History of CIL

The way in which western society reacts to people with a disability has changed in many ways over time. Early Christians treated people with a disability with pity and developed a position of superiority over people with a disability. To many, disability represented an impurity of some kind.

During the Middle Ages, this belief increased and as people became increasingly superstitious, those with a disability became seen as the manifestation of evil.

The 1500’s saw the introduction of medical treatment, care and education for people with a disability, representing the beginning of ‘The Medical Model’ combined with the ‘Charity Model’ of disability – the idea that people with a disability needed to be cured and that others knew what was best for them.

For 500 years these were the predominant attitudes to disability and care was provided in institutions where people with a disability were segregated from the rest of society.

World War I saw a dramatic increase in the number of people with a disability and the introduction of the concept of rehabilitation, where people with a disability were ‘retrained’. This approach continued after World War II.

The Emergence of the Independent Living Philosophy

The United States in the 1950’s and ‘60’s was a society in great change. A number of different movements developed side by side, all of which contributed to the birth of Independent Living. These changes included the Civil Rights Movement, the growth of consumerism, the rise of a self-help culture and a move away from segregating people with a disability in institutions.

It was within this atmosphere of change that a group of disabled students came together in Berkley, California to protest at their exclusion from mainstream society and to demand their own rights. This group went on to open the first Centre for Independent Living (CIL) in 1972. To date, there are now CILs in all 52 states of the US.

The Independent Living ethos and Philosophy has since spread across the world.