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 →
“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 →