Photo by Tom Olinthe Disability History Museum
The Independent Living Movement and Disability Rights
Although individuals with disabilities around the country began to take steps toward creating their own civil rights movement, Berkeley, California, is recognized as the “birthplace” of the Disability Civil Rights/Independent Living Movement. In the 1960s a group of students with disabilities at the University of California, Berkeley, worked on removing architectural barriers on the campus and in the surrounding community. They taught themselves the daily living skills needed to survive. They learned how to hire and train personal assistants to provide the physical assistance they needed. They also reached out to other people with disabilities and began to create a new model for self-help and peer support. In 1972 the group moved out from the campus to the community and opened the first Independent Living Center.
The independent living and disability rights movement that grew out of the late 1960s was unique in two critical ways. First, people with disabilities were in charge of their own advocacy organization. People with disabilities moved away from the charity-based model that dominated many existing disability organizations. Second, people with various types of disabilities began to join together in their advocacy efforts. It became apparent that the old system of single disability organizations had separated people with disabilities from each other. The in-fighting that resulted prevented them from gaining any true sense of the shared power of disability rights as a social and civil rights movement. By joining together and advocating for the rights of all people with disabilities, these new “cross disability” organizations did away with the “divide and conquer” influence that had limited the effectiveness of disability-specific organizations.
History of the Access Center for Independent Living
The Access Center for Independent Living (ACIL), was founded in 1984 by a group of concerned citizens, the majority of whom were persons with disabilities. Those founding activists had a vision of affecting change that would make the community accessible to any person with a disability who wished to pursue a more independent, self-directed lifestyle.
Those first days were filled with struggles with the local community as well as the state funding agency. The meager funds for establishing independent living services were not available for starting a new center until 1990, however, the Access Center’s board advocated for accessible transportation, customer rights, and other disability issues.
In early 1986, the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission (ORSC), awarded the ACIL with a contract to administer the Title VII, Part A services, which provides adaptive equipment and other independent living services needed to enhance the customer’s independence.
In April, 1990, ACIL was awarded a grant to provide other independent living services for the nine counties that are designated as Area 2 by the ORSC. In September, 1990, the Access Center’s board hired an executive director. In October, 1990, ACIL’s first office opened in Centerville, Ohio. During the first year of operation, ACIL provided independent living services to more than 200 customers.
In 1992, the Executive Director applied for and received VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) Members to work at ACIL. The AMERICORPS*VISTA Members have been an integral part of the Access Center For Independent Living.
The Access Center has grown considerably since those first days of struggling to establish an independent living center. In 1992, the Access Center’s office space expanded to more than double the space of their original office and in 2009 has expanded yet again.
In October, 1994, the Access Center became federally funded, allowing it to serve Montgomery County exclusively. During this time, ACIL hired two Independent Living Specialists to work with their Senior Independent Living Specialist. ACIL also added a Systems Administrator to manage their computer system, which includes the Disabled Individuals Movement for Equality Network (DIMENET). DIMENET is a computer network that directly serves and represents the interests of people with disabilities.
During the first year of operation, ACIL provided independent living services to more than 200 customers. Since that time, the Access Center has served thousands of people with disabilities. The vision that the small group of founding activists once had continues today, as the Access Center for Independent Living remains committed to affecting change in the community around us.
711 Ohio Relay Service
1329 Stanley Avenue
Dayton, Ohio 45404-2815
Office Hours 9:00am- 5:00pm M-F
If riding RTA, take Bus 17 North from Downtown Dayton