organized practical supports, such as accessible housing and personal assistant services. This allowed them to live on their own. Hearing of their success, many people contacted them for information and support and the first Center for Independent Living (CIL) was formed in Berkeley in 1972.

A Center for Independent Living (CIL) is a non-residential, not-for-profit, community-based agency providing the core services of Independent Living. A CIL is more than just an organization. It embodies a movement with a philosophy rooted in principles similar to the civil rights and women's movements. The Independent Living movement developed in response to systems that were inaccessible and excluded people with disabilities.

The philosophy of independent living holds to principles that contrasts the IL model or paradigm with the traditional rehabilitation paradigm. In the IL model, the society with its barriers and negative attitudes toward disability is the problem in need of change, rather than the individual with a disability.

The IL movement has fostered a particular definition of independence: "Independence is the ability to control one's own life by making responsible choices from acceptable options." To ensure "acceptable options" and prevent inappropriate institutionalization, CILs offer a variety of services, called the five core services. These are: Advocacy, Independent Living, Information and Referral, Peer Counseling, and Transition.

For additional information on the Independent Living Movement, you can visit the National Council on Independent Living website