Independent Living History

The Independent Living Movement grew out of the civil rights struggle of the Disability Rights Movement of the early 1970’s. The first Center for Independent Living, established in 1972 in Berkeley, California, was established through the efforts of disabled college students on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley to get an education and be fully integrated into the academic and social life of the university.

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Students Ed Roberts, Hale Zukas, and Jan McEwan Brown emerged as major leaders in this movement for the full inclusion of people with disabilities into community life. Before the disability rights movement, disability had been seen primarily as a medical issue that required professional intervention, treatment and oversight by medical and clinical professionals. People with disabilities had been seen primarily as the objects of medical care, paternalism and charity.

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The Independent Living Movement redefined disability as a personal attribute that characterizes an individual but does not define them. The Independent Living Movement called for people with disabilities to be in control of their lives and services that they receive. The Independent Living movement no longer saw the disability as the problem that needed to be cured or managed but rather located the problem in barriers that needed to be removed in order for all people with disabilities to enjoy the same opportunities and responsibilities as non-disabled citizens. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended in 1978 established Centers for Independent Living throughout the nation. Independence Northwest opened its doors in northwest Connecticut in 1988.

left quote image, independence northwest beginning quote markerIn its broadest implications the independent living movement is the civil rights movement of the millions of Americans with disabilities.Right side quote mark, Independence Northwest end quote marker
-Edward V. Roberts,
Independent Living Founder
 photo of ed roberts, founder of independent living

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