The Independent Living movement (ILM)

  • Independent Living has its origins in the US civil rights applicant's human movements of the late 1960s and is seen as a philosophy, a way of looking at disability and society, and a worldwide movement of people with disabilities working to self-determination, self-respect and equal opportunities.
  • ILM contends that people with disabilities are the best experts on the needs, and therefore they must take the initiative, individually and collectively, in designing and promoting better solutions. It seeks to challenge preconceived notions and the medical view of disability which contributes to negative attitudes towards people with disabilities, portraying them as sick, defective and deeply persons, as objects of professional intervention and pity, and as a burden for themselves and their families. ILM seeks to promote an alternative approach based on the social model of disability.
  • The first Centre for Independent Living (CILs) was founded by disability activists, led by Ed Roberts, in Berkeley, California. CILs were created to offer peer support and role modelling and are controlled by persons with disabilities. A significant amount of impetus in the USA was provided by disabled veterans of the Vietnam War. 
  • Word of the ILM gradually spread to Europe and, in 1980 and 1981, a number of influential individual disabled people in England raise funds to travel to and study the ILM in the United States, particularly the CIL in Berkeley, California. The Hampshire Centre for Independent Living was set up in 1984, the first of its kind in the UK closely followed by the Derbyshire Centre for Independent Living. Throughout the 1980s and 90s, CILs were gradually established in cities and counties throughout England, Wales and Scotland. Further impetus was provided by the establishment of the European Network on Independent Living in 1989 and the United Kingdom Independent Living Committee, as part of the British Council of Disabled People (BCODP)*.
  • One first achievements of the United Kingdom Independent Living Committee was to persuade the UK government to bring in legislation in 1996 to make direct payments to disabled people for social care lawful. This was a major step towards the aim of enabling independent living for all disabled people. In 1996, BCODP decided to set up the National Centre for Independent Living**, based in London, two consolidate and coordinate all policy and work which was being done by CILs and other organisations in connection independent living throughout the UK.

Centre for Independent Living NI (CILNI)   

  • A number of disabled people in Northern Ireland became increasingly interested in the ILM and raised funding to enable Philomena McCrory and Angela Hendra to visit a number of CILs in the United States. Upon their return they got together a group of local disabled people, who had been individually pursuing independent lives, to promote the philosophy and ethos of independent living in Northern Ireland.   With the help/support of the former Eastern Health and Social Care Board, the Centre for Independent Living, Belfast was set up in 2001. (Better late than never!) 
  • To spread the message throughout Northern Ireland, further offices were opened in Armagh in 2004, in Omagh in 2007 and Magherafelt in 2008 and the organisation changed its name to its present title.
  • All full members of CILNI's Board of Management are disabled people, the majority of whom have professional experience e.g. in the Civil Service, the Health and Social Care Services, banking and the law.
  • CILNI actively promotes independent living and encourages disabled people throughout Northern Ireland to be equal citizens with choice, control, rights and full economic, social and cultural lives.

*now called the United Kingdom Disabled People's Council

**on 24 October 2011 it was announced that the National Centre for Independent Living, Radar and Disability Alliance are to merge to form the U.K.'s largest disability organisation led by disabled people themselves