About Independent Living

“Independent Living is not doing things by yourself. It is being in charge of how things are done.”
~Judy Heumann

line divider

Independent living

A Way of Life

Independent Living is a philosophy and a way of life. It is a movement of people with disabilities who work for self-determination, equal opportunities and self-respect. The Independent Living philosophy says that every person, regardless of disability, has the potential and the right to exercise individual self-determination.

We expect the same choices and control in our everyday lives that everyone else takes for granted. We want the same freedom to try, and fail, and learn from our failures. We want to grow up in our families, go to the neighborhood school, use the same bus as our neighbors, work in jobs that are in line with our education and abilities, start families of our own.

We need to be in charge of our lives, to think and speak for ourselves. We need to support and learn from each other. We must organize ourselves and work for political changes that lead to the legal protection of our human and civil rights. (Adapted from Adolf Ratzka, Independent Living Institute)

“…to tear down the shameful walls of discrimination that segregate and isolate Americans with disabilities…”

George H. W. Bush

About swci

Our Core Values

Check out the core values embraced by Centers for Independent Living 


Cross disability

Meaning  people with all disabilities and of all ages are included. While the daily details of our disabilities are different, we are all experiencing the same societal barriers and oppression. 


Equal Access to society

Meaning that as barriers are removed and legal rights are honored, society in its broadest sense appreciates and includes people with disabilities in education, employment, housing, recreation, transportation, and all other forms of public and private. 


Consumer Control

Meaning the individual with a disability must be able to make his or her own choices, and to be in charge of his or her own life. Consumer control also means that the organizations best suited to assist us are not run by parents, social workers, or medical people, but by us, people who have disabilities.


Self-help and peer support

Meaning that people learn and grow by discussing their needs, concerns and issues with people who have had similar experiences. 

line divider


The biggest barrier to people who have disabilities is people who don’t.

The Independent Living (IL) philosophy is very different from the traditional rehabilitation model. The IL philosophy includes the core values discussed above. Its goals for individuals with disabilities are empowerment and self-determination. Its goals for communities are achieving equal access through reducing and removing barriers. The outcome we want is self-determination and full community participation for persons with all disabilities. 

man in wheelchair
line divider

About swci 



Southwest Center for Independence (SWCI) was established as a Center for Independent Living (CIL) in 1990 by the Independent Living Coordinator for the Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and a small group of La Plata County residents with disabilities who were interested in the independent living movement. Southwest Center for Independence is an independent community-based 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. We serve people with disabilities residing in Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma, and San Juan Counties in Southwest Colorado.

Colorado CILs

The nine Colorado CILs are certified and funded through the Colorado Office of Independent Living.  You can find contact information for all the CILs in the state here.

Additionally, every state has a Statewide Independent Living Council or “SILC,” whose primary function is to advance independent living through the development and implementation of a three-year State Plan for Independent Living, commonly referred to as the “SPIL.”  SILCs were established under Title VII of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and in Colorado SILC members are appointed by the governor.  See the most current SPIL here.

SWCI Quick Links

Explore Southwest Center for Independence

About SWCI

people hugging each toher

Work with us

Contact swci

Donate to Southwest Center for Independence

Invest with SWCI to create a world where people with disabilities are valued friends and neighbors who participate in their communities!