Graphic: The Disability Rights and Independent Living Movement

Chris Palames

Audio transcript: On comparison between the birth of Boston Center for Independent Living and Center for Independent Living, Berkeley
Date: August 1, 2001
Interviewer: Fred Pelka

Note: Transcripts have been lightly edited; therefore there may be slight discrepancies with audio clips.

You said BCIL [Boston Center for Independent Living] was a disaster waiting to happen. What did you mean by that?

There was no vision of what the place was about. Essentially, what happened in Massachusetts that was different from California was that in California, the Center for Independent Living really grew out of a community base. It grew from the Cowell Hospital program and the revolt of the residents when the administration program was coming down on one resident for lifestyle issues. Folks kind of generated both a sense of themselves as a group and as individuals on the university campus program. Then, of course, they looked out beyond the gates of the campus and said, "There is life beyond a baccalaureate. What do we do?" They sailed out and created the Center for Independent Living.

In Massachusetts, it was very different. There a group sat around the table and said, "Oh, this will happen if we do it, if we just set this thing in motion." Well, none of the people who were around that table were going to be other than board members. It didn't grow out of any community impulse; it grew out of a vision that was an extension of spinal cord rehabilitation. That vision was a transitional facility that would lessen the amount of time that folks spent in the acute hospital setting. And of course, Boston had no major rehab shop. It only had the little rehab units because of the divisions between the major medical schools in Boston, whatever the conditions were that led to that fragmentation and the lack of development of major rehab places in Boston.

So, transitional living would be a mechanism to get folks out of the acute hospital setting faster, and then the idea was that people would learn to be independent while the continued their therapy, developed skills, and set up employment. So it's very much an extension of a spinal cord rehab model. The other critical piece in the Boston model was that the Center for Independent Living will be a mechanism for the administration of personal assistant services.

It's entirely different than California, where the establishment of that first personal assistance program under Pat Brown was a resource already in place.

End of transcript

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