The Torch for Disability Rights

How Access through Advocacy Empowers Independence

When the process of deinstitutionalization began in the 1960’s, some people with significant disabilities were released from inevitable life sentences in nursing homes and other institutions, which created for the first time in history an opportunity, an imperative, for people with disabilities to live free and independent lives. From this, a community and a culture with history, values, and an objective were born.Our first taste of emancipation came amidst massive civil rights movements nationally and abroad. Leaders of the disability community began to realize that our human rights and civil liberties would come only as we fought for them. With most state-run institutions closed, people with significant disabilities became more visible, and more audible, too. But society’s unwelcoming attitude did not change. The private medical industry quickly appropriated the responsibilities of formerly state-run institutions.

ACCESS THROUGH ADVOCACY MADE POSSIBLE BY

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Centers for Independent Living were created to be run by and for people with disabilities, and offer support, advocacy, and information on empowerment in the attainment of independence from a peer viewpoint, a perspective that was hitherto excluded from participation in the discussion and execution of “services for the disabled.”Independent Living activists carried out some of the most daring protests in American civil rights history, including the longest occupation of a Federal building in history, which led to the release of the regulations banning discrimination against people with disabilities in federally funded programs. As Independent Living philosophy took hold nationally and the Disability Rights Movement gained acceptance and political influence, a grassroots movement for a comprehensive disability rights law (the ADA) was implemented.

Measure of Success

Last year, the Independent Living Resource Center delivered 5,515 services and worked with 1,546 people with disabilities who accomplished 1,141 goals.

Today, the Independent Living Resource Center and other Centers for Independent Living fight similar battles to ensure that the rights of people with disabilities are protected. Even with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, people with disabilities often find that advocacy and support from the disability community and the Disability Rights Movement is an essential element in enforcement of the civil rights law.
Many of the issues we fight for have strong opposition and powerful lobbyists in the for-profit sector. The Independent Living Resource Center and other CILs around the country remain dedicated to the community values, objectives, and unity that we were founded on.
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Eddie & Chuck in Tallahassee with Youth Advisory Council

Empowering our Next Generation

The ILRC empowers youth with disabilities through our mentoring program, independent living skills trainings and Youth Advisory Council.

The ILRC Youth Advisory Council is made of 13-17 members of our community with disabilities between the ages of 13-25. The Council's goals are to increase creativity, confidence and independence, build teamwork and cooperation, develop conflict resolution, time management and organization skills and build communication, public speaking and negotiation skills.