|The transition to independent living is a celebration of leaving a dependency life stage and transitioning into a life stage of autonomy. However, for individuals with significant disabilities who require assistance, they are often excluded from this writ of passage (Lachat, 2002). Historically, social and economic factors have relegated individuals with disabilities to the margins of society, preventing any consideration or opportunity to be independent, self-determining, to control one’s life, or even exert choices (Lachat, 2002).
The independent living movement was considered “the last civil rights movement” (Dreidgner, 1989, p. 94). From this movement, an independent living philosophy emerged that began to change the social and individual perception of individuals with disabilities. This philosophy emphasized personal self-worth and value regardless of the disability, the ability to control one’s life, and full participation in society. Fundamentally, the independent living philosophy is all about quality of life, with assistance that is directed by the individual (DeJong, 1983).
Adopting the independent living philosophy and applying the quality of life construct, the State of Alabama Independent Living (SAIL) Service Program, a division of the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services (ADRS), assists eligible individuals who have a physical or intellectual disability prepare for, and live independently in the community (SAIL, 2015). However, program evaluations about Independent Living (IL) services are largely absent from the literature.
This program evaluation sought to understand the way independent living services are provided by SAIL’s Independent Living specialists and do these services enhance the IL consumer’s quality of life (QOL). Results showed that 1,035 IL consumers were served during the evaluation time-period; of these, 684 IL consumers met their independent living goals. To determine QOL, the program evaluator developed and utilized proxy variables based on Schalock’s (2004) Core Quality of Life Domains and Most Commonly Used Indicators table. The proxy variables were used to measure certain QOL components reported in the data for IL consumers served.