Independent Living Institute


Research and Evaluation

ILRU Research & Training Center
on Independent Living at TIRR

A five year grant to establish a research and training center on Independent Living has been awarded to The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR) and will be operated by the ILRU (Independent Living Research Utilization) program located in Houston, Texas. Funded by the national Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, U.S. Department of Education, the ILRU Research and Training Center on Independent Living at TIRR will develop and implement research, training, and technical assistance projects which focus on ways individuals with severe disabilities can live more independently in their communities. In the area of research, projects will be conducted on the meaning of independence to people with disabilities, techniques used to maintain independent lifestyles, and ways programs serving disabled people can better assist them in living as independently as possible.

A variety of training activities, including a bi-monthly newsletter, a technical report series, and a computerized bulletin board, will be used to disseminate information resulting from these research projects as well as information about model research and demonstration programs around the country.

Under the technical assistance wing of the center, methods will be developed through which individuals with expertise in different aspects of Independent Living can be accessed by Independent Living programs and other interested organizations.

Since its establishment in 1977, ILRU has served as a national center for information, training, and technical assistance in Independent Living. One of its first accomplishments was to develop a definition of Independent Living, which has since become widely accepted in the field. It also developed a system for categorizing different models of Independent Living programs, conducted one of the first national surveys of Independent Living programs, and has since maintained and annotated registry of programs in the country.

In addition, ILRU has taken a leading role in developing and disseminating information related to rural Independent Living activities and is widely recognized for its innovative management training programs for upper level administrators of Independent Living centers.

ILRU project staff serve Independent Living programs, state rehabilitation agencies, organizations of disabled individuals, federal and regional rehabilitation agencies, rehabilitation medical facilities and other service providers, disabled people and their family members, educational institutions, and other organizations active in the field, both nationally and internationally.

Major accomplishments

Tenets for research and training on Independent Living

In recent years there has been increasing recognition of contributions that severely disabled people can make and are making in their communities. This recognition is largely the result of the Independent Living Movement --a network composed principally of pioneering individuals with disabilities who broke from the confines of restrictive attitudes and traditional service for disabled persons and established a new focus on the continuum of needs for Independent Living and the value of the disabled person as the Independent Living service provider. The Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU) program, founded and staffed predominantly by severely disabled persons, was the first organization to respond to the Independent Living movement's need for research, training, and technical assistance. Since 1977, ILRU has contributed significantly to the spread and acceptance of the goals of the movement and has developed services to increase the level of sophistication of Independent Living centers.

The ILRU Research and Training Center on Independent Living at TIRR (The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research) focuses on making significant contributions to the body of scientific and practical knowledge about independence and Independent Living for persons with disabilities. Rather than restrict potential Center collaborators to individuals located in the Houston area, a deliberate effort has been made to involve some of the nation's most experienced researchers, trainers, and providers of services in the field of Independent Living. Some participate as senior Center consultants, some as advisors, and some as consultants on specific projects. Additionally, several members of the Center's staff are professionals with disabilities who have long-standing involvement in issues bearing on Independent Living including experience as founders, board members, and directors of Independent Living centers.

In these critical, formative years for the Independent Living Movement, a research and training center has the potential to play a powerful supportive role. The staff of ILRU and those who collaborate with them conduct the activities of the Center according to the following tenets:

Tenet 1: The Center should have persons with disabilities play substantial roles at all levels of operation.

Personal experience with disability is an invaluable and irreplaceable qualification for persons involved in research and training activities in this field. The ILRU Center staff includes six disabled persons (four of whom have severe, multiple disabilities) as research director, technical assistance director, research associates, research assistants, and administrative assistant. Other disabled persons are involved as senior Center consultants, project consultants, and advisors. All efforts are made to acquire the services of persons with a variety of disabilities as new positions become available.

Tenet 2: The Center should conduct research and offer training and technical assistance opportunities that lend support to state and local agencies and organizations in providing the best quality Independent Living services to disabled persons.

Providers of Independent Living services should be integrally involved in the conduct of all Center activities.

The Center's principal constituency is comprised of organizations which provide services to facilitate Independent Living for persons with disabilities. This includes Independent Living centers, state agencies which fund Independent Living centers, and other private and public organizations which sponsor Independent Living centers or provide Independent Living services directly. It should be noted that while many of the Center products and programs will focus on and be of interest to consumers, the Center, as a general rule, avoids offering services directly to consumers in favor of conducting activities designed to promote development of strong service delivery components at state and local levels.

Tenet 3: Research presents the cornerstone upon which training and technical assistance programs are developed, leading to quality service provision.

Given the grassroots origins of the Independent Living Movement and the overwhelming individual needs which Independent Living centers attempt to meet, it is understandable that service delivery has traditionally been given a higher priority than research and training programs. We at ILRU believe, however, that before Independent Living services can reach a level of maximum impact and effectiveness for individuals and communities, training and technical assistance opportunities must be available and must be developed from sound basic and applied research. Scientific investigation into needs of disabled persons and into the most effective techniques and mechanisms for meeting these needs will allow for development of maximally effective training and technical assistance programs.

Tenet 4: The Center should conduct research and offer training programs that will have an impact on national policy.

Lasting change on a national scale in the many areas integral to Independent Living must be accompanied by changes in national policy. The Center strives to conduct quality research in order to provide reliable and valid information to authorities who make policy and who must translate it into feasible and equitable plans of action. An example of such an application is the National Policy for Persons with Disabilities developed by the National Council on the Handicapped which mentions independence as a criterion for all disability related services.

Tenet 5: The Center should use existing resources to the greatest extent possible.

As noted above, considerable pioneering work has been done to develop effective Independent Living services by both researchers and service providers. The Center should make concerted effort to identify and build on this work without duplication and should establish collaborations with individual researchers, programs directors, and Independent Living centers to maximize benefits accruing from available expertise and interest.

Independent Living Research Utilization

ILRU at Texas Institute for Rehabilitation,
2323 S. Shepherd, Suite 1000, Houston, TX 77019, United States.

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