Section 701 of Title VII of the Rehabilitation Act starts out with the purpose of Independent Living.
“The purpose of this chapter is to promote a philosophy of independent living, including a philosophy of consumer control, peer support, self-help, self-determination, equal access, and individual and system advocacy, in order to maximize the leadership, empowerment, independence, and productivity of individuals with disabilities, and the integration and full inclusion of individuals with disabilities into the mainstream of American society…”
We talked about those elements of philosophy in a previous post. Now let’s talk about the purpose. The purpose of IL is “to maximize the leadership, empowerment, independence, and productivity of individuals with disabilities, and the integration and full inclusion of individuals with disabilities into the mainstream of American society”.
It is just as important to remember our purpose as it is to remember our philosophy. Let’s look more closely at the elements of our purpose:
- To maximize leadership. This is the very first item mentioned, and makes leadership development among all our consumers — youth included, but also adults — a key area of concern for all centers. How are you developing leadership? Do you encourage participation on your board? On your Statewide Independent Living Council? On boards and councils in your city, county or state that impact the disability community, like housing, transportation, disability policy, emergency preparedness… You get the picture. Do you work with consumer on goals related to this kind of leadership? If you want to study this further, check out this on demand training on leadership on our website.
- To maximize empowerment. Empowerment and leadership go hand in hand. The individual with a disability who serves on a council or board is certainly empowered, because they are able to be at the table with other powerful people while decisions are being made that affect their lives. Empowerment begins before that appointment, though. How is your center assisting people in honing their skills to speak up and speak out about things that concern them? Your efforts around self-advocacy should have an element of claiming power.
- To maximize independence. This is the only item in the list that clearly relates to the core services a center provides to individuals. Independent living skills training should be geared toward maximizing independence. What are the areas where the consumer dreams to be independent? Those are goals worth writing down and working toward.
- To maximize productivity. Many centers have looked at this key purpose and have chosen to contract with their Department of Rehabilitation to provide employment services. Employment is certainly productive, but so are other areas where the individual can contribute to a cause they believe in, whether as an employee or a volunteer. When an individual experiences employment discrimination, the CIL can be a partner in assisting them to speak out (empowerment) in order to be treated fairly (integration and full inclusion) so that they can continue to work (productivity).
- To maximize the integration and full inclusion of individuals with disabilities into the mainstream of American society. Like equal access, a component of philosophy, integration and full inclusion are an essential part of what Independent Living is striving to accomplish in society today. People with disabilities have the right to be full members of society in any area in which they want to participate.
While each of these is essential, none of them stand alone. We must embrace the entire philosophy and purpose of independent living. It is up to us to change what needs to be changed in the world to bring about full inclusion — and that means that we need to honor these purposes at every level in IL.
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