Whether the disability rights movement preceded the Independent Living movement or the reverse, is a question that has been debated in numerous publications and discussions. Many people will say that they are the same movement and evolved simultaneously during an era of growing awareness and political change in this country. Regardless of the beginnings, Independent Living Philosophy emerged from both movements to become a foundation for programs and services for individuals with disabilities and the rallying cry for laws and legislation to guarantee the rights of the disabled.
It is important to remember that the movements and Independent Living Philosophy came from these basic human desires:
- Equality and Freedom
- Overcoming Discrimination and Prejudice
- Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness
Each contributed to Independent Living and the way Independent Living Centers function today. Independent Living Philosophy can apply to individuals with disabilities who seek greater independence for themselves and to Independent Living Centers that support those individuals in achieving their independence. It is a philosophy of life and of service. It identifies goals of independence and the means to achieve those goals. Independent Living Philosophy is more than lofty words of inspiration or slogans of charismatic leaders. It is a way of life for people and for centers striving for community inclusion and improving quality of life. Independent living philosophy is the continuing struggle of a growing minority to bring about community, legislative and attitudinal change that will benefit people all over the world.
One Independent Living Center director described Independent Living Philosophy in three words that not only express the way to achieve community inclusion and improve quality of life for people with disabilities but for people living in poverty and discrimination everywhere:
Those are the keys to change, independence and the fulfillment of human potential.