Independent Living

What is Independent Living?


Independent Living is about human rights. Disabled people share these rights too but all too often their rights are taken away or watered down.

From what to eat to where to live, life is all about making decisions - being able to choose what you want to do and how, where and when you want to do it are things that non-disabled people often take for granted. But as a disabled person, the right to control your own life is often denied.

The following definition of independent living was developed by disabled people:

Independent living means all disabled people having the same freedom, choice, dignity and control as other citizens at home, a work and in the community. It does not necessarily mean living by yourself or fending for yourself. It means rights to practical assistance and support to participate in society and live an ordinary life.

Independent living is a philosophy developed by disabled people. These are disabled people who campaign on behalf of all disabled people for self-determination, equal opportunities and full participation in society as equal citizens. The philosophy has come from their own experience of discrimination, isolation and because of badly designed services which obstruct rather than support. One reason why services are second-rate is simply that disabled people have had little or no say in shaping them.

Independent living is not just about social care disabled people receive in their homes, it covers everything to do with a person's life, including:

  • the built environment and transport
  • personal support and services
  • economic, social and public life
  • the impact of political and service structures

The ILiS report called Ready for Action gives you more detail about all these elements.

"In our communities, disability is seen as a charity issue. You are not seen as a person who can have a life, get a job, live independently. This is very much against our human rights. There is a huge need for awareness work in our countries."

Maria Veronica Reina, researcher with mobility impairment (Argentina).

The right to an equal future

As well as defining what independent living means, disabled people have identified a number of entitlements which will enable disabled people to participate fully and equally in society.

The Basic Rights of independent living:

  • full access to our environment including buildings, parks and pavements
  • fully accessible transport which takes account of the whole journey from A to B
  • technical aids and equipment to support us to do what we want; readily available and reliable
  • accessible and adapted housing for all; after all, we want to visit friends and family in their homes too
  • personal assistance when we need and where we need it
  • inclusive education and training at all ages and all levels
  • an income, including income from the state-benefit system for those unable to work
  • equal opportunities for employment
  • accessible and readily available information
  • advocacy and working towards self-advocacy
  • counselling, including peer counselling
  • accessible and inclusive healthcare provision
  • communication and appropriate support for communication, in both directions; remember you have to hear what we're saying as well

Read all about it...

You can read about other disabled people's experiences at the Disabled People's Stories section of this website.

You can also tell us about your experiences.

Where can I find out more about independent living for me or someone I care for?

This website is here to tell you what independent living is, and to inspire and support disabled people to be part of the Independent Living Movement in Scotland and work towards change.

The ILiS project is not able to help you with your individual enquiries about where and how to get support, such as from local authorities or other services. However we thought it would be helpful to offer some signposts to some sources of support available in Scotland.

Click here to access our useful links page.