The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was a seminal moment in addressing discrimation against those with disabilities. Below you will find key elements of the law as well as how they relate to the day-to-day operation of Independent Living Centers.

Rehab Act

Overview of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

This is the first of seven tabs on the subject. Please review all tabs, located above, before proceeding to the next page. This addressed discrimination against people with disabilities. Sections 501, 503 and 504 prohibited discrimination in federal programs and services and all other programs or services receiving federal funds. Key language found in the Rehabilitation Act, Section 504 states

"No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States, shall, solely by reason of his handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."

Joseph Califano, U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare withheld approval when he refused to sign meaningful regulations for Section 504. Independent living pioneers and advocates presented an ultimatum and deadline. Demonstrations took place in ten U.S. cities on April 5th, 1977 and the demonstration at the San Francisco Office of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare continued until May 1st. More than 150 demonstrators refused to disband. This action became the longest sit-in at a federal building to date.

In 1977, the government agreed to demonstrators’ demands and Section 504 regulations were issued.

In 1978, Rehab Act Amendments under Title 7 established the first federal funding for consumer-controlled Independent Living Centers and created the National Council of the Handicapped under the U.S. Department of Education.

Standards of Service and Operation

The Rehab Act, title 7 Section 725, spells out in detail the Standards and Assurances for Centers for Independent Living. These standards were developed with input from people with disabilities and Independent Living programs.

The 725 Standards establish requirements for Independent Living Center structure, board, staff and management diversity, core services, consumer participation and community involvement. The importance of Independent Living Philosophy is foremost in 725 Standards and, in fact, is listed as the first standard.

Service

The Center shall promote and practice Independent Living Philosophy of:

  1. Consumer control of the center regarding decision making, service delivery, management, the establishment of policy and the direction of the center.
  2. Self-help and self-advocacy.
  3. The development of peer relationships and peer role models.
  4. Equal access of individuals with severe disabilities to society and to all services, programs, activities, and facilities, whether public or private and regardless of funding source.
  • The center shall provide services to individuals with a range of severe disabilities. The center shall provide services on a cross-disability basis (for individuals with all different types of severe disabilities, including individuals with disabilities who are members of populations that are unserved or undeserved by programs under this Act). Eligibility for services at any center for Independent Living shall not be based on the presence of any one or more specific severe disabilities.
  • The center shall facilitate the development and achievement of Independent Living goals selected by individuals with severe disabilities who seek such assistance by the center.
  • The center shall work to increase the availability and improve the quality of community options for Independent Living in order to facilitate the development and achievement of Independent Living goals by the individuals with severe disabilities.
  • The center shall provide Independent Living core services and, as appropriate, a combination of any other Independent Living services specified in section 7(30)(B).
  • The center shall conduct activities to increase the capacity of communities within the service area to meet the needs of individuals with severe disabilities.
  • The center shall conduct resource development activities to obtain funding from sources other than this chapter.

Assurances

In addition, centers must provide assurance that:

  • The center will be designed and operated within local communities by individuals with disabilities, including an assurance that the center will have a Board that is the principal governing body of the center and a majority of which shall be composed of individuals with severe disabilities.
  • The center will comply with the standards set forth in subsection (b).
  • The center will ensure that the majority of the staff and individuals in decision-making positions of the center are individuals with disabilities.
  • Aggressive outreach regarding services provided through the center will be conducted in an effort to reach populations of individuals with severe disabilities that are unserved or underserved by programs, especially minority groups and urban and rural populations.
  • Staff at Centers for Independent Living will receive training on how to serve such unserved and underserved populations, including minority groups and urban and rural populations.
  • An Independent Living plan described in section 704(e) will be developed for each consumer unless the individual who would receive services under the plan signs a waiver stating that such a plan is unnecessary.

Standards

Independent Living Center Standards

  • The Center shall promote and practice independent living philosophy of:
  • Consumer control of the center regarding decision making, service delivery, management, the establishment of policy and the direction of the center.
  • Self-help and self-advocacy.
  • The development of peer relationships and peer role models.
  • Equal access of individuals with severe disabilities to society and to all services, programs, activities, and facilities, whether public or private and regardless of funding source.
  • The Center shall provide services to individuals with a range of severe disabilities. The Center shall provide services on a cross-disability basis (for individuals with all different types of severe disabilities, including individuals with disabilities who are members of populations that are underserved or unserved by programs under this Act). Eligibility for services at any Center for independent living shall not be based on the presence of any one or more specific severe disabilities.
  • The Center shall facilitate the development and achievement of independent living goals selected by individuals with severe disabilities who seek such assistance by the Center.
  • The Center shall work to increase the availability and improve the quality of community options for independent living in order to facilitate the development and achievement of independent living goals by individuals with severe disabilities.
  • The Center shall provide independent living core.

Operation

Consumer Involvement

  • Consumer control of the center regarding decision making, service delivery, management, the establishment of policy and the direction of the center. Centers must identify and respond to the needs of consumers in their community.
  • Consumer input - A majority of consumers with disabilities act as board members, advisory committee members or consumer council members.
  • Consumer goal directed - Participants identify their own Independent Living goals and set their own pace to achieve those goals.
  • Cross disability representation - Managers, staff members, board members, committee members, volunteers and consumers are individuals with differing disabilities representing the disabilities found in the community.
  • Community based - The center, the staff and the board members are from the community they serve. Services offered and advocacy issues addressed originate from the needs of the consumers and community partners.
  • Non-Residential - The purpose of Independent Living Centers is to promote Independent Living. Although centers can provide housing assistance, they are prohibited from offering residential services. In other words, ILCs cannot be landlords or run housing programs for people with disabilities. This does not prevent centers from actively promoting accessible housing programs in their communities.

Staff

Staffing and Staff Roles

  • Peer Counseling - Staff members are consumers themselves and are able to relate to consumer needs and challenges from an experience base as well as a knowledge base.
  • Empowering – Staff members provide information, guidance and service in a way that empowers the consumer to "do for themselves."
  • Core Service Competent - I L specialists and peer counselors are trained and qualified to provide Independent Living skills training, information and referral, peer counseling and individual advocacy support.
  • Systems Advocacy - consumer driven and community focused identifying discriminatory trends and physical / attitudinal barriers which are rooted in community and systems sources that impact the individual. A broad view of systems change incorporates change within the center as it relates to the community as well as change in the community as it relates to people with disabilities.
  • Systems Change - encompasses outreach to unserved and underserved members of the community and identifies cultural and economic barriers of people with disabilities as accessibility barriers. Systems advocacy is a view that community change can be accomplished by participating as board members and volunteers to raise awareness of Independent Living through staff outreach

Community

Community Involvement

  • Community Education - Showing that people with disabilities are community citizens, taxpayers and neighborhood families. Educating Non-disabled community members in sensitivity and awareness to disability needs and issues. Educating partner organizations and civic organizations about people with disabilities and quality of life issues
  • Capacity building - Developing opportunities for employment, housing and inclusion. Working with private, local, state and federal agencies to develop accessible housing. Working with municipal agencies to promote and achieve access to public buildings and establishments. Promote interaction through accessible activities and events that engage all members of the community.
  • Community partnerships - Working with advisory committees and boards of other community organizations to promote access to schools, transportation, local and county government and the court system.

Back: Timeline