As most of you know, I work for the Center for Independent Living (CIL). CILs are non-profit organizations to support and advocate for people with disabilities BY people with disabilities. CILs work with people with disabilities to help them develop independent living skills. Many people think that the definition of independence is one size fits all. The way a person with a disability defines independence is up to the individual, based on their personal needs and goals.
Philosophy of Independent Living
Centers for Independent Living follow the philosophy of independent living as dictated by the National Council on Independent Living.
“…people with disabilities are the best experts on their own needs, having crucial and valuable perspectives to contribute and deserving of equal opportunity to decide how to live, work, and take part in their communities, particularly in reference to services that powerfully affect their day-to-day lives and access to independence.”
Society often holds this belief that the more support a person needs in their activities of daily living, the less independence and freedom of choice they receive. This plays on the idea that independence is tied to physical and intellectual abilities. This is so far from the truth. A person may need full support for activities of daily living but are completely capable of making their own decisions.
Independence: Different Things for Different People
Independence is not a one-size-fits-all concept. For example, I am someone who still lives at home (for the meantime) and requires a lot of physical support. Yet, I work full-time and pay my share. How I choose to live my life is solely up to me. And believe it or not, but when the opportunity arises, I prefer to shop on my own because I enjoy spending my time where I choose (you’ll probably find me at the makeup counter).
Some individuals choose to live on their own or with friends/partners. They may also choose to live at home permanently. It does not matter how somebody chooses to live as long as the choice is yours. If someone is in school, independence means picking out what to wear for the day or taking the school bus with their friends instead of their parents/caregivers driving them to school. For a teenager, independence can mean deciding who their friends are and what they want to do on a Friday night. For adults with disabilities, independence means choosing where they want to live and what kind of job they want to do.
Choosing the Life for You
Often, these choices are not given to people with disabilities out of the convenience for others. Far too often, people with disabilities are told what to do and how to live their lives. On the other side of things, people with disabilities can be criticized for not being independent enough. They don’t meet the “status quo” of independence. In the end, all that matters is that you are accomplishing everything you wish to accomplish and that you are living life that you choose.
So, I ask: what does independence mean to you?
About Isabella Bullock: Isabella, or Izzie for short, is an employment specialist for the Center of Independent Living. Izzie uses an Edge 3 Power Wheelchair for mobility. She is an iced coffee enthusiast who enjoys getting lost in a good book. Click here to learn more about Izzie.
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