Skip to main content

Centers for Independent Living

Centers for Independent Living (CILs) are nonprofit community-based programs that are professionally staffed and managed by individuals with disabilities for people with all kinds of disabilities. Reflecting the philosophy of the independent living movement, a minimum of 50 percent of CIL decision-making staff and board members must be people with disabilities. CILs exist in every state and U.S. territory. Most states have multiple CILs located in various regions throughout the state. The Independent Living Research Utilization program provides a listing of Centers for Independent Living.

Centers for Independent Living offer training in self-advocacy, employment, and independent living skills. Training opportunities related to developing independent living skills can include classes on cooking and meal planning, money management, transportation, hygiene, interpersonal skills, healthy relationships, how to hire and supervise direct support staff, adult disability benefits, and participating in the legislative process.

All CILs provide the following core services:

  1. Information & referral
  2. Independent living skills training
  3. Individual and systems advocacy
  4. Peer counseling
  5. Transition assistance for youth with significant disabilities after the completion of secondary education to postsecondary life.
  6. Assistance transitioning from nursing homes and other institutions to home- and community-based settings for individuals with significant disabilities.
  7. Assistance to individuals with significant disabilities who self-identify as being at risk of entering institutions so that the individuals may remain in the community.

Each CIL is independently operated and may offer additional services including ramp-building programs, support groups, housing assistance, and programs for transitioning youth. Some may provide additional services for a fee, such as Personal Care Assistance (PCA) services.

CIL Transition Services

Many CILs have been providing services to assist youth and young adults with disabilities to transition from school to post-secondary education, employment, and independent living for some time. More recently, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act added a requirement for all CILS to assist youth with significant disabilities who have completed their secondary education. Local CILS may also provide services to youth who are still in school.

Some CILs offer person-centered planning services, recreation and leisure opportunities, sexuality education, or events for parents and youth. Some CILs may be able to offer youth internships. Each CIL is different so it is best for parents and youth to contact their nearest center first to learn what transition services they offer. Many parent training and information centers, such as PACER Center, work collaboratively with CILs and help youth and young adults connect with the services and supports they can provide.

Why introduce youth to their local CIL

CILs are committed to person-centered thinking and planning and encourage the development of strong self-advocacy skills. A CIL is a place where youth can see other adults with disabilities in the workforce, be mentored by a peer with a disability, and become a leader. Peer mentors typically work one-on-one with youth. Such interactions can be more powerful than parental guidance at times in youth development when youth are establishing autonomy from their parents. Participating in classes or groups with other young adults with and without disabilities, such as youth advisory boards, can also help youth form a sense of community.

In addition, CIL staff are often very knowledgeable about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and other laws affecting people with disabilities. Youth can also benefit from learning the history of the disability rights movement. It may even be the first place they experience disability pride.

Centers for Independent Living Make Community Living Possible - Infographic