According to the National Council on Independent Living, “Independent Living philosophy emphasizes consumer control, the idea that people with disabilities are the best experts on their own needs, having crucial and valuable perspective to contribute and deserving of equal opportunity to decide how to live, work, and take part in their communities, particularly in reference to services that powerfully affect their day-to-day lives and access to independence.”
Consumer control is the backbone of Independent Living, it is woven through all the pieces of our history as well as today’s services and organizational practices. At the level of consumer services, our consumers choose what to work on with our Independent Living Specialists, by setting goals they want to accomplish in their lives. The majority of our staff, including supervising staff are people with disabilities. It is a value at a foundational level that persons with disabilities provide consumer-defined services to their peers – in fact, this is what makes Centers for Independent Living unique. 90% of our Board of Directors identify as people with disabilities, these are the individuals overseeing and setting the direction of the organization.
As Independence Now has grown and added programs to our core Independent Living services we always design them to be consumer-directed with consumer choice at the heart of them. When we work on advocacy issues or issues within our community we consider the top requests for services from consumers, as that indicates to us where the biggest issues lie. We intentionally choose to include those advocacy issues in our strategic work that are the most important to our consumers, like housing.
Consumer Control was placed at the forefront of the Independent Living movement 50 years ago and it remains in that place now.