ACL's independent living programs work to support community living and independence for people with disabilities across the nation based on the belief that all people can live with dignity, make their own choices, and participate fully in society. These programs provide tools, resources, and supports for integrating people with disabilities fully into their communities to promote equal opportunities, self-determination, and respect.
What is Independent Living?
Independent living can be considered a movement, a philosophy, or specific programs. In the context of ACL, independent living programs are supported through funding authorized by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (The Act). Title VII, chapter 1 of the Act states the current purpose of the program is to “promote a philosophy of independent living including a philosophy of consumer control, peer support, self-help, self-determination, equal access, and individual and system advocacy, in order to maximize the leadership, empowerment, independence, and productivity of individuals with disabilities, and the integration and full inclusion of individuals with disabilities into the mainstream of American society.”
Key provisions of the Act include responsibilities of the Designated State Entity (DSE), provisions for the Statewide Independent Living Councils (SILCs), requirements for the State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL), and Center for Independent Living standards and assurances. (See below for details on all these areas.)
To receive funding, states must jointly develop and submit a State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL), which is a three-year plan for providing independent living services in the state. The Designated State Entity (DSE) is the agency that, on behalf of the state, receives, accounts for and disburses funds received under Subpart B of the Act. The Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) is an independent entity responsible to monitor, review, and evaluate the implementation of the SPIL. Centers for Independent Living (CILs) are consumer-controlled, community-based, cross-disability, nonresidential private non-profit agency that is designed and operated within a local community by individuals with disabilities, and provides an array of independent living services.
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act
In July 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was signed into law, transferring the Independent Living programs, the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR), and the Assistive Technology programs to ACL. WIOA also included statutory changes that affect independent living programs, including the addition of new core services, shifts in the process of developing and adopting state plans and changes in the functions of the SILC.
ACL developed a final rule to implement the relevant provisions of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014, and will continue to issue guidance as needed. See this page for more information on WIOA and related guidance.
- Independent Living Services (ILS) Programs
The Independent Living Services (ILS) program provides financial assistance, through formula grants, to states and territories for providing, expanding, and improving the provision of independent living services. To be eligible to receive financial assistance, states must:
(1) develop, submit and receive approval on a State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL), and
(2) establish and maintain a Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC).
The SILC and the Centers for Independent Living (CILs) within the state develop a State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL), a document required by law that indicates how the state IL Network is going to execute and improve independent living services over the next three years.
Funds are also made available for the provisions of training and technical assistance to SILCs.
The ILS program funding provides resources to the state to support the work of the SILC and the Designated State Entity (DSE), the state entity responsible to receive, account for, and disburse the ILS funds. The remainder of funds may be used for the following activities as reflected in an approved SPIL:
- Providing independent living (IL) services to individuals with significant disabilities, particularly those in unserved areas of the state;
- Demonstrating ways to expand and improve IL services;
- Supporting the operation of CILs;
- Increasing the capacity of public or nonprofit organizations and other entities to develop comprehensive approaches or systems for providing IL services;
- Conducting studies and analyses, developing model policies and procedures, and presenting information, approaches, strategies, findings, conclusions, and recommendations to federal, state, and local policymakers;
- Training individuals with disabilities and individuals providing services to individuals with disabilities and other persons regarding the on the IL philosophy; and
- Providing outreach to populations that are unserved or underserved by programs under this title, including minority groups and urban and rural populations.
The Independent Living Formula Grant Program is authorized Under Title VII, Chapter I, Part B of the Rehabilitation Act, as Amended by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) of 2014.
- SILC and DSE Guidance
FY 2017-2019 State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL):
State Plans for Independent Living (SPILs) show how federal, state, and other funds will be used to support the state’s independent t living programs as well as collaborations with other partners in the state and other ACL grantees to enhance and expand service delivery and options for individuals with disabilities.
State Plans for Independent Living (SPILs) are submitted and can be reviewed in the ACL Management Information System. The SPIL must have been submitted no later than 11:59 PM EST on June 30, 2016. Instructions for completing the SPIL are found directly in the SPIL instrument.
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA) amended the Rehabilitation Act and resulted in changes to the development of the SPIL. As a result of final IL regulations, amendments to the 2017-2019 SPILs will be necessary in some states. ACL is providing guidance to affected states. If you have questions about the SPIL instrument or submission, please contact the project officer for your state.
SILC-NET has developed several SPIL-related resources in coordination with ACL:
ILA PI-15-01 Selection of the Designated State Entity (DSE)
Issued: June 5, 2015
Revised: October 28, 2015
Legal and Related Authorities: Section 704 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as Amended
Designated State Entity in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act
The Independent Living Administration (ILA) provides the following guidance concerning the Designated State Entity (DSE) based on questions received. As part of the changes to the Rehabilitation Act (Rehab Act or Act) under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA), the term “designated state entity (DSE)” is the agency that acts on behalf of the State for Title VII Part B programs.
The State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL) must designate the DSE. Under WIOA, the SPIL is jointly developed by the chairperson of the Statewide Independent Living Council, and the directors of the Centers for Independent Living in the state, after receiving public input from individuals with disabilities and other stakeholders throughout the state. The SPIL is signed by the chair of the Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC or Council), acting on behalf of and at the direction of the Council and at least 51 percent of the directors of the centers for independent living in the state. The SPIL is also signed by the director of the DSE. By signing the SPIL, the director of the DSE agrees to execute the responsibilities of the DSE identified in the law. The responsibilities are:
- Receive, account for, and disburse funds received by the state based on the SPIL;
- Provide administrative support services for a program under part B, and a program under part C in a case in which the program is administered by the state under section 723;
- Keep such records and afford such access to such records as the Administrator (of ACL) finds to be necessary with respect to the programs;
- Submit such additional information or provide such assurances as the Administrator may require with respect to the programs; and
- Retain not more than 5% of the funds received by the State for any fiscal year under Part B for the performance of the services outlined in paragraphs (1) through (4). See Section 704 (c) of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, 29 U.S.C. 796c(c).
In order to have an approvable SPIL under the law, all three parties must sign.
All states currently have an approved SPIL that remains effective through fiscal year 2016. The SPIL continues to govern the provision of Independent Living Services in the state. Each state is expected to continue its support, including specified obligations, for an approved SPIL. A SPIL amendment is required when there are significant, material, and/or substantive changes to the information in the SPIL. A change in the entity designated to fill the role of the DSE requires a SPIL amendment, as ACL stated in previous Q&As (DOCX).
Under the current law, nothing prohibits the current DSU from being designated to serve as the new DSE. States that are contemplating a change in their DSE must ensure that the new DSE is capable and willing to carry out the legal and fiscal responsibilities of the DSE.
State Plan Amendment Process
A change in the DSE can only be effectuated when it is designated in the SPIL. As noted, a change of the DSE is a substantial and material change that requires an amendment of the SPIL.
Amendments to the SPIL must be submitted by the State to ACL. “To be eligible to receive financial assistance under this part, a State shall submit to the administrator, and obtain approval of, a State plan ….” Section 704(a)(1) of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, 29 U.S.C. 796c(a)(1). Required steps include:
- SILCs must hold public hearings to solicit input from individuals with disabilities and other stakeholders in the state.
- Amendments must be signed by three parties: the chair of the SILC, acting on behalf of and at the direction of the SILC; and not less than 51 percent of the directors of the Centers in the state. The SPIL is also signed by director of the DSE to affirm their agreement to fulfill all the DSE responsibilities set forth in the law.
Before amending the SPIL, states should send a SPIL amendment request by email to their assigned IL Specialist. The SPIL amendment request should include, at a minimum:
- The section(s) of the SPIL that the state proposes to amend, including both the existing approved language and the proposed amendment(s),
- Anticipated timelines for each step, including public hearings and final submission,
- Whether there will be a change in how funding is made available to the SILC resource plan, SILC placement, and staffing,
- A statement regarding whether the changes fundamentally impact how the state intends to operate its IL programs,
- A citation to or copy of any applicable state law or Executive Order that forms the basis for the proposed SPIL amendment, and
- A statement confirming that the SILC chair, at least 51 percent of the Center directors in the state and the DSE director will sign the amendment.
All requests and attachments for the SPIL amendment process should be submitted in accessible PDF formats or as Word documents.
ILA encourages states to submit proposed SPIL amendment language for review before seeking stakeholder input through public hearings. Once all appropriate steps have been completed, including the public hearing for a SPIL amendment and the signatures of the appropriate parties, states should contact their assigned IL Specialist for instructions on final processes.
Frequently Asked Questions About Designated State Entities (DSEs)
1. What is the effective Date of the ACL Guidance issued on June 5, 2015?
A: The ACL guidance was effective the date it was issued. ILA PI-15-01 Selection of the DSE was effective June 5th, 2015.
2. What is the IL Network?
A: For the purpose of ACL and its guidance, the Independent Living Network or “IL Network” in each state includes: SILC, Part B and Part C CILs, and the DSE. In some States, there may be more than one DSE, if there is a separate agency for the blind.
3. ACL encouraged SILCs to involve the DSE in the SPIL process. What does that mean?
A: The guidance encourages communication between the parties who are developing the SPIL and the DSE. The chairperson of the Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) and directors of Centers for Independent Living (CILs) jointly develop the SPIL, consistent with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), collaborating with IL consumers and the public. While the law removes the requirement that the DSE participate in the development of the SPIL, the DSE is one of the parties required to sign the SPIL. To put it another way, the DSE must sign in order to meet the requirements for an approvable plan. The DSE will continue to be responsible for administering Part B funds that they receive and disburse based on the SPIL, as required by law. Therefore, given the DSE’s role in signing the SPIL, and carrying out its statutory responsibilities, the SILC should involve the DSE to promote the effective and efficient administration of the IL program.
4. Did WIOA change the duties of the DSE?
A: Yes, the DSE no longer has a responsibility to develop the SPIL. Though WIOA eliminates the director of the DSE from the SPIL development process, the DSE continues to be the agency that acts as the grantee on behalf of the State for Title VII Part B Independent Living Services programs authorized under Section 713 of the Act and the Part C programs administered by the State under Section 723 of the Act. The general responsibilities of the DSE as required in the statute include:
- Receive, account for, and disburse funds received by the State based on the SPIL;
- Provide administrative support services;
- Keep such records and afford such access to such records as ACL finds to be necessary with respect to the programs;
- Submit additional information or provide assurances as ACL may require with respect to the programs; and
- Retain not more than 5% of the Part B funds received by the State for any fiscal year, as required to perform the responsibilities above.
The DSE must also sign the SPIL.
5. Who selects the DSE?
A: The DSE is a governmental State entity that carries out the functions described in Q & A number 4 on behalf of the state. If the DSE does not carry out those functions, the state is legally responsible. Therefore, the state decides which governmental entity will serve as the DSE. To the extent that the SILC and CILs may engage in the DSE selection process under state and federal law, they may provide input to the state concerning the DSE. Such input may include a reminder to the State that the selection of a new DSE is a significant change to the SPIL. If the change in the DSE occurs during an active approved SPIL cycle, the SPIL amendment process must be followed to change the DSE. If the change coincides with the regular SPIL development cycle, the SPIL development process must be followed, and the SPIL must identify the new DSE. Both the SPIL amendment process and the SPIL development process require public hearings conducted by the SILC. The new DSE must be included in an approvable SPIL that is submitted in a timely manner in order for the State to receive funding.
6. Who should I contact regarding ideas for our IL Network in my State?
A: First, collaborate with the SILC members and Center directors. If you have further questions, including tips on collaborating with fellow ACL community partners and other stakeholders in your State, please contact your ILA point of contact for your State available on the ILRU website.
ACL Suggested Best Practices
ACL encourages the following best practices:
- Because the director of the DSE must sign the SPIL to affirm agreement to execute the DSE’s statutory responsibilities, ACL encourages SILCs and CILs to involve the DSE in the SPIL development process.
- Section 704(i) of the Rehabilitation Act requires the SPIL to “set forth the steps that will be taken to maximize the cooperation, coordination, and working relationships among the …” SILC, the CILs, the DSE, and other state agencies that address the needs of specific disability populations. ACL encourages incorporation of involvement of the DSE into the plan.
- ACL encourages States* to involve the current and prospective DSE, Statewide Independent Living Councils and Centers for Independent Living in discussions around the designation of a State entity to receive and administer State Independent Living Services funds.
*“The term ‘State’ includes, in addition to each of the several States of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.” —Section 7(34) of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 705.
- Centers for Independent Living (CIL) Programs
The Centers for Independent Living (CILs) Program provides 354 discretionary grants to centers that are consumer-controlled, community-based, cross-disability, nonresidential, private nonprofit agencies who provide IL services. At a minimum, centers funded by the program are required to provide the following IL core services:
- Information and referral;
- IL skills training;
- Peer counseling;
- Individual and systems advocacy; and
- Services that facilitate transition from nursing homes and other institutions to the community, provide assistance to those at risk of entering institutions, and facilitate transition of youth to postsecondary life.
Centers also may provide, among other services: psychological counseling, assistance in securing housing or shelter, personal assistance services, transportation referral and assistance, physical therapy, mobility training, rehabilitation technology, recreation, and other services necessary to improve the ability of individuals with significant disabilities to function independently in the family or community and/or to continue in employment.
To continue receiving CIL program funding, eligible centers must demonstrate minimum compliance with the following standards:
- Promotion of the IL philosophy;
- Provision of IL services on a cross-disability basis;
- Support for the development and achievement of IL goals chosen by the consumer;
- Efforts to increase the availability of quality community options for IL;
- Provision of IL core services and, as appropriate, a combination of any other IL service;
- Building community capacity to meet the needs of individuals with significant disabilities; and
- Resource development activities to secure other funding sources.
A population-based formula determines the total funding available for discretionary grants to centers in each state. Subject to the availability of appropriations, ACL is required to provide continuation funding to existing centers at the same level of funding they received the prior fiscal year and to provide them with a cost-of-living increase. Funding for new centers in a state is awarded on a competitive basis, based on the state’s State Plan for Independent Living and the availability of sufficient additional funds within the state.
The Independent Living Discretionary Grant Program is authorized Under Title VII, Chapter I, Part C of the Rehabilitation Act, as Amended by the workforce innovation and opportunity act (WIOA) of 2014.
Resources and Useful Links: ILRU website
- Draft SILC Indicators of Minimum Compliance
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) of 2014 requires ACL to develop and publish indicators of minimum compliance for Statewide Independent Living Councils (SILCs). This effort is underway and has included: reviewing the SILC indicators developed and approved by the SILC Congress, reviewing the SILC indicators developed and approved by the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), holding a public comment period on draft SILC indicators posted for review, revising draft SILC indicators in response to public comment, revising draft SILC indicators in response to the IL final rule.
The next draft is being developed and will be available soon for public feedback before it is finalized.
- FAQ on Independent Living Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Response Services
July 19, 2017
ACL has received many questions from the IL network regarding allowable Title VII disaster response and emergency relief efforts for people with disabilities. Please find guidance developed by ACL to assist the network in these efforts. While we always hope that disasters do not happen, ACL strongly encourages the network to be proactive and consider the steps you can take before disaster happens. The chances for disaster may be remote but if the unexpected happens, having a plan in place means one less thing to worry about during a time of crisis.
Please contact Corinna Stiles, Director of the Office of Independent Living, at Corinna.Stiles@acl.hhs.gov if you have clarifying questions or concerns about the FAQ. For help implementing any of the suggested steps, please contact your state project officer directly.
- FAQ on Independent Living Services for Children and Youth with Disabilities
May 17, 2017
ACL is pleased to announce the release of Frequently Asked Questions on Independent Living Services for Children and Youth with Disabilities (Youth Services FAQ), which was developed in response to questions from grantees about the provisions for transitions of youth included in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA).
WIOA added new “core services” to the missions of centers for independent living that include the transition of youth and young adults with disabilities to postsecondary life once they are no longer receiving a secondary education. WIOA defines youth with a disability to mean “an individual with a disability who is not younger than 14 years of age; and is not older than 24 years of age.” ACL adopted this definition in the final IL regulation.
The Youth Services FAQ is intended to help explain this new core service and provide clarification to grantees about reporting of services provided to youth, which may differ depending on their eligibility for the new services or for other independent living services. We hope it will help centers for independent living design and provide these new core services. If you have specific questions regarding the implementation or reporting of youth services please contact the ILA project officer for your state.
Director, Independent Living Administration
- Project Officers
Commonwealth of North Mariana Islands
*Native American IL Demonstration Projects (NAILD)
*Native American IL Demonstration Projects (NAILD)
*Independent Living Research Utilization (TA Center for CILs and SILCs)
District of Columbia
Director, Office of Independent Living