In 1976, our organization was launched to provide help for individuals with disabilities, by people with disabilities. When we started out, our mission was to help people with the most basic life needs: housing, transportation, access to resources. Today, do that, and much more. Today, we help individuals access those basic life needs, we help them in finding a job, and we provide opportunities to improve the quality of life for individuals with disabilities and add joy and meaning to our lives.
In 1976 a small group of people with disabilities and their advocates created the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living because the community was filled with environmental and attitudinal barriers that kept them from living full and productive lives. Our founders wanted an organization controlled “by people with disabilities, for people with disabilities,” that would help our society shed its low expectations of people in the disability community and that would work diligently to help them achieve the full participation and access to opportunities that able-bodied people take for granted. They wanted the opportunity to experience personal achievement through the full utilization of their abilities, without using the “crutch of pity” or the “balloon of heroism.”
Our founders knew from their personal experience that “the problem” was not within themselves or their peers as human beings, but with the many physical barriers and negative attitudes long held by society that perpetuated marginalization and discrimination people with disabilities faced every day.
Our founders knew instinctively that living a successful life with a disability is an art cultivated through individual effort, information, and the support of others with similar experiences. The concept of people with disabilities helping other people with disabilities expresses an aspect of human nature and disability culture that compels us to help others learn, grow, and avoid the mistakes we ourselves have made along the way.
Through peer advocacy and support children, youth and adults with disabilities share information and adaptive techniques, offer understanding, provide emotional support, and demonstrate living life to its fullest through embracing both the gifts and challenges posed by disability. Through peer advocacy and support, individuals with disabilities speak out, strive to be their best, live a life of their own choosing, and take reasonable, calculated risks to achieve their goals.
The Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living has dedicated itself since 1976 to the success of children, youth, adults, and seniors who live with many different visible and invisible disabilities. We help people to be successful at home, at school, at work, and in the community.
The Ann Arbor CIL is also a founding member of Disability Network/Michigan, the collective voice of Michigan’s 15 Centers for Independent Living.