Independent Living

Persons with Disabilities in South Africa

Living conditions of persons with disabilities in South Africa, especially those with severe functional limitations, are extremely challenging, despite various initiatives much still needs to be done to provide adequate appropriate support. Challenges result from the lack of empowerment of individuals, adequate support services such as personal assistants, an inaccessible built environment and lack of an adequate public transport system.

For example, South Africa currently does not have personal assistance service system as national policy for persons with disabilities. Many persons with severe disabilities have to live in residential institutions or be cared for by family members and find it difficult to realise their own dreams, or participate in activities or hobbies that may interest them.
The sense of unity of family and community is the strength of persons with disabilities in South Africa. The reality is the continuous and endless care could become burdensome for both persons with disabilities and their family members. Many persons with disabilities desire to live independently in community and could do so with the support of a funded personal assistant programme.

What is Independent Liing (IL)?
  1. Shift from expert-led “medical model” to persons-with-disabilities-centered “social model” of disability
  2. “Independent” means he/she takes an initiative in his/her own life through his/her own decision in every aspect of life. “Independent living” fully respects his/her own decision in living regardless of types and severity of disability.
  3. IL Centre is the centre for both service provision and advocacy to realize IL in community, which must be run by persons with disabilities.
Impact of Independent Living in South Africa
  1. Promotion of equity and mainstreaming of disability in every aspect of society
  2. Strengthening the voices of persons with disabilities through empowerment
  3. Meeting different needs of persons with disabilities, especially those with severe disabilities
IL Project Partnership with Human Care Association

IL Project is conducted in partnership with Human Care Association, a Japanese IL Centre, under JICA Partnership Programme since 2013. In this pilot project, Remme-Los and ILC Soweto created a model of IL applicable to South Africa. The Gauteng Provincial Government also supports and collaborates with this project to incorporate the IL concept in its policy.

Future of IL in Gauteng

Our mission is to empower persons with disabilities to live independently in community through provision of necessary services including personal assistant services.


Support Groups are organized in Soweto, Germiston, Kwa-Thema and Tembisa. Trained professional peer-counselors with disabilities facilitate support groups to empower persons with disabilities.


Accessibility is the key issue to social participation. The aim of the programme is to train persons with disabilities to communicate their own access needs to stakeholders.


We intend to train and deploy personal assistants to support the independent living of persons with disabilities in community. We will empower persons with disabilities to manage their own schedules and personal assistant services to realize their independent living goals.


Championing independent living through a targeted awareness campaign.


An introduction to independent living and peer support – video by Phoenix Films