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History of the CIL Movement

In 1972, the world's first organisation, which was run by and for people with disabilities, was founded by disability activists led by Ed Roberts, in Berkeley, California.

The Centre for Independent Living supports people with disabilities in their endeavor to become independent. It is encouraged by CIL that people with disabilities make their own choices. It also helps to enable people with disabilities to open doors in the society to full participation and access for all.

The main aims of the Centres are to offer peer support and role modeling, they are run and controlled by people with disabilities. According to the Independent Living approach, the example of a peer, somebody who has been in a similar situation, can be more powerful than the intervention of non disabled professionals in analysing a persons situation, or taking responsibility for a persons life and in developing coping strategies.

Everyone including people with extensive developmental disabilities can learn to take more initiative and control over their lives, with peer support, according to the Independent Living (IL) Movement. For example, when people attend Independent Living Skills classes, peer support is used where people living with their families or in institutions learn how to run their everyday lives in preparation for living by themselves.

Centres might assist people with disabilities with housing referrals and adaption, personal assistance referral or legal aid depending on the public services in the community. Centres typically work with local and regional governments in trying to achieve improved infrastructure, raised awareness about disability issues and lobby for legislation that promotes equal opportunities and prohibits discrimination.

The IL Movement grew out of the Disability Rights movement which began in the 1970s, with origins in the U.S civil rights and consumer movements of the late 1960s. Special Education and rehabilitation experts concepts of integration, normalisation and rehabilation is replaced by the work the IL Movement in trying to come up with a new paradigm which is developed by people with disabilities themselves. People with extensive disabilities were the first Independent Living ideoligists and organisers. The people to whom the movements message is most popular are those whose lives depend on assistance with the activities of their daily lives and who, in the view of the IL movement don't have control over their own lives are controlled paternalistically and by professionals.

ED ROBERTS

"A perfectly ordinary, but totally extraordinary human being. A father, a friend, an advocate, a leader and an adventurous explorer of life."

Zona and Verne Roberts had four sons-Ed, the first, was born in January 1939, then Ron, Mark and Randy. Verne worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad, as his father had, and became a solid union supporter when he saw how much better off he was than his father because of the union. Ed grew up in Burlingame, a suburban town on the San Francisco Peninsula, and dreamed of a future playing pro baseball. In 1952 the entire family contracted polio. They all recovered except Ed, who at the age of thirteen was left paralysed and unable to move only one finger. He continued his education at home with an innovative "school-to-home phone system" developed by Pac Bell. At the time Ed could spend about six hours a day out of the iron lung.

As a senior in high school Ed could spend one day a week in the classroom. After high school he attended the nearby College of San Mateo, hoping to become a sports writer. But college only whetted his appetite for learning and much to the dismay of the rehabilitation system; Ed set his sights on the University of California, Berkeley

Ed and his mother and a family friend, Jean Worth, overcame all opposition from the State Department of Rehabilitation and the University, and in the Fall of 1962, at the age of 23, he enrolled at U.C.B. University officials described his attendance at the time as "experimental" and announced that only one such individual would be accepted. Ed's success later led the University to cautiously admit five more severely disabled students. And the following year they added nine more. They all lived in the Cowell Hospital on campus. It was a situation unique in the country. Before long the "rolling quads", as they called themselves, wanted freedom from the hospital. Ed leamed about a Student Special Services Program at the U.S. Office of Education and went to Washington D.C. to enquire about a grant. A proposal was written and a grant awarded to the University for the first Physically Disabled Students Program (PDSP) on a college campus anywhere in the world.

PDSPwas unbelievably supportive. It provided disabled students with an unheard-of level of assistance, including wheel-chair repair, attendant referral, housing referral, benefits counselling, peer support and much more. Even disabled people in the Berkeley area, who were not students began to come to PDSP for its services and support.

At the age of 29 was a Political Science teaching assistant and PhD candidate. John Hessler, the second disabled person to come to the university, became the director of PDSP in 1970.

In 1970 he went to D.C., Riverside to direct the Handicapped Opportunity Program for Education (HOPE). In 1971 he became Dean of Students and Professor of Political Science at Common College in Woodside, near his home town of Burlingame.

By 1971, disabled people, students and non-students, were beginning to talk about their dreams of a self-help community program like PDSP, but for all disabled people. The concept of the Independent Living Centre began to take shape. Ed was part of those conversations, as was WID's Hale Zukas. During this time Ed was working with Jean Worth and others to found Nairobi College in East Palo Alto, where he taught a course in political science. Meanwhile the Centre for Independent Living had opened its doors in 1971 at its first site on University Avenue in Berkeley. A year later Ed became its executive director.

In 1973, with the help of Joan Leon, its first brochure was developed and CIL began writing proposals to foundations and the federal government.

Ed led CIL through a phenomenal period of growth. In 1976 the Centre was serving 300 disabled people a month and making a very visible impact on the City of Berkeley, the state and the country. During this time Hale Zukas began pushing the city to put in kerb cuts on every street comer; by the mid-1980s Berkley was the most accessible city in the country.

In 1975 Ed was appointed as the director of the State Department of Rehabilitation, the agency that had once called him too disabled to be rehabilitated. California's governor, Jerry Brown, filled his cabinet with activists who were determined to improve Californians' quality of life and Ed was one of his best appointments. Ed broke a few rules and boldly used Federal Innovation and Expansion Grant funds to start Independent Living Centres throughout California.

The idea was so successful that in 1978 a committee of the House of Representatives held a hearing at CIL to learn about independent living centres and the needs of disabled people. In the same year Congress passed the Rehabilitation Act 1978, which opened the way for the development of the independent living centres.

The Ed Roberts Campus

Above is a watercolour showing the future Ed Roberts Campus at Ashby Bart Station in Berkeley, California.

The Ed Roberts Campus is a non-profit corporation formed by nine organisations that share a common history in the Independent Living/Civil Rights Movement of People with Disabilities. These nine organisations have joined together to plan and develop a universally designed, transit-oriented campus located in south Berkeley.


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Tel: (057) 93 22832  |  Fax: (057) 93 60341  |  E-mail: ocil@eircom.net
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