Document Type

Research Report

Publication Title

Rural Special Education Quarterly



Publication Date







Demography, Population, and Ecology | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology


Independent living centers (ILCs) provide support services to adults with physical disabilities. Originally created through federal funding, most ILCs serve urban areas, leaving a large rural area and its population unreached by independent living ideas or services. Data on the expansion of the ILC service model to rural areas are presented. The need for further program development is discussed. 0ne third of the U.S. population lives outside of a Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area (Korte, 1983) and 26% live in towns with less than 2,500 inhabitants (Bureau of the Census, 1970 as cited in Photiadis & Simoni, 1983). Mathamatica Policy Research (1984) estimated that nearly 44 million persons have at least one chronic or permanent impairment. Thus, assuming disability is evenly distributed (although it is, in fact, more prevalent in rural areas) (Baker, O’Neil, & Karp, 1984; Matheson & Page, 1985), it is likely that 11 (26%) to 15 (33%) million persons living in rural areas have significant disabilities. This conclusion is further supported by the finding that of the 12,075,793 individuals between 18 and 64 years old reporting a work disability, 3,450,018 (29%) live outside metropolitan areas (U.S. Census, 1980). These data suggest there may be a great need for services, such as those provided by independent living centers (ILC), to address the needs of adults with disabilities living in rural America. Title VII - Part B of the Rehabilitation Act of 1978 created a federally funded program of Independent Living Centers (ILCs) to actualize the independent living movement for adults with physical disabilities around the nation (P.L. 95-602). Part-B funds were originally three-year grants intended to assist in the development of ILCs. Ideally, these centers were to be community based, free-standing, non-profit corporations controlled significantly by their consumers (Frieden, 1980). Their goal would be to enhance the ability of adults with severe physical disabilities (e.g., spinal cord injuries) to lead independent lives. In addition to Part B, the 1978 amendments created Part A. Part A was planned as a way to help states provide independent living services; in part by contracting with the newly created Part-B ILCs. Theoretically, as Part-A funds came into use by states, they would support the operation of the ILCs. Then Part-B funds could be withdrawn and used to start more ILCs in unserved areas. Approximately 175 ILCs were created by Title VII - Part-B funds from 1978 to 1989. The total budget of that program has reached approximately $25 million. The funding for Part A, originally planned to be as high as $200 million, has reached only $12.5 million, however. This funding discrepancy led to a Part A/B crisis in 1981 when the original 3-year Part-B initiation grants were completed. At that time, the Rehabilitation Services Administration stabilized the Part-B funded ILCs until an overall funding strategy could be worked out. Unfortunately, no comprehensive funding strategy for ILC services has emerged. Since 1981, approximately 30 new ILCs were funded with new federal money. This plateau in the federal funding of I LCs has left a large population and many areas unreached by independent living services. Many of these are in rural areas (Richards, 1986). To address this gap, several states have reported using Part A funds in an effort to create new ILCs directly (Bradford, personal communication 1988). In addition, a number of communities and states have created ILCs using resources other than those available from Title VII - Part B, including city and county funding, state funds and private funds. The extent of the growth in ILCs in this manner is not well understood, however. This study reports an effort to examine the creative efforts of people working at the state and local level to continue the expansion of the ILC model of service to adults with severe physical disabilities in rural areas.


community participation and independent living, independent living, rural, disability


© 1992

Granting Agency

National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research


We wish to thank the individual state independent living Coordinators who took time to respond to our letters and phone calls. We also wish to acknowledge Connie Rhoder of the Kansas Research and Training Center on Independent Living who helped us review their Part-B program list.

Project Number