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Choice, control, independence

The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) defines Centers for Independent Living (CILs) as community-based, cross-disability, non-profit organizations that are designed and operated by people with disabilities. CILs are unique in that they operate according to a strict philosophy of consumer control, wherein people with all types of disabilities directly govern and staff the organization. Centers for Independent Living provide:

  • Peer Support
  • Information and Referral
  • Individual and Systems Advocacy
  • Independent Living Skills Training
  • Transition services

So What Is Independent Living?

Independent living is a philosophy and a cultural movement which believes that people with disabilities are the best experts on their own needs. Independent living philosophy also states that people with disabilities can determine how they want to take part in their communities. As a result, CILs emphasize consumer choice and control and individual self-advocacy.

Independent living also recognizes that participation is as much about the environment as it is the individual. In other words, much of what limits a person’s full and equal participation in the community is located within their environment, such as their home. If we can create homes that are more usable, we can improve people’s participation in their communities, and their quality of life.

Consumer choice and control

Consumer choice and control begins with the person. Independent Living advocate Judy Heumann said, “Independent Living is not about doing things by yourself, but about being in control over how they are done.” People with disabilities who receive services from Centers for Independent Living are often referred to as “consumers.” The term “consumer” is used to indicate that it is the individual receiving services who has control over the process and is the one making the final decisions. Imagine you go to the store to purchase something for your home. You make the decisions about what furnishings are in your price range, what colors, what styles you like, and when you are ready to make the final purchase. In this example you are a consumer of furnishings. In the Center for Independent Living you are a consumer of services and you have control and choice regarding those services.

What about self-advocacy?

Centers for Independent Living often have a diverse staff that can provide a range of services. However, in order to best use these services an individual also needs to be a good self-advocate. Being a self-advocate is about first, knowing what you need, and then it is about being able to stand up and ask for what you need.  Here are three tips for being a good self-advocate :

  1. Know what you need: This can be a difficult part of being a self-advocate. We all have different needs and sometimes we need help identifying what these needs are. The goal of this website is to help you with home usability needs. The self-assessment found on the How Usable is My Home? page can help you identify your home usability needs.
  2. Trust yourself: Remember, the key to consumer choice is that you are in control. You are the best expert on your own needs. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t get help and advice from others. Staff members of CILs are trained to help you and can be excellent resources.
  3. Ask questions: Perhaps the most important tip to being a better self-advocate is to remember to always ask questions. Asking questions and discussing your concerns with others is a critical step in knowing what your needs are and being confident in that knowledge. If you don’t understand something, or need more information before making a decision…ASK!

CILs and Home Usability Networks

A CIL works with a local Home Usability Network to address the usability needs of individuals in the community. More about Home Usability Networks is found in the next section: What is a Home Usability Network?

The cities listed below are currently participating in our project. Click on the links below to learn more about each center:

Atlanta, Georgia: disABILITY LINK, (404) 687-8890

Indianapolis, Indiana: accessABILITY, (317) 926-1660

Fresno, California: Resources for Independence Central Valley, 1-800-244-2274

Want more information about your local center for independent living? Look up CILs in your area here: ILRU CIL Directory


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Next Pages:
What is a Home Usability Network?
How Usable is My Home?
Setting SMART Goals
The Home Usability Plan