Why Do We Use The Word “Consumer”?

A question we get frequently from individuals to whom language matters is, “What do you call the people you serve?” At Centers for Independent Living, we call the people we serve “Consumers.”  You might have wondered why?…where does that come from?  The term Consumer is used by CILs because it clearly shows the person receiving services has control over the process and is making all the decisions. Similar to when shopping for an item where you choose the color, size, and style, at a CIL you are a consumer of services and have choice and control over those services.

Part of the foundation of independent living (IL) philosophy was the movement away from the traditional medical model where professionals made the decisions to a paradigm of empowerment by people with disabilities to identify what is needed and direct how services are provided. Consumers exercising control over the choices and options of goods and services available to them is the basis of independent living philosophy.

The technical assistance provider for CILs, Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU), says this about using the word Consumer, “Many CILs were founded during a time when consumer awareness was becoming important to various advocates in our country. Leaders in the IL movement sought a term that would reflect how empowered people participate fully in the decisions that affect their lives. The term “Consumer” was seen as connoting personal control and awareness and was adopted widely among CILs.”

In closing, the words of Judy Heumann,

“Independent living is not doing things by yourself. It is being in control of how things are done.”

Independence Now’s Independent Living Team is available to provide support, information, and resources to individuals with disabilities residing in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, Maryland. To learn more call 240-638-0070 or email sminnick@innow.org, or visit https://www.innow.org/independent-living-services/.

Why Do We Use The Word “Consumer”?