Since 1972

Creating a Movement

Support Disability Rights

The Independent Living Movement grew out of the civil rights struggle of the Disability Rights Movement
of the 1960’s. The first Center for Independent Living, established in 1972 in Berkeley, California, was
established through the efforts of disabled college students on the campus of the University of California at
Berkeley to get an education and be fully integrated into the academic and social life of the university.
Students Ed Roberts, Hale Zukas and Jan McEwan Brown emerged as major leaders in this movement for
the full inclusion of people with disabilities into community life. Before the disability rights movement,
medical and clinical professionals had seen disability primarily as a medical issue that required professional
intervention, treatment and oversight. People with disabilities had been seen primarily as the objects of
medical care, paternalism and charity.

The Independent Living Movement redefined disability as a personal attribute that characterizes an individual but does not define them.

The Independent Living Movement called for people with disabilities to be in control of their lives and services that they receive. The Independent Living Movement no longer saw the disability as the problem that needed to be cured or managed, but rather located the problem in barriers that needed to be removed in order for all people with disabilities to enjoy the same opportunities and responsibilities as non-disabled citizens. The Rehabilitation Act of 1978, as amended, established Centers for Independent Living throughout the nation. Independence Northwest opened its doors in 1988.

Hear from those we helped:

image of kristen


Kristen first came to the center six years ago seeking assistance with her mounting medical bills which were not covered by her insurance. Kristen was working full time but still having difficulty managing her medical expenses.

She and her Independent Living Advocate developed an independent living plan and worked on household management and an application for Social Security. She decided to continue her employment, worked on her financial plan and over the course of a year was able to get out of debt.

Independence Northwest assisted Kristen to obtain a portable ramp so she could be more independent in the community when places were inaccessible for her wheelchair.

image of Edward V. RobertsIn its broadest implications the independent living movement is the civil rights movement of the millions of Americans with disabilities.
Edward V. Roberts

Founder, Independent Living