Linking Employment, Abilities and Potential


Independent Living

Posted on 05/13/24 by Cheryl in Independent Living

By Cheryl Gorham, Director of Independent Living Services at LEAP

3 photos side-by-side w/blue bar under and graphic icon w/4 disability symbols: photos are of adults

What is Independent Living?

The independent living philosophy promotes self-help & self-advocacy, development of peer role models, equal access to society, and all services, programs, activities, resources, and facilities for people with disabilities (consumers). The objective is to maximize individual choice and assist people with disabilities to live, work and remain active in the community, with the necessary benefits, support, and resources to do so.

The five core services of independent living include:

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

Centers for Independent Living (CILs)

These are community-based, cross-disability, non-profit organizations that are designed and operated by people with disabilities. They function under the strict philosophy of consumer control. People with all types of disabilities directly govern and staff these organizations. And the strength of this movement has resulted in 403 CILs nationwide. These local centers have been crucial in the success of the independent living movement.

History of Independent Living

The Independent Living (IL) Movement originated during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Before this time, many decisions were made for people with disabilities by family members, service providers, and medical personnel, often without any input from the person with the disability. As part of the IL Movement, people with disabilities demanded control of their own lives.

This advocacy ultimately led to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which became a federal law in 1990. This legislation banned discrimination against people with disabilities in federally funded programs. However, it is a continuing battle for people with disabilities to gain the same human and civil rights enjoyed by others.

LEAP is a CIL serving Greater Cleveland

This CIL was founded in 1981 by Doris Brennan who had become a quadriplegic after a tragic automobile accident in 1954. She was the first executive director and had already established herself as a powerhouse in the Independent Living Movement in Ohio. Today LEAP staff and board members continue to provide services and advocacy in support of the Independent Living Movement. They work with any consumer who is adapting to a disability or is seeking to increase their independence.

Helping People with Disabilities is Crucial.

People with disabilities (consumers) want to be part of the community and the work of CILs is the key to independent living success. It gives consumers control of their lives.

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