For Americans living with a disability, their everyday life looks different than it might for others. There might be several barriers in terms of resources, services, and an understanding about the limits that a disabled person may face day-to-day.
In order to promote a fulfilling living situation, independent living resources are available for people living with a disability. Independent living looks a bit different depending on each situation, so these resources are created in order for each person to reach their highest level of achievement and independence. Whether you’re living with a disability, or you’re the family member of someone with a disability, there are resources available to learn about the options of independent living.
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What Is Independent Living?
Independent living means having the opportunity to make the decisions that go into everyday life. It is important to note that there is a spectrum of independence based on each person’s special needs. Independent living is the process to reach each person’s definition of independence. Noting, of course, that some may never be able to reach the classic level of independence in which they are living without any assistance. Instead, the goal is to find and achieve their own highest level of independent living.
Independent Living Skills
Being able to live independently involves compiling a list of skills necessary to live safely and happily without assistance. However, not being able to complete some of these tasks alone doesn’t necessarily mean independent living isn’t possible. Through an independent living assessment, those with disabilities and their families will have a good idea of where they are. Through independent living skills training, people can learn to do some of the tasks required for independent living and gain some skills they didn’t have before.
Independent Living Assessment
An independent living assessment is one way to provide the appropriate resources to those with a disability who are looking to live independently. Some of those skills include:
- Self Awareness
- Self Advocacy
- Daily Living Activities
- Nutrition and Fitness
- Recreation and Socialization
- Legal and Financial
- Managing Medical Care
- Equipment Management
- Higher Education
There are resources outlining many of these skills assessments, and many organizations have their own compilation and variation of things on this list. You can find these resources locally through your Department of Health and Welfare (or equivalent agency), your local independent living center, or through various disability services available online:
- Pennsylvania Department of Health: Transition to Adult Living in Pennsylvania: Transition Health Care Checklist
- Wisconsin Community of Practice on Transition: Transition Health Care Checklist: Preparing for Life as an Adult
- Washington State Department of Social & Health Services: Life Skills Inventory Independent Living Skills Assessment Tool
Independent Living Skills Training
The independent living assessment is just a jumping off point. There are resources available to obtain skills training in any area that you may be lacking in order to check the box on the assessment. Because disabilities come in many different shapes and sizes, the assessment and training is meant to apply to each person and their own specific needs to reach the level of independence that makes sense for them.
The education options for this type of training are sometimes combined with post-high school education for special needs individuals. However, some may need to be sought after as a separate program. These resources may be found locally through your Department of Health and Welfare, your local independent living center, or through disability resources online:
- AbleData: Provides information about assistive technology products and rehabilitation equipment.
- National Council on Independent Living (NCIL): NCIL is the national membership association of local nonprofit corporations known as Centers for Independent Living (CIL). This site can help you find the Statewide Independent Living Council for your state.
- National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC): NARIC offers disability and rehabilitation oriented information. This includes resources for employment, advocacy, benefits, financial assistance, education, technology, and more.
- Research and Training Center on Independent Living: The Research and Training Center on Independent Living is made up of research that can be used to enhance independent living for people with disabilities. Their mission is to further independent living for people with disabilities by collaborating with consumers on productive research and by using innovative methods to disseminate useful knowledge.
Independent Living Centers for Adults With Disabilities
Independent living centers for adults with disabilities are not residential locations where people with disabilities live, they are centers that provide assistance for those with disabilities looking to become more independent. What makes them so special, is that they have substantial involvement of people with disabilities within the center. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 states that these centers are to “promote a philosophy of independent living including a philosophy of consumer control, peer support, self-help, self-determination, equal access, and individual and system advocacy, in order to maximize the leadership, empowerment, independence, and productivity of individuals with disabilities, and the integration and full inclusion of individuals with disabilities into the mainstream of American society.” These centers offer the tools needed to help those with disabilities live independently.
Independent living centers are built around disability advocacy in a number of ways. From individual advocacy to community advocacy, each independent living center works to provide support in protecting the rights and equality of people with disabilities in their community.
Independent Living Skills Training
This is an amazing resource for the skills assessment and training mentioned earlier. Independent living centers are the best place to get a fair assessment and recieve any courses on various skills needed to live independently.
Information and Referrals
Your local independent living center is a hub of information for all things regarding independent living. Those with disabilities and their families can find information and get a referral from the independent living center near them. The information can be about jobs for people with disabilities, disability discrimination information, rent assistance for those with a disability, disability housing, etc.
The other things an independent living center might provide are equipment repair, recreational activities, home modification information, transition assistance, personal assistance services, and housing information. In order to find the independent living centers in your state visit the Independent Living Research Utilization Directory of Centers for Independent Living and Associations.
The community surrounding the independent living center is extremely important. Those with a disability can counsel others with a disability from first hand experience. The problem solving in this area can be extremely helpful for both tangible independent living concerns as well as an emotional connection to experience.
Independent living doesn’t always mean having the ability to live completely on your own without assistance. For some people, this type of independent living is not possible. However, it doesn’t mean there are not options to expand the amount of skills you can learn in order to gain more independence than before. The process of independent living is meant to assess each person’s abilities, and provide the information and help they need to live more independently than before. The spectrum of ability and independence is different for everyone and these resources are meant to advocate for each person to reach their potential.
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