Independent Living of the Disabled
Independent Living of the Disabled is a program aimed at all disabled people who wish to live independently in their own apartments outside of institutions, retirement homes, residential homes, living communities and other institutionalized forms of living or they want to become independent with the help of their family members.
The programme provides personal assistance that enables every individual to become fully independent and ensures greater autonomy in every aspect of their lives. Users can choose their personal assistant independently and explain to them their needs as well as how and when they need help. A coordinator may provide assistance as needed. Users can therefore organize and manage the help they need completely autonomously. Assistance includes personal care, home-making, escorting at daily activities and other physical help with tasks that users cannot perform on their own. Individuals become active managers of their lives and make their decisions autonomously.
Users aged between 18 and 65 with various disabilities can join the programme. People who need more help, younger disabled persons and active (employed) users are put on the top of the waiting list.
Personal assistance can be physical help or help to cope with sensorial barriers. It depends on the type and severity of the disability and needs that individuals have. Anybody who wants and needs personal assistance can contact project coordinators who provide basic information on the inner workings of the project and present them with the rights and responsibilities of users. Users can then fill in a questionnaire for inclusion on the waiting list. Coordinators also provide a description of their personal assistance needs and sign a declaration on joining the programme. Initial interview provides all the necessary information for the determination of initial design and scale of the personal assistance service. Before the inclusion into the programme individuals must sign an agreement that defines the rights and responsibilities of users, service operator, and personal assistants. Agreements are tailored to each user specifically and mainly define the scale and type of service and the way assistance is provided. If users cannot provide appropriate environment for rendering personal assistance (he or she is still living in an institution and is still working towards acquiring appropriate housing) they will be put on a waiting list. We also provide help and information for all aspects of empowerment of our users.
Based on the questionnaire filled in by our users, we send them several candidates to choose from and pick a personal assistant that suits them most. In the beginning, users must state clearly their requirements and needs in accordance with the Slovenian employment legislation and YHD's rules. Users must regularly provide schedules and keep records of personal assistant's presence at the workplace, and provide project coordinator with the information on assistant's performance. Users are also obliged to actively participate in making policy of the project and promotion and implementation of the independent living principles.
Personal assistants are employed through various programmes of subsidized employment. Usually they do not have any prior experience and receive all the necessary knowhow and knowledge on providing help to individual users on the job. Users take on a role of informal employers of their assistants with clearly defined duties and obligations and are required to maintain respectful and cordial relations.
Every new user and every new personal assistant must undergo an independent living training programme where we introduce them to the principles of independent living, their rights and responsibilities to the project and other practical and formal guidelines. Users most become good employers who must keep required records of presence of their personal assistants at the site of employment. Personal assistants must be familiar with obligations and duties and with their rights and duties of their job description that they must adhere to.
Independent living definition: individuals manage their own lives based on their wishes, abilities and needs. Individuals also accept responsibility for their actions and duties that follow from managing and keeping records about personal assistance. A right to personal assistance is one of the basic rights that facilitate disabled people with better integration into the society and control over their lives.
Independent living of the disabled programme also includes the following activities:
Collection and distribution of information
Counselling and advocacy
Training of personal assistants, users and professionals
Legislative proposals and initiatives concerning independent living and equal opportunities
Accounting and administrative services connected to employment and labour
Independent living is the central topic and a special service within the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Article 19 of the said Convention defines independent living and integration into community. It says that persons with disabilities must have an option to choose their permanent domicile and to choose where and with whom they would like to live. If they need help to live independently they have the right to personal assistance. Source: Camilla Parker and Luke Clements: The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: a New Right to Independent Living?, European Human Rights, Law Review, Issue 4, 2008, Sweet & Maxwell ltd.
Member countries must strive to implement these rights [of the Convention]. The goal of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is not to create new rights but to amend already existing human rights and to clarify duties and legal obligations of signatory States, ensuring that they respect and provide equal opportunities and enjoyment of all human rights of persons with disabilities. No 14 – 2007, United Nations, October 2007:
The term Independent Living is a concept arising from actions of disabled persons who strive to provide for themselves "equal opportunities and full participation in the society as citizens with full rights." European Community living Newsletter Issue No. 2 Jim Elder- woodward, »From the Rolling Quads to Direct payments«, November 2006, p.3,