One issue we discuss quite a bit on our blog is the importance of staying independent despite disability. But what does it mean to stay independent? Well, as it turns out, the answer to this question depends on various factors.
Maintaining independence means different things to mothers than to daughters, to those who are working than those who are retired. The duties you were accustomed to performing and your station in life are all factors that go in to defining what independence means for you.
A bit of history
The website for the National Council for Independent Living (NCIL) explains that the main movement for independent living for people with disabilities began in the 1960s, when people began to advocate for access to services and the freedom not to be forced to live in an institution or nursing home.
The first center for independent living was created at UC Berkeley in 1972 by Ed Roberts. Soon afterward, federal funding was approved for centers throughout the country, and today these centers, run in large part by people with disabilities for people with disabilities, assist individuals in determining what they need to do and what public services they may be able to receive to live the independent life they have always wanted.
Here in our own state of Mississippi, there are a total of six centers for independent living known as Living Independence For Everyone (LIFE). In fact, we here at The Wright Stuff have been involved in activities organized by LIFE over the years, especially the Annual Bridging the Gap 5k Walk/Run/Stroll or Roll-a-Thon. The organizations are often vital to helping people define independence for themselves and work to attain it.
So what is independence
NCIL says that the Independent Living philosophy emphasizes consumer control of services/resources intended for people with disabilities and that people with disabilities should not be treated as sick, but rather as people who deserve to “live, work, and take part in their communities.”
The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) of Australia, in a paper defining independence and establishing lines of action, recognizes that “independence will be unique to each individual” due to environmental factors and level of impairment. However, the report highlights that independence is largely about autonomy.
Essentially, it is important for people with disabilities not only to have access to the same “physical, social, economic and cultural environment” as everyone else, but also to have a real voice in decision-making processes in their lives. This is especially important for young people as they mature and develop their identities, the report adds.
Taking control of your life
With these themes in mind — access to the community and the freedom to make autonomous life choices — we recall our own objective here as vendors of disability equipment and accessories, which is to “search for and deliver useful tools, appliances, equipment, and rehabilitation products that help make accomplishing daily tasks less difficult.” We truly believe that the products we choose to put in our catalog, from big full-featured tools to the simplest key handle grip, provide people with the power to control and shape their environment despite having a disabling condition.
We encourage you to think about what independent living means for you and your loved one and to think of actions that can help you achieve your goals. This might include contacting your local center for independent living, finding accessible destinations for travel or vacation, or even purchasing a small item from our store to help with a simple daily living task. In any case, we hope you find the resources, you’re looking for, especially as we prepare to enter the new year. Happy holidays and continued success!
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