Independent Living Centers: An Introduction

By Jesse Fisher

Independent Living Centers, as non-profit social service organizations, offer a wide variety of services and support in accomplishing their primary function of helping the disabled to transition into living as independently as possible. Fundamental to the Independent Living philosophy is the fact that disabled people are seen foremost as citizens with human dignity and rights and only secondarily are they seen as consumers of social services. Persons with disabilities deserve opportunities to make decisions on their own behalf just as non-disabled people. do. Their mission statements frequently include such things as assuring equal access, full participation, self-help, self-determination, in short, independent living and economic self-sufficiency of people with disabilities in their community.

What Services Do They Offer?

Services offered by Independent Living Centers are usually of limited duration and are always focused on achieving the goal of independence for those they assist. One wonderful facet of Independent Living Centers is that they are "consumer-controlled". This refers to the fact that center usually give authority and responsibility to individuals within the community who themselves have disabilities. Many of the staff are courageous people who overcome their various challenges every day to serve their peers. This serves the staff member by building self-confidence and self-worth, AND it offers their disabled peers a flesh and blood example of someone who faced their challenges and is succeeding

What Exactly Do They Do?

ILCs assist individuals with disabilities in many different ways. They serve those with disabilities by providing individual and systems advocacy services, peer counseling, housing and employment tips, referrals to personal care assistants, and information and training on how to live independently. Individuals within the community that need assistance with disability challenges are invited to contact their local ILC either in person, by phone, or online. One does not need to be employed or looking for employment to benefit from their services.

On What Specific Skills Do They Give Training?

An ILC's training program may include interpersonal skills like adaptive behavior and verbal and non-verbal communication. They almost all also include career exploration, job skills, money management, and how to deal with housing, transportation, and legal issues.

How Are They Funded?

Most ILCs receive a large share of their funding through federal and state grants. They also are often able to provide disability related services to the community at large for appropriate fees, such as giving informative ADA workshops and/or performing Accessibility Surveys for local businesses.

Finding an ILC Near You

Most metropolitan areas are likely to have an ILC, some rural areas also have one. To find one near you, try the ILRU.org Directory or call your state's vocational rehabilitation department.

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