Core Services of an Independent Living Centre

An Independent Living Center is a social model designed to promote and uphold a rights-based life for the severely disabled members of a community, on the premise that even the most severely disabled can live independently. This is to be managed by the disabled themselves, it is disabled-oriented, and provides these basic services:

1. Information Referral
This is essential as most PWD’s are along the poverty line and lack the means or access to valuable information like those on his type of disability, accessibility features for housing, other structures and transportation, agencies or organizations that can provide him with technical or medical assistance, and other pertinent facts like education/training opportunities and other aspects. (here, we can insert corresponding pictures esp. those from Thailand)

2. Advocacy
Advocacy is a process in itself. It does not involve only talking to the media and employing mass communication channels to shoot your message across to the sector, the community, to the nation and to the world at large. In Independent Living, it could either be personal or system advocacy. Personal advocacy is the process by which one empowers a disabled to work for the improvement of his situation, like conditioning him to stand up against any kind of abuse. System advocacy, on the other hand, is generating awareness and encouraging understanding on the part of government and non-government agencies and organizations the major factors that influence the ease of movement and development of the disabled, like accessibility issues, social/health services and other legislative privileges.

3. Personal Assistant
A Personal Assistant is inseparable to the effective mainstreaming of a severely disabled – a PA supports a PWD (technically called a Client in IL) in his Activities of Daily Living (ADL) like, toileting, bathing, grooming and transfers. He could also assist the PWD in clerical stuff, but he should never decide for the client – everything should be based on the client’s needs and instructions. In addition, PA service is consumer-based, meaning the PA is under the employ of the severely disabled – he should not act along his line of thinking, but along that of his client. A severely disabled is not sick and does not need medical care, he needs just an extension of his physical ability to be able to circulate freely in a community or in society.

4. Peer Counseling
This is a process which involves two persons of identical or similar disability. Like all else in the Independent Living Movement, Peer Counseling is a scientifically designed and tested module that aims to help the severely disabled discover, love and accept himself so he can gather confidence and strength to confront and solve problems by himself and make a life of his own.

Unlike traditional counseling, the Peer Counselor whose primary role is that of a Listener, does not give advise to the Client or the severely disabled seeking support. He simply listens so the Client can discharge emotions – in his own time – resulting from his needs and problems and come to a decision on how to solve them. This is a free-flowing discussion where the Listener respects a Client’s quiet moments, too, encouraging him only when he clams up for an unusually long time.

After a client has unloaded his burden, both exchange roles – the Listener now becomes the Client and vice-versa.

Each client has a different empowerment plane, some take multiple sessions while others open up and discover himself right away after a couple of meetings. Whatever his progress, Peer Counseling has been proven to work in empowering the severely disabled to become so much bigger than his disability and lead a fulfilling, independent life.

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