What are Centers for Independent Living?

Centers for Independent Living (CILs) are the primary organizational service delivery and advocacy system that represents the Independent Living Movement and its Philosophy. The primary mission is to “empower all people with disabilities to live more independently and have control over their lives”. CIL’s are defined by the Federal Government as:

  • Community-based: A CIL must be designed and operated by people with disabilities in the local community that it serves. It must represent the uniqueness of its community.
  • Cross-disability: CIL’s provide services to people with a range of significant disabilities. They cannot require that people have a specific disability in order to receive services.
  • Consumer Controlled: 51% or more of the staff and board members of each CIL must be made up of people with significant disabilities. Consumers make decisions about and control the services they receive and the goals they set.
    Non-Residential: CIL’s cannot operate or manage housing as a separate service.

CILs History

The history of independent living stems from a philosophy which states that people with disabilities should have the same civil rights, options, and control over choices in their own lives as do people without disabilities.

The independent living movement’s history is closely tied to the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s and Ed Roberts is considered to be the “father of independent living.”

In 1970, Ed and other students with disabilities founded a disabled students’ program on the Berkeley campus. His group was called the “Rolling Quads.” Upon graduation, the “Quads” set their sights on the need for access beyond the University’s walls.

This new program rejected the medical model and focused on consumerism, peer support, advocacy for change, and independent living skills training.
This group opened a program office, and within a year, off-campus consumers were a majority of those seeking services. This interest from consumers prompted Roberts and his associates to establish a Center for Independent Living for the community at large. This was the beginning of the CIL model incorporating consumer-control, self-help, self-advocacy and community advocacy as its fundamental principles.

Successful national efforts forced the recognition that services were needed outside the parameters of the traditional Vocational Rehabilitation Program, prompting the addition of Title VII to the Rehabilitation Act. Title VII provides funding for CIL’s and IL services. Today, over 400 nationwide programs offer a range of IL services to help consumers achieve their goals.

To learn more about the history of the Centers for Independent Living and disability movement, please visit: https://www.ilru.org/sites/default/files/resources/il_history/IL_Movement.pdf