What is Independent Living - A Personal Definition

photo of bamboo Bamboo, symbol of
strength through resilience.

Independent Living is a philosophy and a movement of people with disabilities who work for self-determination, equal opportunities and self-respect.

Independent Living does not mean that we want to do everything by ourselves and do not need anybody or that we want to live in isolation.

Independent Living means that we demand the same choices and control in our every-day lives that our non-disabled brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends take for granted. We want to grow up in our families, go to the neighborhood school, use the same bus as our neighbors, work in jobs that are in line with our education and interests, and start families of our own.

Since we are the best experts on our needs, we need to show the solutions we want, need to be in charge of our lives, think and speak for ourselves - just as everybody else.

To this end we must support and learn from each other, organize ourselves and work for political changes that lead to the legal protection of our human and civil rights.

As long as we regard our disabilities as tragedies, we will be pitied.
As long as we feel ashamed of who we are, our lives will be regarded as useless.
As long as we remain silent, we will be told by others what to do.

 Adolf Ratzka, 2003.

The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has produced a more recent definition:

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
General comment No. 5 (2017) on living independently and being included in the community

(a)Independent living. Independent living/living independently means that individuals with disabilities are provided with all necessary means to enable them to exercise choice and control over their lives and make all decisions concerning their lives. Personal autonomy and self-determination are fundamental to independent living, including access to transport, information, communication and personal assistance, place of residence, daily routine, habits, decent employment, personal relationships, clothing, nutrition, hygiene and health care, religious activities, cultural activities and sexual and reproductive rights. These activities are linked to the development of a person’s identity and personality: where we live and with whom, what we eat, whether we like to sleep in or go to bed late at night, be inside or outdoors, have a tablecloth and candles on the table, have pets or listen to music. Such actions and decisions constitute who we are. Independent living is an essential part of the individual’s autonomy and freedom and does not necessarily mean living alone. It should also not be interpreted solely as the ability to carry out daily activities by oneself. Rather, it should be regarded as the freedom to choose and control, in line with the respect for inherent dignity and individual autonomy as enshrined in article 3 (a) of the Convention. Independence as a form of personal autonomy means that the person with disability is not deprived of the opportunity of choice and control regarding personal lifestyle and daily activities;