Ethos & Philosophy Of Independent Living

Independent Living is a philosophy and a movement of people with a disability who work for equal rights and equal opportunities, self-respect and self-determination. “Independent Living” does not mean that people with a disability do not need anybody, that they want to do everything by themselves or live in isolation.

“Independent Living” means that people with a disability want the same life opportunities and the same choices in every day life that their non-disabled brothers and sisters, neighbour’s and friends take for granted. That includes growing up in their families, going to the neighbourhood school, using the same bus, getting employment that is in line with their education and abilities, having equal access to the same services and establishments of social life, culture and leisure.

Most importantly, just like everyone else, people with a disability need to be in charge of their own lives, need to think and speak for themselves without interference from others.

To this end, people with a disability need to learn from and support each other, organise themselves and work for political changes that lead to legal protection of their human and civil rights. Traditionally, disabled persons have been seen as medical cases and objects of charity and care, pity and protection. These widespread attitudes have been obstacles on their way to self-determination, self-representation and full citizenship.

In order to reach the same control and the same choices in every day life that non-disabled persons take for granted a number of prerequisites are necessary. For persons with significant disabilities there are two key requirements: personal assistance and accessibility in the built environment including accessible housing. Without these two necessities persons with significant disabilities, in many countries, can only choose between possibly being a burden on their families or living in an institution. These extremely limited and limiting options are incompatible with the concept of Independent Living.

Derived from a definition by Dr. Adolf Ratzka