Ask seven leaders in the independent living movement to define a center for independent living and you’ll get at least 14 answers. First you’ll get the party line: As mandated by the federal Rehabilitation Act, each CIL provides four core service: skills training, peer counseling, information and referral, and advocacy. And by law, they’ll add, 51 percent of the board and staff must be people with disabilities.

After that, it’s a free-for-all:

“CILs shouldn’t take government money and shouldn’t provide services like case management or personal assistance.”

But if wasn’t for federal or state funding, they couldn’t exist, and who better to provide services than those who need them?

“A CIL’s only service should be advocacy, advocacy, advocacy, and to be good advocates we must pump up our self-esteem.”

Ah, but then how does the broader community hear about a CIL if its programs are turned in on its existing consumer base?

And so the debate goes. Who’s right? Who knows? Maybe they all are. You decide.

History and Strengths
The Independent Living movement has been around since the late 1960s, and the first CIL was founded in Berkeley, Calif., in 1972. In 1978 the Rehab Act was amended to fund IL programs all over the country, and soon eve