One of the goals of Independent Living Centers is to assist people with disabilities to live independently in the community. Independence means different things to different people. I believe independence means living life on my own terms. In order to be independent, I had to identify my values and goals. It was also important for me to remember not to be influenced by other people’s perceptions of independence.
Independence is sometimes defined by the settings in which we live. Some people with disabilities live by themselves; some live with family; some live with roommates; and some live in group homes that provide assistance with independence. People choose how and where they want to live for various reasons. Sometimes the decision is made by a parent or family; other times, it is the individual’s own personal decision. Sometimes there is pressure from other people who tell you how and where to live. The Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) helped me to avoid pressure from peers and loved ones by granting me control over the services I receive under self-direction. Because I value family, I decided to continue to live at home as I plan out finding a place of my own. This might not be for everyone. OPWDD helped me to self-direct my own life plan. I recognized that I needed support so I went to BRIDGES. They helped me with benefits advisement and other services.
Sometimes people achieve independence slowly. The amount of time needed was not important to me. What mattered to me was following my own plan to achieve my own goals. For me, independence means being self-directed and leading my own life.
How can BRIDGES help people to attain independence? BRIDGES supports people with disabilities by connecting them with services including peer advocacy and independent living skills so they can live self-directed lives. BRIDGES helps people whether they need help feeding themselves, living in the community, with self-care, or just connecting with necessary support systems. BRIDGES helps to remove barriers and advance autonomy.