Independent Living

Independent Living is a philosophy and a movement of people with disabilities who work for self-determination, equal opportunities and self-respect.

“Independent Living does not mean that we want to do everything by ourselves and so not need anybody or that we want to live in isolation. Independent Living means that we demand the same choices and control in our everyday lives that our non-disabled brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends take for granted. We want to grow up in our families, go to the neighborhood school, use the same bus as our neighbors, work in jobs that are in line with our education and abilities, start families of our own. Just as everybody else, we need to be in charge of our lives, think and speak for ourselves. To this end we need to support and learn from each other, organize ourselves and work for political changes that lead to the legal protection of our human and civil rights.”

-Adolf Ratzka

Independent living is about having choices and about having the right to make those choices, to make one’s own mistakes, and to learn from them in the same way that people without disabilities can and do. People with disabilities must be empowered to take control over their own lives.

Centers For Independent Living

“CILs promote a philosophy of consumer control, peer support, self-help, self-determination, equal access, and individual and systems advocacy in order to maximize the leadership, empowerment, independence, and the integration and full inclusion of individuals with disabilities into the main stream of American society.” (RSA, 1992)


The first CILs were established in the early 1970s, and were defined much as they are today as consumer-controlled, community-based, cross-disability, nonresidential, private, nonprofit agencies.

For more on the history of Independent Living:

  • “The IL Movement: A History” by Maggie Shreve
  • “History of Independent Living” by Gina McDonald and Mike Oxford (Hosted by ACILS)
  • “The Father of Independent Living” by Ed Roberts (Hosted by ILUSA)

5 Core Services

SAIL's service delivery, and the structure supporting those services, center around five core services. These are standard services that each IL Center across the United States provides. The way in which these services are delivered vary, but they speak to the core of the independent living philosophy in an effort to promote independence, dignity and self-determination for all:

  • Advocacy Offices maintain current information on on local, state and national legislation and staff and consumers participate in a variety of committees and coalitions engaged promoting access and inclusion. SAIL staff also work in each community on a variety of advocacy issues and spend time one-on-one developing plans for advocacy. Additionally, presentations and trainings are provided to schools, businesses, government entities and organizations on disability awareness, assistive technology, inclusion and ADA/Universal Design.
  • Transition Services This refers to those wishing to transition from a nursing home or long-term care facility into a less-restrictive environment as well as high school students with disabilities transitioning to adult life. Whatever stage of life you are in, SAIL staff are prepared to promote your independence and inclusion into the setting and community of your choice!
  • Information and Referral All SAIL offices are community-based information and referral centers. We are knowledgeable about community agencies and service providers and refer requests for services to the appropriate resources available in your community in an unbiased manner. 
  • IL Skills Training This can be one-on-one or in a group setting. Examples include: budgeting and home finance, cooking, cleaning, socialization.... SAIL staff are creative and can meet you where your needs are. Many of our IL Skills Training are taught through recreation and peer support groups (where available).
  • Peer Support Peer support offers you the opportunity to share your story with people who experience a similar disability. Learn from others, share your struggles and stories of triumph...find the support you need! For those offices with recreation programs, peer support is a core component as challenging recreational opportunities provide an opportunity for an individual to recognize their ability to succeed. Part of that success is YOU, a peer!