Self-evident Truths of Independent Living Philosophy

To have an independent living movement there are only a few principles that are immutable. “I speak for myself.” It summarizes the revolution from dependence to independence. Once our lives were controlled by experts; doctors, teachers, researchers, institutions, but now as a consumers, Disabled people make informed choices about every aspect of life. “I am responsible to make decisions, weigh risks, deal with consequences, fair and fowl, and to measure personal satisfaction in my terms.” Service delivery systems are structured by national policy making the individual served responsible to create service plans that express their personal standards for a meaningful life. There aren’t, in theory, any conditions or qualifiers placed on the inherent right of every individual to design their service plan to meet their specific goals irrespective of their diagnosis or level of disability. “I am empowered by the act of asserting my voice and taking responsibility for my decisions.” No non-disabled person should speak on my behalf or usurp my voice.  Continue reading

Blind Federation Condemns Disabilities Celebration Barricades and Arrest

Source: National Federation of the Blind of Michigan

LANSING – A Michigan State Capitol celebration featuring Lt. Gov. Brian Calley as speaker was marked by protest and the arrest of a blind citizen when demonstrators from the disabilities community were barricaded from the capitol grounds ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) 25th anniversary celebration presentation area.  Demonstrators were protesting the payment of subminimum wages of $2 per hour or less to persons with disabilities by organizers and sponsors of the celebration event.  Continue reading

Leading Organizations of Americans with Disabilities Call for Reform of AbilityOne Program: Organizations Set Forth Seven Reform Principles

Washington, DC (September 15, 2015): Seven leading organizations comprised of Americans with disabilities announced today that they are calling for reform of the AbilityOne Program and set forth seven principles for overhaul of the program, which affects hundreds of thousands of American workers with disabilities. The announcement was made by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), TASH, the National Council for Independent Living (NCIL), the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), the Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE), the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), and the United Spinal Association. The seven principles for reform put forward by the organizations are as follows:  Continue reading

The Road to Freedom ADA Bus Tour Made a U-Turn From Michigan 

September 10, 2015

Contact: Janine Bertram:

The national Road to Freedom Bus Tour joins others in the disability community by canceling its appearance at the Lansing ADA 25 celebration.

Road to Freedom BusThe Lansing event’s primary funders are Peckham and Michigan Association of Rehabilitation Organizations (MARO). Peckham is considered one of the largest and most exploitive industries paying subminimum wages to people with disabilities. It was featured on CNN as part of the SourceAmerica federal contractor investigation for taking federal funds and not hiring a sufficient number of people with disabilities as required under the terms of the federal contract. MARO members include Peckham and other segregated sheltered workshop “providers” that pay people with disabilities (capable of working in integrated settings for minimum or prevailing wage) subminimum wage.  Continue reading

Consumer Control Principles in Independent Living


Consumer control in independent living centers means having a governing body comprised of at least 51 percent of its membership with people with disabilities. It means having people with disabilities in key management roles. It means having direct service staff with disabilities who work with consumers to define their own needs, on their own terms, and with their own solutions. It means having people with disabilities in support and clerical staff positions. It means involving volunteers with disabilities in the center’s daily operations. It means that stakeholders in the process — people with disabilities — play significant roles in deciding the issues and methods for advocacy efforts.  Continue reading

Those Moses Eyes

By Joe Harcz, Michigan Advocate with Disabilities

I did not know the great Justin Dart well. In fact I only met him a few times personally, or encountered him during some ADAPT actions or NFB or other functions. We didn’t always agree on issues when we met though. In fact he was much more to the right of what I was then and decidedly am now. Actually the first or maybe second time I heard him literally speak, though I had aired his tapes on my radio reading service for the blind in Manchester, New Hampshire and read his writings, I thought him a whim compared to Bob Kafka, who was often with Justin in those days and venues. It was not because Justin was lesser than I. Guess it was because Justin was older and slower at the time and Bob was the more dynamic personality. Still Justin always could hold a crowd and even those of the National Federation of the Blind at Washington Seminars were enthralled. I was so, regardless as to pecking orders of radicalism.  Continue reading

Must Watch: Michigan’s Once Proud and Powerful Independent Living Movement

This video contains powerful footage of The EVENT, a Congress of People with Disabilities in Michigan in 1991. This video shows clearly that Michigan’s Independent Living Movement was once a mighty force to be reckoned with.  Continue reading

If You Don’t Know Your History, It Is Like a Leaf that Doesn’t Know It Is Part of a Tree

Comments to the Disability Network West Michigan Board of Directors, December 2014

By Darma Canter

I have always had a disability but it didn’t start controlling my life until I was in my 40s; then it took my money, then my job, and nearly my dignity self-worth. My MRS counselor helped me get a job at the Lakeshore CIL. So, my education in the disability perspective began.

The CIL and my peers in Muskegon transformed my life view and restored my spirit.

As Peter Block expresses it, the disability community created the structure of belonging; belonging gave me respect and dignity and purpose. I’ve spent the last twenty years in a sustaining relationship with this CIL.

My experience is an example of a Center for Independent Living working in its best capacity, building community and empowering individuals with disabilities. That is why I am here, in this fight.  Continue reading

Promoting Self-Direction and Consumer Control

Promoting Self-Direction and Consumer Control in Home-and Community-Based Service Systems

Independent Living Research Utilization

Third of Three Papers on Unlocking the code of effective Systems Change
Prepared by: Michael J. Kendrick, Ph.D., Richard E. Petty, M.B.A., Lee Bezanson, J.D., Darrell L. Jones, M.A., January 2006 ILRU Community Living Partnership, National State-to-State Technical Assistance Center, A National Technical Assistance Program at Independent Living Research Utilization © January 2006

I. Introduction

Over the past several years, staff members and partners of the Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU) team have provided technical assistance, training, publications, and other support to the Real Choice Systems Change initiative of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. As we conducted this important work, we began to observe there were clear distinctions between those programs that achieved (or showed real promise for) enduring change and those programs that failed to realize their full potential.  Continue reading

Channeling of Anger on the Part of the Consumer into Constructive Organizing

Putting Advocacy Rhetoric Into Practice: The Role of the Independent Living Center

By June Isaacson Kailes

This is an except from Putting Advocacy Rhetoric Into Practice: The Role of the Independent Living Center (Word document).

This role is core to the ILC mission and philosophy.  We must militantly guard this dual commitment!”


This monograph is intended to reinforce the importance of both individual and system/community advocacy.  Its emphasis will be on systems advocacy with independent living centers (ILCs).  The major areas to be discussed include:  examination of the importance of advocacy, establishment of an effective advocacy approach, development of new consumer leadership, and identification of advocacy questions needing further attention and debate.

It is no secret that the independent living movement is being criticized by disability rights advocates who charge that:

  • The commitment of center board and staff members to advocacy is waning and ILCs are becoming no different than traditional human service agencies.
  • The fervor for changes in “the system” is being crushed by bureaucratic, administrative, and contractual compliance concerns.
  • ILCs have absorbed and quieted many effective advocates and have played a role in draining the disability rights/independent living movement of advocates.

We in the independent living movement need to ask ourselves if these are valid criticisms.  Are we losing sight of a fact pointed out by Peg Nosek, Justin Dart, and Yoshiko Dart that our society still uses, as it “has traditionally used, an extensive and sophisticated program of psychological, physical, and economic threats, punishments, and barriers combined with rewards that force people with disabilities into segregated situations and subservient roles” (Nosek, Dart, and Dart, 1981)?  It remains critical for ILCs as well as others in the disability rights movement to devote a portion of their financial as well as personnel and volunteer resources to consumer and public education and to consumer and class advocacy in order to abolish these disincentives to independent living.  Given these concerns, it is important to start this discussion with a review of the importance of advocacy. Continue reading