Community Resources for Independent Living (CRIL) was organized as a self-help organization in 1979 by a small group of persons with disabilities (consumers). This group was committed to improving the range of choices and support for consumers in southern Alameda County. A group had formed successfully in Berkeley to support consumers in living more independently and this model inspired the formation of a similar organization to serve the southern part of the county.
There are 28 Independent Living Centers (ILCs) in California and over 400 in the United States. One of the first ILCs was formed in Berkeley, California by Ed Roberts and other college students at UC Berkeley during the late 1960s and early 70s. They advocated for basic rights on campus as well as in the community. They had no accessible place to live on campus except the infirmary. The campus and the community were not accessible. If a required class was on the third floor, they heard "that was too bad." There were no elevators. No accommodations were attempted and civil rights for persons with disabilities were few.
Ed and others advocated for the rights of all persons with disabilities so that persons with disabilities could interact on an equal basis, to make decisions about the course of their own lives. These advocates also knew that rights would not solve the problem because people with disabilities had been socialized to believe that they could not make decisions for themselves.
An independent living model evolved, seeking to bring people together, particularly people with disabilities, with support, advocacy, and skills teaching. Advocacy was and is important for building civil rights laws and educating the public about our needs. Teaching skills in both systems and self-advocacy is even more necessary now for persons with disabilities to work towards enforcement and equality in individual situations as well as systemic situations.
The independent living philosophy in ILCs promotes consumer control (people with disabilities involved in decision-making, service delivery, management, and establishment of the policy and direction of the center); self-help and self-advocacy; development of peer relations and peer role models; and equal access to services, programs, activities, resources, and facilities in the community.