Independent Living

For people with disabilities, the everyday tasks of independent living can present unique challenges, but with sufficient assistance and social supports in place, these individuals can enjoy many of the same opportunities and control in their everyday lives that their non-disabled neighbors, family, and friends take for granted. This page provides brief overviews of several areas to consider with links to pages with more information, local service providers, and other web sites.

Financial Supports

While the name of the state agency that provides funding and support for individuals with disabilities may vary across states, each state has identified agencies that provide supports. Individuals who receive government benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may have more available resources for financial assistance and services than those who do not qualify for government benefits. They may also have access to more information about service providers available. Individuals who do not receive government benefits and are employed may access services through community organizations such as independent living centers or councils. For more information, see Disability Resources and National Council on Independent Living (NCIL).


Community Living Supports

These supports cover a wide range, from dependent-based facilities to a more independent environment where individuals are encouraged to develop necessary skills to become homeowners. Some things to consider are:
  • Level of care;
  • Types of disabilities served at the facility;
  • Private or government financing;
  • Compliance with regulatory agencies;
  • Social, educational, and recreation activities offered;
  • Type, level, and licensing of professional staff;
  • Ability of the individuals to leave the facility for social or employment opportunities:
  • Location in the community or distance from family and relatives; and
  • the general feel of the facility (like a hospital or a home).
State disabiliy agencies can provide information about options in your state and community. For more information: Adult Day Programs (see NM providers [68]), Supportive Housing & Residential Care Homes (see NM providers [107]), and Independent Living Arrangements & Skills (see NM providers [348]).


Today, people with disabilities have many options for owning their own home, but it may take time, persistence, and patience to realize this goal. Many of the available resources have long waiting lists for housing services. Resources to facilitate home ownership include: housing authorities who can provide rental subsidies; community development agencies; resources for making a home accessible; and financial assistance and savings programs. For more information: Supportive Housing & Residential Care Homes (see NM providers [107]) and Housing, Other (see NM providers [212]).


Individuals with a disability have many transportation options, including public transportation, private services, or obtaining a driver's license. Whether mobility is achieved through accessing public transportation, using private services, or obtaining a driver's license will depend on the desires and abilities of each individual. For more information, see Transportation - Where's My Ride.

Money Management

Many individuals with disabilities can learn to manage their own money and there are many options for those who need additional instruction and help. Money Management is a learned set of skills that encompassess many topics, including: identifying the value of coins and paper money, making change, managing income from employment or programs like SSI, paying bills, writing checks, saving money, and balancing bank accounts. Budgeting income and expenses, handling credit cards, applying for loans, and investing for retirement are more complex skills that many adults struggle with but can be learned with more effort. For youth who are still in the school system, basic money management skills can be included in their Individualized Education Plan (IEP). There are also community-based resources such as independent living centers and financial counseling organizations that teach money management skills. If an individual is in a supported living situation, money management skills can be provided and/or taught within that environment. For individuals with complex disabilities, a fiscal agent can manage their money. For more information: Financial Education & Counseling (see NM providers [68]).


If employment is an option, government agencies and community organizations offer services and programs to help prepare young adults for jobs. For more information, see Employment/Daytime Activities.

Social and Recreation

Many people with disabilities have difficulty engaging in social opportunities outside of the home. However, it is important for young adults to have social outlets in areas of their interests e.g. arts, crafts, dances and recreational pursuits. For more information, see Recreation Activities and Social Opportunities.


If we accept that sexual expression is a natural and important part of human life, then perceptions that deny sexuality for people with disabilities deny a basic right of expression. The perception of people with disabilities as non-sexual can present a barrier to safe sex education, both for health care workers who may be influenced by these views and for people with disabilities themselves in terms of gaining access to information and acceptance as sexual beings. For more information, see Healthy Relationships.


For special needs youth seeking increasing independence from family, spirituality may become more important, whether or not it is connected with any particular religion. For information, see Spiritual Needs.


When a child turns 18, he or she is considered a legal adult, which brings with it the rights, responsibilities and consequences of their choices. For a child whose disability renders him/her unable to make decisions in his/her own best interest, parents should consider applying for guardianship when the young adult is approaching 18. Parents do not automatically remain the child's natural guardian. For more information, see Guardianship/Estate Planning.

Health Care Funding

Continuing health care coverage is essential for those with special needs. Some individuals may continue indefinitely on their parents' insurance policy. Others may qualify for Medicaid, Medicaid D (disability) or insurance from their employer. For more information, contact your state Medicaid agency. For more information see Health Insurance/Financial Aids.

Personal Needs

Personal needs can encompass independent living supports such as transportation, skill training, job coaches, and personal assistants for completing activities of daily living. Independent living centers, state government services, and community organizations are available resources to help identify providers for the spectrum of personal needs. For more information: Independent Living Arrangements & Skills (see NM providers [348]), Vocational Education (see NM providers [336]), and Supportive Housing & Residential Care Homes (see NM providers [107]).


Information & Support

For Parents and Patients

American Bar Association Commission on Disability Rights
The Commission works to promote the ABA's commitment to justice and the rule of law for people with mental, physical, and sensory disabilities.

National Council on Independent Living (NCIL)
Provides information and advocacy for independent living with links to locate state or local independent living centers.

Center for Parent Information and Resources (DOE)
Parent centers in every state provide training to parents of children with disabilities and provide information about special education, transition to adulthood, health care, support groups, local conferences and other federal, state, and local services. See the "Find Your Parent Center Link" to find the parent center in your state; Department of Education, Office of Special Education.

Disability Resources
US Department of Labor's Disability Resources web page. See also Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) homepage:

US Department of Transportation
Provides information for travelers. Hosts a Toll Free Hotline for air travelers with disabilities. Hotline Duty Officers provide general information about the rights of air travelers with disabilities. For information about the rights of persons with disabilities in air travel, or for help in resolving disability-related air travel problems, visit the web site at, or call the Hotline at: 1-800-778-4838.

Keeping It Real: How to Get the Supports You Need for the Life You Want
This curriculum supports students as the transition from high school to adulthood and provides information and tools relating to transition; self-assessment; supports; employment and careers; education and training; living arrangements, recreation and leisure; and resources; from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

Youth Leadership Toolkit
Good video site for youth and young adults to learn about employment and related topics in an easy access online format. Developed by Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU) in collaboration with the Center for Persons with Disabilities and the Becoming Leaders for Tomorrow Project.

Life Map 14-16 Year Old (PDF Document 34 KB)
A self-assessment for the young person that covers staying healthy, managing healthcare, independence, emotional health, and school & work; from Kentucky Cabinet for Health Services.

Competencies for Young People Transitioning (TEACH) (Word Document 24 KB)
A suggested list of competencies that young adults should have as they transition to post-secondary school or work. Topics include health condition, medical providers, insurance, independent living, recreation, and other general skills; from the Kentucky TEACH Project.

Systematic Transition Plan (PDF Document 76 KB)
A sample transition plan for collecting information about providers, skills, and goals. See the Word version for editing for personal use.

Living Away From Home (PDF Document 37 KB)
This handout provides brief tips for young adults as they consider living on their own; from the Kentucky Commission for Children with Special Health Care Needs.

Services for Patients & Families in New Mexico (NM)

For services not listed above, browse our Services categories or search our database.

* number of provider listings may vary by how states categorize services, whether providers are listed by organization or individual, how services are organized in the state, and other factors; Nationwide (NW) providers are generally limited to web-based services, provider locator services, and organizations that serve children from across the nation.

Authors & Reviewers

Initial publication: December 2005; last update/revision: December 2008
Current Authors and Reviewers:
Contributing Authors: Robin Pratt
Barbara Ward, RN BS
Gina Pola-Money
Joyce Dolcourt
Kristine Ferguson
Teresa Such-Neibar, DO
Lynn Foxx Pease
Helen Post
Roz Welch
Reviewer: Alfred N. Romeo, RN, PhD
Funding: Thank you to the Utah Medical Home Young Adult Advisory Committee for reviewing this section.