[Excerpt] The idea of ‘independent’ living as used by the disabled people’s movement around the world is a radical concept firmly rooted in the ideological, cultural and pragmatic traditions of western society. It is a radical concept because it poses a direct challenge to conventional thinking on disability and combines both an ideological and practical solution to the everyday environmental and cultural problems encountered by disabled people and their families. Furthermore, the notion of ‘independent living’ has the potential not only to enhance the quality of life of people directly affected by disability, but also that of other structurally disadvantaged groups such as women, minority ethnic groups, lesbians and gay men, and older people.
In order to explain these claims this paper is divided into two main sections. The first part will examine orthodox thinking on disability and an alternative perspective developed by disabled people themselves. The second will focus on the concept of independent living and its impact on policy development. The conclusion will address the ideological, cultural and practical implications of these developments.