What is IL?


We're All Part of Something Much Bigger...

The term ‘Independent Living’ as defined by people with disabilities does not mean doing things for yourself, or living on your own. It means having choice and control over the assistance and/or equipment/assistive devices needed for daily life and having access to amenities that society has to offer such as housing, transport, health services, employment, as well as entertainment, education, recreation and training opportunities.

Independent Living (IL) is a vision, a philosophy and a movement of persons with disabilities. Born on California university campuses in the 1970s, the movement spread to Canada in the 1980s, and has since reached around the globe and changed the way people view and respond to disability. 

Independent Living is founded on the rights of people with disabilities to:

  • Live with dignity in their chosen community.
  • Participate in all aspects of their life.
  • Control and make decisions about their own lives.
  • The IL vision and philosophy have been articulated through the Independent Living movement, a network of individuals and community-based resource centres across the country, supported by a national organization, Independent Living Canada.

The Canadian IL Movement and the ILRC Thunder Bay were founded on five key principles:

  1. Consumer Control: Those who believe in the IL philosophy insist on the right of people with disabilities to examine possible choices, make decisions, take risks, make mistakes and generally take responsibility of their own lives.
  2. Cross disability: The IL Movement recognizes the fact that people with various disabilities have unique needs and face unique barriers. It also acknowledges that all people with disabilities have the same rights.
  3. Community based: The IL Movement is a grassroots movement. The people who use the Centres in each local community are the ones who decide what needs have to be addressed and the best approaches to deal with barriers.
  4. Promotion of Participation and Integration: Inherent in the philosophy of IL, is the human right to be included; which is the right of citizens to participate in the social, political, economic, academic, and cultural life of their community.
  5. Not-for-Profit: All IL Centres are non-profit organizations, with a volunteer Board of Directors and members who are committed to alternatives to existing service provision. Centres form partnerships with community groups.

The Independent Living Philosophy recognizes the rights of individuals with disabilities and assists them in developing their individual capacity to exercise their rights and manage personal and community resources. Memberss are encouraged to identify and achieve their own independent living life goals.

This philosophy emphasizes and, more importantly, enables persons with disabilities to have access to resources, which ensure that individuals have the right to examine options, make choices, take responsibility to take risks and have the right to make mistakes.

The IL Mission is to promote and enable the progressive process whereby citizens with disabilities achieve their desired lifestyles by taking responsibility for the development and management of their personal and community resources.

The IL movement and the philosophy on which it is based are not abstract concepts. Instead, IL is about a 'way of living' for persons with disabilities who live in a society where many barriers remain. This approach is referred to as the 'IL lens', an approach that is applicable to all supports and services that ILRC Thunder Bay provides.

Defining Disability

Our Centre, Independent Living Canada and all member Independent Living Centres across Canada are organizations run by and for people with disabilities.  We support individuals with any type of disability including, but not limited to, invisible, mobility, mental health, sensory, intellectual and those who live with multiple disabilities. However, these are only labels and categories.  In the Independent Living Movement we believe that the attitudinal and environmental barriers in society create disabling conditions and are rather the result of living in a society designed by and for non-disabled persons.

We also believe it is up to the individual to self-determine whether they have a disability or not, by identifying for themselves if they experience barriers that prevent their full participation in society.

What is The Independent Living (IL) Philosophy?

The Independent Living (IL) philosophy is an alternative approach to the traditional medical/rehabilitation service delivery model. The IL philosophy promotes and encourages an attitude of self direction in members so they can negotiate and access the community services and resources they require in order to participate as equal citizens in their community. The IL philosophy recognizes the rights of individuals with disabilities to assume risks and make choices.  Born on California university campuses in the 1970s, the movement spread to Canada in the 1980s, and has since reached around the globe and changed the way people view and respond to disability.

Independent Living is founded on the right of people with disabilities to:

  • Live with dignity in their chosen community;
  • Participate in all aspects of their life; and
  • Control and make decisions about their own lives.

The IL vision and philosophy have been articulated through the Independent Living movement, a network of individuals and community-based resource centres across the country, joined by a national organization, Independent Living Canada.

The IL movement differs from a traditional service providing organizations by emphasizing peer support, self-direction, and community integration by and for people with disabilities themselves

Independent Living Centres do not engage in collective advocacy. Instead, the IL movement promotes an end to institutional living for people with disabilities and encourages and supports individuals to integrate into the community.

While the aim of Independent Living is not to make a person normal in a physical or mental sense, the movement emphasizes the value of people with disabilities to having ordinary life experiences by providing community-based, member-controlled services, supports, resources and skills training to enable people with disabilities to live an ordinary life in the community.