Independent living

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A native of the English term Independent living (dt. Literally Independent Living , figuratively and Independent Living ) refers to a way of looking at disability and society , and a worldwide movement of people with disabilities , which for self-determination , self-respect and equal opportunities occur.

In the context of care for the elderly , self-determined living is to be seen as a step towards the most cohesive care possible, possibly with assisted living as the next step.

In most countries, according to the supporters of the IL movement, prejudice and a predominantly medical view of disability contribute to negative attitudes towards people with disabilities. One sees them clichéd as sick, faulty and abnormal people, as objects for professional intervention, as a burden for themselves and their families, dependent on the grace (undeserved leniency) of other people. These images have consequences for people with disabilities and their families, a reduction in the opportunities for education and employment, which in turn means that a large proportion of people with disabilities worldwide are poor .


The origin of the movement was in the US civil and consumer rights movements of the late 1960s and the disability movement that began in the 1970s. The IL movement is working on the abolition of special schools and rehabilitation concepts for professionals. In the future, concepts for integration and rehabilitation are to be developed by those affected themselves. The first independent living ideologues and organizers were people with significant disabilities. But the message of the movement seems to be most popular among people who depend on support and nursing care in the chores of daily life, from the perspective of the IL movement, who are most exposed to the paternalistic attitude and control by professionals.


The independent living philosophy postulates that people with disabilities are the best experts for their own needs and therefore have to take the initiative individually and collectively to develop and represent better solutions and they have to organize themselves as political power . In addition to deprofessionalization and self-representation , the independent living ideology includes de-medicalization of disabilities, deinstitutionalization and the inclusion of people across disabilities in the IL movement (regardless of diagnosis).

In the independent living philosophy, disabled people are seen primarily as citizens and only secondarily as consumers of health, rehabilitation or social services. As citizens in democratic societies, the IL movement found, people with disabilities have the same right to participation, to the range of possibilities, the same degree of freedom, control and self-determination in everyday life and in planning their lives as other citizens take for granted. IL activists are calling for the removal of infrastructural , institutional and attitude barriers and the introduction of the universal design principle. Depending on the individual disability, support services such as aids , income support or personal support are seen as necessary to achieve equal opportunities. As highlighted by the IL movement, needs assessment and service delivery must enable users to control the services, choose freely between competing service providers, and live with dignity in the community. Cash benefits or direct payments (in Germany: personal budget ) are preferred by IL activists to benefits in kind because of the positive effects on the users' quality of life and cost efficiency.

Over the years the IL movement spread from North America to every continent, adapting and being influenced by different cultures and economic conditions. There is a significant body of research, training materials and examples of good practice on issues such as the transition from institutional life to community life, the transition from school to employment or self-employment, community and lobbying, disabled culture, girls and women Women with Disabilities and Disability and Development. Supporting the movement and using its work has become an important part of social policy in many countries.

“Independent living doesn't mean that we want to do everything ourselves, that we don't need anyone or that we like to live in isolation. Independent living means that we demand the same opportunities and the same control over our everyday lives that our non-disabled brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends take for granted. We want to grow up in our families, go to neighborhood school, use the same bus as our neighbors, and work in jobs that are in line with our education and interests. We are deeply ordinary people with the same need to feel included, recognized and loved. "Adolf Ratzka,

Centers for Independent Living

In 1972, the first Center for Independent Living was founded by disabled activists, led by Ed Roberts in Berkeley , California . These centers act as models, they were created to offer mutual support and are managed and controlled by people with disabilities. According to the IL approach, the example of a peer (someone who has been in a similar situation) can be more effective than interventions by able-bodied professionals in analyzing one's own situation, taking responsibility for one's life, and developing coping strategies.

According to the IL movement, with mutual support anyone - including those with severe developmental disabilities - can learn to take more initiative and control over their lives. For example, peer support is used in independent living competence classes or in institutions in which people and their families learn how to cope with everyday life in preparation for life for themselves.

The same range of basic services is offered in each of the centers, but there are some differences in the programs, including in terms of funding sources. Depending on the services provided by the state in the community, the centers provide support by arranging and adapting housing, arranging personal assistance or legal aid . Typically, the centers work with local and regional governments to improve infrastructure, raise awareness of disability issues, and lobby for legislation that promotes equal opportunities and prohibits discrimination . Centers in states such as California, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois have proven effective.

In Germany

During the time of National Socialism , thousands of people died as a result of euthanasia , and again there were countless people with disabilities as a result of the war, which is why the associations for the welfare of war victims and survivors resumed their work, such as the Association of German War Victims, the Physically Disabled and Social Pensioners . It was not until 1955 that the first association was founded, which was dedicated to civilians with physical disabilities: “Social assistance for paraplegics and children”.
In the following years, further associations were founded, usually parents' associations: In 1958, the Federal Association of Lebenshilfe for the mentally handicapped child (now Lebenshilfe Germany ) was founded and the Association of German Associations for the Promotion of Spastic Paralyzed Children with the aim of promoting disabled children and relieving the burden on families. A network of special facilities was also created.

In the late fifties and early sixties were two causes of "civilian" disability particular: polio (poliomyelitis) and thalidomide . Before the oral vaccination was introduced in 1962, several thousand people were diagnosed with polio each year, many of whom who survived were permanently paralyzed. In Germany approx. 4000 children affected by thalidomide were born, of which approx. 2800 survived. The fate of the “Contergankinder” was discussed in the media extravagantly, which gave disability a new assessment as a social task. The problem child campaign was founded.

The spirit of optimism of the 1968s also left its mark on the disability movement. The "Club 68" was founded, the forerunner of the "Clubs for the disabled and their friends" (Cebeef). Initially with the aim of joint leisure activities, the clubs later also became active at the local political level in order to remove everyday obstacles. Disability was viewed primarily from a medical perspective ( medical model of disability ) and was often equated with illness.

Crippling movement

In 1974, Gusti Steiner gave courses together with the publicist Ernst Klee at the Frankfurt Adult Education Center , where they carried out provocative actions with disabled and non-disabled participants: They blocked the tram to draw attention to grievances and awarded them the “Goldene Krücke” several times in each case the “biggest rivet in the work of the disabled”. From 1978, Franz Christoph and Horst Frehe founded cripple groups , the name alone was provocation. Non-disabled people were not allowed to take part, following the example of the women's movement, they wanted to analyze the situation among themselves. The aim of the cripple movement was to change the perspective on disability, in the sense of disability studies - to understand disability as a social problem instead of from a medical point of view ( social model of disability ).
From 1979 to 1985 the Krüppelzeitung - "Newspaper from Krüppel for Krüppel" - was published by the
Krüppelgruppen , which later became a marginal show with the air pump .

Cripple Tribunal

On February 25, 1980 the court decision known as the "Frankfurt Judgment" was issued:

"Even the presence of a group of mentally and physically severely disabled people is a deficiency that justifies a reduction in the travel price."

There were numerous protests and on May 8, 1980 a demonstration in Frankfurt am Main , during which attention was drawn to the discrimination against disabled people in Germany.

This was followed by the preparations for the disability initiatives for the UN Year of the Disabled , which had been declared for 1981. The aim of the groups was to use the official events of the UN year to make their concerns heard, such as the disruption of the opening event on January 24th in Dortmund's Westfalenhalle under the motto “Every cripple has his stick” .
The cripple tribunal marked the end of the “Year of the Disabled” . In this, similar to the Russell Tribunal of Amnesty International , human rights violations against disabled people denounced.

The criticism of the marginalization and institutionalization of disabled people was continued at the international specialist congress in Munich in 1982. Under the title Living, Learning, Working in the Community , various models of support for physically handicapped people, such as the concept of independent living from the USA, were presented there.

In November 1986 the advice center for self-determined living was opened in Bremen, the first of more than twenty centers for self-determined living.


See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Georg Theunissen: independent living , accessed on December 29, 2011.
  2. ^ Doris Fleischer: The Disability Rights Movement . Temple University Press, Philadelphia 2001, ISBN 1-56639-812-6 .
  3. handicapped movement , accessed on January 3, 2012.
  4. Oliver Castendyk: Das “Frankfurter Disabled Judgment” , 1994, Springer, p. 15.
  5. ↑ History of Movement ( Memento of October 3, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 97 kB) accessed on January 3, 2012.