Marin CIL exists to assist persons with all types of disabilities to achieve their maximum level of sustainable independence as contributing, responsible and equal participants in society. Independent Living, as seen by its advocates, is a philosophy, a way of looking at disability and society, and a worldwide movement of people with disabilities who proclaim to work for self-determination, self-respect and equal opportunities.
The Marin Center for Independent Living (Marin CIL) was organized by a group of dedicated volunteers in 1979, following the world changing movement for disability rights begun next door in Berkeley in the 1960s. Ed Roberts, together with several other quadriplegic students, called for the opening of the University of California-Berkeley to students with disabilities, and the first curb cuts and ramps were born.
In 1972, the first Center for Independent Living was founded by disability activists, led by Ed Roberts, in Berkeley, California. Ed Roberts went on to lead the Department of Rehabilitation in Sacramento, and Independent Living Centers began to proliferat from coast to coast. In California, twenty-eight counties have Independent Living Centers that are united in the powerful statewide organization, the California Foundation of Independent Living Centers. All of this was, without exaggeration, the precursor of the passage, a little over a decade later, of one of the most important pieces of social legislation in the history of the United States: the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This is our proud history.
“Working toward our preferred future.”
– Ed Roberts
In most countries, proponents of the IL Movement claim preconceived notions and a predominantly medical view of disability contribute to negative attitudes towards people with disabilities, portraying them as sick, defective and deviant persons, as objects of professional intervention, as a burden for themselves and their families, dependent on other people's charity. These images, in the IL analysis, have consequences for disabled people's opportunities for raising families of their own, getting education and work, which, in turn, result in persons with disabilities making up a large portion of the poor in any country.
The Independent Living Philosophy postulates that people with disabilities are the best experts on their needs, and therefore they must take the initiative, individually and collectively, in designing and promoting better solutions and must organize themselves for political power. Besides de-professionalization and self-representation, the Independent Living ideology comprises de-medicalization of disability, de-institutionalization and cross-disability (i.e. inclusion in the IL Movement regardless of diagnoses).
In the Independent Living philosophy, disabled people are primarily seen as citizens and only secondarily as consumers of healthcare, rehabilitation or social services. As citizens in democratic societies, the IL Movement claims, persons with disabilities have the same right to participation, to the same range of options, degree of freedom, control and self-determination in every day life and life projects that other citizens take for granted. Thus, IL activists demand the removal of infrastructural, institutional and attitudinal barriers and the adoption of the Universal Design principle. Depending on the individual's disability, support services such as assistive technology, income supplements or personal assistance are seen as necessary to achieve equal opportunities. As emphasized by the IL Movement, needs assessment and service delivery must enable users to control their services, to freely choose among competing service providers and to live with dignity in the community. Cash benefits or Direct Payments are favored by IL activists over services in kind in terms of the outcomes for users' quality of life and cost-efficiency.
Over the years, the IL Movement has spread from North America to all continents, adapting itself to and getting enriched by different cultures and economic conditions in the process. A considerable body of research, training materials and examples of good practice exists on such themes as transition from institutional to community living, transition from school to employment or self-employment, community organizing and advocacy, disability culture, girls and women with disabilities as well as disability and development. Supporting the movement and utilizing its work has become an important ingredient of many countries' social policy.