A Revolution of the Mind


Independent Living Canada Celebrates Its 25th Anniversary
by Traci Walters, Il Canada volunteer ambassador, national director emeritus
The growth of the consumer movement in Canada in the 1980s created a complete paradigm shift for Canadians with disabilities. Out of it developed a new appreciation of people with disabilities as being important citizens with abilities, as well as a new philosophy regarding the role of service providers and of people with disabilities as empowered consumers.
This new philosophy was called Independent Living (IL) and was a sharp contrast to the rehabilitation paradigm and traditional services, in which people with disabilities were professionally controlled and treated as dependent clients. The focus had been on making the individual change rather than the environment. The IL philosophy emphasizes that people with disabilities can best identify their own needs and can have productive lives in the community through self-help, empowerment, advocacy and the removal of barriers.
It has been demonstrated through research—and, in particular, in a study entitled Impact of Independent Living Centres on the Individuals and on Communities *1–that as the individual becomes empowered, participation in community life increases. In turn, the community becomes educated and significant changes occur, both within the life experiences of the individual and in the community as a whole.
By helping people with disabilities view themselves as valuable and contributing members of society, we have created a revolution—a revolution of the mind. There is nothing in this world more powerful than that. Many positive changes have resulted from this shift in thinking.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Independent Living Canada (IL Canada) and the formalization of a national IL movement. Over the past 25 years, and with the help of member IL Centres across the country, IL Canada has conducted groundbreaking, participatory action research in the areas of substance abuse/misuse, literacy, family violence, healthy living, offenders with disabilities and their reintegration, crime prevention, abuse concerning youth and seniors, employment, pre-employment, entrepreneurship and much more.
Since 2006, IL Canada and the IL Centres have also been educating Canadians with disabilities on financial literacy issues, including the promotion of registered education savings plans and more recently, registered disability savings plans.
There is much to be celebrated at IL Canada’s 25th-anniversary national annual general meeting (which will be held in Ottawa Nov. 23 to 26), including the 10th anniversary of the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities kickoff event. IL delegates will be celebrating the past and looking to the future of IL in Canada. The future will include increased recognition and financial support from both the provincial and federal governments… like many national IL movements enjoy in other countries.
IL Canada is a national, non-profit association of Independent Living Centres run by and for people with disabilities who promote the Independent Living philosophy. For more information, visit ilcanada.ca or email http://info@ilc-vac.ca/. 
*1 To read the Impact of Independent Living Centres on the Individuals and on Communities, go to http://johnlord.net/web_documents/ilc_impact_on_community.pdf


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