The Center for Accessible Living is an innovative leader in empowering all people to achieve their goal of independent living while involving the entire community.
Independent Living Philosophy
“Independent Living does not mean that we want to do everything by ourselves, do not need anybody or like to live in isolation. Independent Living means that we demand the same choices and control in our every-day lives that our non-disabled brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends take for granted. We want to grow up in our families, go to the neighborhood school, use the same bus as our neighbors; work in jobs that are in line with our education and interests, and raise families of our own. We are profoundly ordinary people sharing the same need to feel included, recognized and loved.”
– Dr. Adolf Ratzka
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.
Essentially, independent living is living just like everyone else–having opportunities to make decisions that affect one’s life. It is being able to pursue activities of one’s own choosing–limited only in the same ways that one’s neighbors who do not have disabilities are limited.
Independent living has to do with self-determination (the right and the opportunity to choose and pursue a course of action). It is having the freedom to fail–and to learn from one’s failures, just as people without disabilities do.
There are many different types of organizations which serve people with disabilities. These organizations provide valuable services and are important links in the network of services that help people with disabilities maintain independent lifestyles.
What makes independent living centers very different from these other organizations is that in centers, people with disabilities are substantially involved in making policy decisions and delivering services.
The basic idea behind independent living is that the ones who know best what services people with disabilities need in order to live independently are people with disabilities themselves. This theory locates the real problems or ‘deficiencies’ in society, not the individual with a disability. The answers are to be found in changing society, not people with disabilities.
(Taken from An Orientation To Independent Living Centers, published by ILRU Research and Training Center on Independent Living at TIRR, Houston, Texas.)
Consumers (individuals with disabilities) control all aspects of the Center including decision making, service delivery, management, administration and establishment of policy and direction.
The Board of Directors, which establishes policy and direction for the Center, is composed of members from the local community, the majority of which are consumers.
A majority of the management level staff are consumers. All of the peer counselors, a majority of the direct service staff and the majority of the overall staff members are consumers.
There is a wide diversity of types of disabilities of Board and staff members including sensory, physical and cognitive categories.
The Center maintains working relationships with numerous consumer advocacy groups and organizations on the local, state and national levels. This provides an opportunity to receive additional input and feedback from consumers on the grassroots level.
To the greatest extent possible, the Center attempts to recruit and utilize volunteers, support staff and instructors who are individuals with disabilities.
Independent Living Movement
The history of the independent living movement is tied in with the African-American civil rights struggle and with other movements of the late 1960s and 1970s.
A major part of these activities involved the formation of community-based groups of people with different types of disabilities who worked together to identify barriers and gaps in service delivery. In 1972, the first Center for Independent Living was established in Berkeley, California by Ed Roberts.
The principles of IL were:
- Experts on disabilities are the people with disabilities.
- The needs of people with disabilities can best be met with a comprehensive program, rather than fragmented programs at different agencies and offices.
- People with disabilities should be integrated into the community.
Central to the philosophy of the Center for Independent Living (CIL) was that it be an advocacy organization – not a social service agency.
Center for Accessible Living History
In 1979 Consensus, Inc. did a demographic and needs assessment study of physically disabled people in Jefferson County — one of the first of its kind in the country. The results, released in 1980, showed that 80,000 people in Jefferson County had disabilities — twice as many as had been thought.
In that study, people with disabilities identified housing issues — the availability of housing information, info about barrier removal/access and legal rights as the number one unmet need.
The Center for Accessible Living grew out of these findings and began operations January 1981 as a housing resource program, with a $48,600 grant from the City of Louisville’s Community Development Cabinet.
Soon we realized the problem of housing is interrelated with other problems people with disabilities face when trying to secure housing: employment (to pay for housing), transportation (to get to the job), attendant services (assistance to get your clothes on to go to the job), peer counseling (when your personal assistant is late two days in a row, making you almost miss your ride to work), just to name a few.
To address these needs we sought funds to expand our center to a comprehensive independent living center. In October 1981, Prime Movers got a $200,000 grant from the RSA, US Department of Education, and the Center became a full-fledged independent living center, providing housing information, information and referral, peer counseling, independent living skills training, personal assistive services, and advocacy.
The Center started as a dream of a few people with disabilities asking the question: What do we really need? What would really be the best solution to our problems? The Center for Accessible Living was the result of those answers.