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NNCIL graphic next to an older couple - one with a cane and the other with a walker.

What is Independent Living?

What is the Northern Nevada Center for Independent Living?

The Northern Nevada Center for Independent Living (NNCIL) was founded more than 30 years ago as a 501C-3 by a small group of people with disabilities to help others with disabilities hone the skills they needed to achieve independent living.

Over the years, we’ve brought in experts, gained and shared knowledge, developed programs, embraced technology and expanded our resources exponentially, all in an effort to help Nevadans with disabilities live healthier, more active and more fulfilling lives.

We are committed to growing, adapting and continually responding to the needs of our community in order to serve the needs of our friends and neighbors with disabilities. So, if your needs are not currently being met and you don’t see what you need on this website, please reach out to us. Together we’ll find a solution. Our services and resources are provided at little to no cost through grants and donations.

The Independent Living Program

Centers for independent living (CIL) are community-based, cross-disability, non-profit organizations designed and operated by people with disabilities. CILs are unique in that they operate according to a strict philosophy of consumer control, wherein people with all types of disabilities directly govern and staff the organization.

Centers for independent living provide:

  • Peer support
  • Information and referral
  • Individual and systems advocacy
  • Independent living skills training
  • Transition

The United States is home to:

  • 403 centers for independent living (CILs)
  • 330 branch offices
  • 56 statewide independent living councils (SILCs)

The Independent Living Movement

When the process of deinstitutionalizing those with disabilities began in the 1960s, many people were released from life sentences in nursing homes and other institutions. This created a new opportunity — an imperative — for people with disabilities to live free and independent lives. Out of this opportunity, a community with shared values, needs and objectives was born.

The disabled community’s first taste of true self-determination came amidst massive civil rights movements nationally and abroad. Leaders of the disability community began to realize that our human rights and civil liberties would come only as we fought for them. With most state-run institutions closed, people with significant disabilities became more visible, and more audible, too. But society’s unwelcoming attitude did not change. The private medical industry quickly appropriated the responsibilities of formerly state-run institutions.

Centers for independent living were created by and for people with disabilities. CILs are designed to offer support, advocacy and information on empowerment in the attainment of independence from a peer viewpoint — a perspective that had hitherto been excluded from the discussion of services for the disabled.

Independent living activists carried out some of the most daring protests in American civil rights history, including the longest occupation of a Federal building in history. This protest led to regulations banning discrimination against people with disabilities in federally funded programs.

As independent living philosophy took hold nationally, and the Disability Rights Movement gained acceptance and political influence, a grassroots movement for a comprehensive disability rights law (the ADA) was implemented.

Today, centers for independent living fight similar battles to ensure that the rights of people with disabilities are protected. Even with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, people with disabilities often find that advocacy and support from the disability community and the Disability Rights Movement is an essential element in enforcement of the civil rights law.

Many of the issues we fight for have strong opposition and powerful lobbyists in the for-profit sector. NNCIL remains dedicated to the community values, objectives, and unity upon which we were founded.

The Independent Living Philosophy & Culture

The Independent Living Movement is founded in the belief that people with disabilities, regardless of the form, have a common history and a shared struggle. When these people band together, socially and politically, they can best advance their common objectives.

Independent living philosophy emphasizes consumer control, the idea that people with disabilities are the best experts on their own needs. These individuals have crucial and valuable perspectives to contribute and deserve equal opportunity to decide how to live, work and take part in their communities, particularly when it concerns services that affect their day-to-day lives and access to independence.

According to traditional thought, disabilities are impairments to be cured through medical intervention. Since most disabilities cannot be cured, people with significant disabilities are more often viewed as incapable of self-directed care. By underestimating the abilities and quality of life potential of people with disabilities, the medical community has inadvertently come to infringe on this community’s basic human and civil rights.

The Independent Living Model sees the problem differently and understands disability as a construct of society. In this model, the problem lies in the environment, not the individual. Though many people have physical, intellectual or mental attributes that deviate from the ‘norm,’ disability is manifested in society through purposefully created and maintained physical, programmatic, and attitudinal barriers.

People with disabilities do not see themselves as problems to be solved and ask only for the same human and civil rights enjoyed by others. Remarkably, this viewpoint is often still not accepted in modern society. The Medical Model is so deeply ingrained in us as a society that people with disabilities may spend their entire lives in sub-par nursing facilities, be refused medical treatment, or even denied life-saving care when it is deemed “futile care.”