The Independent Living Philosophy espouses living like everyone else - i.e. being able to have control of one's own life, having opportunities to make decisions that affect one's life and being able to pursue activities of one's own choosing, regardless of disability.

The Independent Living Movement according to Jenny Morris (1993) is based upon the premise that;

  • All human life is of value
  • Every person, regardless of his/her disablement, is capable of making choices
  • People who are disabled by society's reaction to physical, intellectual and sensory impairment and emotional distress have the right to assert control over their own lives
  • All person's with a disablement have the right to participate fully in society

Underpinning the Independent Living Movement is a philosophy that empowers people with disabilities to transcend from the traditional passive dependant status to one that actively engages them in making decisions that directly affect their daily lives.

The philosophy of Independent Living therefore challenges the person living with an impairment to define exactly what his or her basic needs are. This is a crucial element of the philosophy, as the notion of mainstream schooling or job opportunity would remain only an aspiration if disabled people had no control over their personal needs.

According to the prominent disability activist Judy Heuman, 'Independent Living is not doing things by yourself, it is being in control of how things are done'

Adolf Ratzka (2002) goes further in his definition of Independent Living by stating that it is;
'The right of all persons regardless of age, type or extent of disability to live in the community, as opposed to living in an institution; to have the same range of choices as everybody else in housing, transportation, education and employment; to participate in the social, economic and political life of their communities; to have a family; to live as ; to live as responsible respected members of their communities with all the duties and privileges that this entails, and to unfold their potential'.

Independent Living is not simply concerned with mundane physical tasks of daily living. The philosophy expands the notion of independence from physical achievements to political and socio-economic decision making. It is concerned with personal and economic choices that disabled people make, and its goals are

  • Self Determination
  • Control
  • Responsibility

Essentially, people living with a disability need to have a strong commitment to their own empowerment and to the goals of Independent Living. Over and above, people with disabilities will have to be prepared to act as catalysts of change and to challenge all kinds of marginalisation that they experience. The Independent Living Movement therefore promotes and encourages the attainment of full and equal citizenship.