In 1972, the first Center for Independent Living was founded by disability activists, led by Ed Roberts, in Berkeley, California. These Centers were created to offer peer support and role modeling, and are run and controlled by persons with disabilities. According to the IL approach, the example of a peer, somebody who has been in a similar situation, can be more powerful than a non-disabled professional’s interventions in analyzing one’s situation, in assuming responsibility for one’s life and in developing coping strategies.
According to the IL Movement, with peer support, everyone – including persons with extensive developmental disabilities – can learn to take more initiative and control over their lives. For example, peer support is used in Independent Living Skills classes where people living with their families or in institutions learn how to run their everyday lives in preparation for living by themselves.
There is a fundamental set of services (Core Services) found in all of the Centers, but there is some variation in the programs that are offered, the funding sources, and the staffing, among other things. Depending on the public services in the community, Centers might assist with housing referral and adaptation, personal assistance referral, or legal aid. Typically, Centers work with local and regional governments to improve infrastructure, raise awareness about disability issues and lobby for legislation that promotes equal opportunities and prohibits discrimination. Effective centers have proven to be in states like California, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois