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Centers for Independent Living (CIL)

What are Centers for Independent Living?

Centers for Independent Living LogoCenters for Independent Living (CILs) are nonprofit community-based nonresidential organizations that are run by and for people with disabilities. Centers for Independent Living are required by the 1992 Amendments of the Rehabilitation Act to have a majority of individuals with disabilities on their Governing Boards and on their staff, including those in decision making positions.

CILs provide services to individuals with disabilities from cross-disability, multicultural populations. The core services that CILs provide are:

               Systems Advocacy

               Individual Advocacy

               Peer Counseling

               Information and Referral

               Independent Living Skills Training

Other services that may be provided by a CIL include:

               Assistance in finding and obtaining accessible housing

               Financial Benefits Counseling

               Equipment Loan and/or Repair

               Personal Assistance Services

               Services related to Identifying, Hiring, Training and Firing a Personal Assistant

               Employment Readiness Services

Why Were CILs Established?

CILs were established in the early 1970's when Ed Roberts and other students with disabilities from the University of California at Berkeley, along with disability advocates led by Judy Heumann, demanded control over their lives and full access in their communities. Due to these efforts, Ed Roberts was a pioneer in the independent living movement and was known internationally as the "Father of Independent Living."

Before CILs, advocacy and services for people with disabilities were often non-existent or extremely fragmented. Many individuals were denied opportunities that would allow them to maximize their potential. They were often forced into costly institutions and wasting enormous human resources at a huge expense to the taxpayer.

The development and expansion of CILs and the Independent Living Movement has been significantly influenced by a social and civil rights movement that viewed the continuation of discrimination, patronizing and unjust treatment of people with disabilities as intolerable.

This movement is not unlike the movement of other people seeking independence. It is a struggle by those of us with disabilities to control our own lives, to have equal access to the decision-making process in our communities, states and nation, to be protected from discrimination under the law, and to be seen as equals and fully human by society.

The empowerment of people with disabilities has evolved significantly during the past 30 years. CILs have played the leading role in this evolution of disability rights and the Independent Living Movement. CILs, which provide systems advocacy and other services and opportunities, promote the independent living philosophy of consumer choice. They concentrate their efforts to ensure that people with disabilities have options and consumer directed services within their community. CILs also work towards the removal of attitudinal and physical barriers throughout society.

How Are CILs Funded?

The 1978 reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act included funding for independent living and the establishment of centers for independent living around the country. Ten States were funded during the first of the independent living monies (Title VII, Part B.) In 2000, approximately 260 CILs were funded through Title VII, Part C. An additional 50 CILs were funded through Title VII, Part B.

In order to receive the Federal financial assistance for independent living centers, a State must establish a Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC). The SILC jointly develops (in conjunction with the designated State agency) and monitors the implementation of a State plan for independent living services and centers for independent living.

Approximately 100 CILs (in 2000) also receive funding through state money. Additional funds come from all levels of government, foundations, corporations, United Ways and private contributions. Some CILs offer services at no cost, while others have fee-for-service or third party payers such as State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies, other state agencies, private insurance companies or Medicare and Medicaid.

No individual would be turned away from a CIL due to inability to pay.

Where Are CILs Located?

Each CIL has its own name, usually something that identifies the independent living philosophy or their local area. Even though the number of CILs has increased significantly (410 CILs are located throughout the United States and the Territories, as of 2000), the Independent Living Movement is still relatively young.

More Information:

National Council on Independent Living (NCIL)

For additional information about the activities of NCIL, or for the name and address of a CIL in your area contact:

National Council on Independent Living (NCIL)
1916 Wilson Boulevard
Suite 209
Arlington, VA 22201

877/525-3400 (Toll-Free)
703/525-3406 (V)
703/525-4153 (TTY)
703/525-3409 (FAX)



Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU) Program

An up-to-date computerized registry of contact information for all CILs and similar service providing programs is available from:

Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU) Program
2323 S. Shepherd
Suite 1000
Houston, TX 77019

713/520-0232 (V)
713/520-5136 (TTY)



Most of the information for this topic was drawn from a National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) fact sheet that was originally written by June Kailes, and later revised by Anne-Marie Hughey. Visit the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) online at:

Additional information for this topic was drawn from Title VII, Chapter 1 of the Rehabilitation Act. The entire contents of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, is available on the Internet at:

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