Independent Living Institute

The website for ENIL is now at

This page is from 1999.

logo of European Network on Independent Living

About ENIL

Present Board members (June 1996 to 1999)

Chair: John Evans, Petersfield, UK,
Secretary: Adolf Ratzka, Sweden ,
Manfred Srb, Austria,
Regina Reichert, Germany
Bente Skansgård, Norway,
Gordana Rajkov, Yugoslavia

Founding chair. Adolf Ratzka, Sweden
Immediate past chair: Horst Frehe, Germany, Fax 49-421-76 393

Other past Board members:
Elisa Pelkonen, Helsinki, Finland,
Uwe Frehse (alias Frevert), Germany,
Marry van Dongen, Netherlands
Phil Mason, UK


In April 1989 at the European Parliament in Strasbourg over 80 persons with extensive disabilities coming from nearly two dozens of countries participated in a 3 day conference on personal assistance. Druing this event the European Network on Independent Living, ENIL, was founded.

ENIL was founded to address the under-representation of person with extensive disabilities (i. e. daily dependence on personal assistance) in disability politics, not the least within organizations of persons with disabilities.

The following document was adopted at a meeting of the European Network on Independent Living at 'Het Timmerholt', Netherlands, August 31 - September 3, 1990.


To build and co-ordinate a European Network on Independent Living.

Mandate of ENIL

1. To contribute towards the situation of disabled people through individual empowerment.

2. To work on building a European Network on Independent Living (ENIL).

3. To carry out educational events on Independent Living, e.g. seminars, workshops and development of resource materials.

4. To work on developing European concepts, principles and definitions related to Independent Living.

5. To promote the philosophy and concept of Independent Living among political parties, governments and other European bodies.

6. To seek funding for ENIL to carry out its activities.

7. To promote an understanding of Independent Living in Europe.

8. To facilitate information sharing on Independent Living.

Principles of Independent Living

While persons with disabilities use the term Independent Living, our goal is to participate equally in our communities - exercising our self-determination.

These principals are to guide the work of ENIL:

1. Independent living is a process of consciousness raising, empowerment and emancipation. This process enables all disabled persons to achieve equal opportunities, rights and full participation in all aspects of society.

2. Disabled people must be able to control this process individually and collectively. To achieve this goal we provide peer support and use democratic principles in our work.

3. As equal citizens we must have the same access to the basics of life including: food, clothing, shelter, health care, assistive devices, personal support services, education, employment, information, communication, transportation and access to the physical and cultural environment, the right to sexuality and the right to marry and have children, and peace.

4. The Independent Living Movement must be a cross disability movement addressing the needs of all disabled persons. In order for this to occur we must rid ourselves of any prejudice we have towards persons with disabilities other than our own and encourage the involvement of disabled women and other underrepresented groups. Disabled children should be enabled by their families and society in general to become independent adults.

5. Disabled people must obtain all the requirements for equalisation of opportunities and full participation by defining their own needs, choices and degree of user control.

6. The Independent Living Movement is opposed to the development and maintenance of systems which promote dependency through institutional responses.

7. Disabled people must involve themselves in research and development, planning and decision making, at all levels, in matters concerning their lives.

These above principles were adopted at the ENIL meeting, 'Het Timmerholt', Netherlands August 31 - September 3, 1990.

Definition of Independent Living

The above "Principles of Independent Living" were further elaborated at the following ENIL meeting in response to the increasing use of the term "Independent Living" by rehabilitation professionals.

Definition of the term "Independent Living" as adopted at the ENIL-meeting, Berlin 7. - 10. October 1992:

Definition of Disability

A disability exists, if essential, personal and social experiences are influenced by physical and mental limitations and their resulting discrimination.

Purpose of the Definition of Independent Living:

1. To challenge the misleading applications of the English use of the term "Independent Living" and / or the native tongue translation of the term "Independent Living".

2. To provide a means of identifying organizations which are controlled by disabled people.

Definition of Independent Living

Any organization, governmental or non-governmental including organizations for disabled persons, individuals and professionals who use the term "Independent Living'l in their work have to comply with the following principles:

1. Solidarity

a) To work actively for the development of full equality and participation for all persons with disabilities regardless of type or extent of disability, sex, age, residence, ethnic origin, sexuality or religion,

b) to work so that people with disabilities can have the resources to live independently, c) to recognize Independent Living as a basic human right,

d) to share or exchange information, advice, support and training in appropriate form, e.g. tape, braille, large print, free of charge for persons with disabilities or, where there is a charge, to ensure that people with disabilities have the resources to pay for these services,

e) to cooperate with and support other organizations which belong to the international Independent Living network or who support the goals of the Independent Living movement.

2. Peer Support

a) to use peer support as the foremost educational tool for sharing information, experiences and insights in order to make people with disabilities conscious of the audio, visual and cultural, psychological, social, economic and political oppression and discrimination that they are exposed to,

b) to make persons with disabilities aware of their possibilities to reach full equality and participation,

c) to empower persons with disabilities by assisting them to acquire the skills to manage their social and physical environment with the goal of full equality and participation in their families and society.

3. De-Institutionalization

a) to oppose all types of institutions,stationary or mobile, especially designed for persons with disabilities. An institution is any public or private establishment, organization or service which creates special segregated solutions for persons with disabilities in education, work, housing, transportation, personal assistance and all other areas of life, which by its nature limits disabled persons' possibilities to make their own decisions about their lives or reduces their opportunities to participate in society on equal terms.

b) In particular, establishments, organizations or services may not use the term "Independent Living", if they promote or accept personal assistance services that require the user to live in special dwelling units or which deny or reduce the individual user's right to full choice and control over his or her life by forcing the user to live by the routine of others.

4. Democracy and Self-determination

Organizations may use the term "Independent Living" only, if all the following conditions are satisfied:
a) if they are membership organizations based on democratic prlnciples such as one person - one vote and

b) if full membership with voting rights is reserved for persons with disabilities only and

c) if the organization as a practice favors disabled persons for positions within the organization for both paid staff and volunteers including the head of staff and

d) if the organization as a rule is represented in negotiations, meetings and the media by disabled persons.

Organizations who do not comply with these conditions but want to use the term "Independent Living" in their work have two years to comply with these conditions.

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