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What is Independent Living (IL)?

​Independent Living (IL) is a vision, a philosophy, and a movement of persons with disabilities.  Born on California university campuses in the 1970's, the movement spread to Canada in the 1980's, and has since reached around the globe and changed the way people view and respond to disability.


Independent Living is founded on the right of people with disabilities to:

  • Live with dignity in their chosen community

  • Participate in all aspects of their life; and

  • Control and make decisions about their own lives


The IL vision and philosophy have been articulated through the Independent Living movement – a network of individuals and community-based resource centres across the country, supported by a national organization; Independent Living Canada.


The IL movement differs from a traditional service providing organizations by emphasizing peer support, self-direction, and community integration by and for people with disabilities themselves. This information below provides the five historical views of people with disabilities in Canadian society. The IL model embraces the notion that rights, and responsibilities are shared between citizens and the state, focusing on building a country based on the principles of inclusion, equity, affordability, and justice.


Independent Living Resource Centres do not engage in collective advocacy. Instead, the IL movement promotes an end to institutional living for people with disabilities and encourages and supports individuals to integrate into the community.


While the aim of Independent Living is not to make a person “normal” in a physical or mental sense, the movement emphasizes the value of people with disabilities to have ordinary life experiences by providing community-based, consumer-controlled services, supports, resources and skills training to enable people with disabilities to live an “ordinary life” in the community.


(Sorted from the most recent view to the oldest views)


1.  Independent Living: Rights and responsibilities are shared, learned, supported, and changed in cooperation with the community with leadership from everyone devoted to the common good from the Federal Government and all others interested in building a country based on inclusion, equity, affordability, and justice. Results: CITIZENSHIP.

​2.  Social/Political: People have the right to participate in society. Government has the responsibility to make sure laws and programs facilitate that participation. Criticizes medical

and economical model to excess.

  • Lacks cohesion.

  • Conflict

  • Rights can be wiped away.

  • Short-term focus to solve long-term problems.

  • Nevertheless, prepares the way for more cooperative models. 


3.  Rehabilitation: People have the right to work. Vocational rehabilitation professionals have the responsibility to decide how work can be done and who can do it.

  • Tied to economic policy

  • Inefficient

  • Disenfranchising

  • Dependency

  • Hostility and frustration

  • Jumping through hoops

  • Nevertheless, connected the individual with social reality 


4.  Medical: People have the right to medical help. The medical profession has the responsibility to decide if you are sick.

  • Passivity

  • Isolation

  • No attention to social needs

  • Sick model

  • Nevertheless, evolves other strategies: chronic and palliative care, coping that values individuals 


5.  Charity: People have the right to hope for help. Those who have been fortunate have the responsibility to give money. Encourages:

  • Isolation

  • Prejudice

  • Hopelessness

  • Helplessness

  • People having no voice.

  • Nevertheless, individuals and groups supported that would not have flourished otherwise.



Source: Independent Living Canada (IL Canada)

Five Historical Views of Rights & Responsibilities:

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