Centers for Independent Living Overview

Centers for Independent Living are run by and for people with disabilities. They began as the civil rights movements took off in the 1960s, and today, after more than 50 years, CILs continue to fight for many of the same human rights and liberties. Despite the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, advocacy and support by CILs and the Disability Rights Movement continue to be essential for enforcement of the law.

Definition of a Center for Independent Living from Section 702 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended:

The term “center for independent living” means a consumer‑controlled, community‑based, cross‑disability, nonresidential private nonprofit agency that is designed and operated within a local community by individuals with disabilities and provides an array of independent living services. A center for independent living has the following requirements: 

  • 51% of staff are persons with disabilities
  • 51% of Board of Directors are persons with disabilities
  • provides five core services:
    1. Information & referral
    2. Independent living skills training
    3. Individual and systems advocacy
    4. Peer counseling
    5. Transition: transition from nursing homes and other institutions to community-based residences; assisting individuals to avoid institutional placement; and transition of youth with significant disabilities after completion of secondary education to postsecondary life.