Independent Living Resource Center
History of Independent Living

The birth of the independent living movement in California has been attributed to a group of  students with disabilities at University of California at Berkeley. In 1962, the first severely disabled student was admitted to that school; by 1969, the number of students with severe disabilities had increased to 12.


They were initially housed in an unused infirmary on campus to accommodate their medical needs (such as, spending time in an iron lung). The UC hospital surroundings were familiar to the new tenants, who had spent countless days and nights in custodial institutions where parents, medical and rehabilitation professionals, and others, made all the decisions for them.

As the residents lived together in close, continuing contact, they became more aware how little control they had over their own lives. A sense of unity and self-confidence developed as the students drew on their own experiences to develop a philosophy of independent living.


The students believed that they didn’t need to change to become integrated; rather, the environment and the attitudes toward people with disabilities needed to change. A core group of these students moved on to start the Center for Independent Living in Berkeley.

Since the founding of this first Independent Living Center (ILC), 28 other ILCs, and their 21 satellite offices have been established throughout California.  During this period, people with disabilities in other states were experiencing the same fire and need to take personal control and now more than 400 centers exist in the US.