Independence skills how to gain and transfer them

“Independence skills, how to gain and transfer them” is the second module developed for young people with visual, hearing and physical impairments-PwVHPI and young people in general who wish to become DARE ambassadors and support their peers into empowering them to participate more in the learning mobility opportunities and in their community.

This module addresses and comprises in specific the following topics:

  • Independent Living as a concept
  • Peer support

By the end of this module, you will learn to:

  • Recognise what Independent Living is;
  • Identify Independent Living Skills;
  • Appreciate what Peer Support means and entails.

1. Independent Living as a concept

Independent Living Skills refer to all aspects of what is necessary for an individual to do, including self-care, cleaning, clothing care, cooking, shopping, community participation, recreation and leisure activities. Particularly, independent living for young PwVHPI and young people in general who are in need of learning, enhancing, or supporting life skills to effectively transition into adulthood can be related to (UMFS, n.d.): career preparation & employment skills, education, health, exercise and nutrition, housing and home management, risk prevention (drugs, alcohol etc.) and money management.

Supplementary, it is worth mentioning that key independence elements for persons with disabilities are already outlined in the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disability (United Nations, 2016). The emphasis is being given to individual autonomy, the opportunity to be actively involved in decision making processes, while access the physical, social, economic and cultural environment (Endeavour Foundation, 2017).

The European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) therefore defines Independent Living as “the daily demonstration of human rights‐based disability policies”. According to ENIL, Independent Living is possible through the combination of various environmental and individual factors that allow people with disabilities to have control over their own lives (Kelly and Deneva, 2014, p. 6). Independent Living is a right, that was hard fought in the context of the disability rights movement.

The key principles of Independent Living are choice, control, freedom, and equality. However, this does not mean that “living independently” entails that people with disabilities must be independent in the sense of living highly individualised and self‐sufficient lives, distanced from other people. It means “that people are not limited in their choices because of any inherent feature or condition of the person themselves”, so that they can make “independent and autonomous, and when needed, supported decisions (Kelly and Deneva 2014, p. 6).

The social model of disability is therefore based on a distinction between the concepts of impairment and disability. Impairment is used to refer to a person’s actual attributes (or lack of attributes), to the anomaly of a person, referring to its limbs, organs or mechanisms, including psychological impairments. Disability instead refers to the limitations caused by society when there is no alignment with the needs of people with disabilities (Thomas and Gradwell and Markham, 1997).

Persons with disabilities are a diverse group and consequently some individuals may need assistance even for the most basic life skills, such as tooth brushing. In order to live an independent life, IL Skills are necessary both for young people and young PwVHPI. In this context, IL Skills can include (Optimum Performance Institute, 2018):

  • How to prepare healthy meals: nutrition information, cooking, and use of utensils.
  • Effective exercise and fitness: including scheduling time to stay in shape.
  • Household maintenance: proper cleaning and sanitary measures.
  • Financial preparedness: how to balance a check book, paying bills on time, investing, and saving.
  • Effective communication: getting your point across without rambling, how to use emotional language.
  • Workplace behaviour: appropriate work attire and language.
  • Time management: being on time, nixing bad habits like procrastination and multitasking.
  • Personal Appearance and Hygiene: dress yourself, brush teeth, and can sort and machine-wash clothes.
  • Health: can recognize and describe symptoms of colds, flu, and other common health problems.
  • Housing: can identify type of housing that is within budget and meets current housing needs.
  • Transportation: ride a bike, understands seat belt, and understands public transport.
  • Educational Planning: Has a general idea of what education is needed for the job one wants.
  • Job Seeking Skills: know what min-wage is, can fill out a job form and can write a resume.
  • Emergency and Safety Skills: knows functions of police, ambulance and fire department and how to contact them.
  • Knowledge of Community Resources: nearest supermarket, shopping district, laundromat, and bank is located.
  • Interpersonal Skills: can identify one friend, respond to introductions and simple questions.
  • Legal Skills: understand the law and how to call someone if arrested or victimized.
  • Pregnancy Prevention/Parenting and Child Care: resources for birth control and not to leave child without supervision.

In addition, as the writer and educator Mary E. Cronin said: “The essence of life skills acquisition cannot be weighed in terms of degrees, diplomas, or other documents; rather, it is demonstrated in their level of independent living, community adjustment, and enhanced quality of life” (Independent Living Resource Center, 2013).

2. Peer Support

Peer support occurs when individuals provide knowledge, experience, emotional, social or practical help to each other (Mead and Hiltion and Curtis, 2001). Peer support empowers both young people and persons with disabilities by assisting them to acquire the skills to manage their social and physical environment, with the goal of full equality and participation in their families and society (Kelly and Deneva 2014, p. 8). What makes peer support unique is that the source of support is a peer, a person who is similar in fundamental ways to the recipient of the support and their relationship is based on equality and empowerment (Mead and MacNeil, 2006).

ENIL thus describes the following benefits of Peer Support (Ibid., p. 11f):

  • Peer Support offers a valuable exchange of experiences as peer supporters have a better understanding of the situation experienced by the person seeking advice. Fears and insecurities are better understood, and mutual trust can be more easily established between the person seeking advice and the peer supporter. In this way, Peer Support offers unique perspectives.
  • Peer supporters can provide the assistance required for people with disabilities to really be in control and direct their own support.
  • Peer supporters often have an intimate knowledge of community resources and what works best. Peer supporters can offer guidance through what can appear a maze of services.
  • Peer support often involves awareness raising about injustice and discrimination.
  • Because of their experiences, peer supporters are more credible role models for others similarly situated.
  • Peer support is a way of validating people’s differences and challenging mainstream approaches.
  • People are more likely to be honest and open up to a peer.
  • It provides great flexibility in the type and variety of support provided.
  • Peer support has proven to be an essential element in giving people opportunities to control their own lives and, where such support does not exist, this has had a negative impact on the implementation of self‐directed support.
  • Peer support is often pragmatic and tailored to an individual’s own circumstances.

These benefits do not depend on the different ways of how Peer Support is organized. In general, there are three types of Peer Support: (1) informal and ad hoc support, (2) organized but unpaid peer support, and (3) Paid peer support. An example of informal support is when an individual reaches out to a colleague, without been directed to do so. Disability organizations often have roles for volunteers such as mentors or peer buddies to provide unpaid peer support, coordinated by employed staff. Paid peer support happens for example at Centres of Independent Living (Ibid., p.12).

Supplementary, functions of Peer Support include:

  • informing and Connecting – helping people by providing good information about local resources and entitlements, researching new possibilities, offering advice around self-directed support and helping people make helpful connections,
  • guidance and planning – helping people to think about their needs and develop their own support plans,
  • negotiating and advocating – helping people to negotiate agreements or contracts and to be able to advocate for themselves,
  • organising and setting up – helping people with their support systems, finding supporters and agreeing guidelines,
  • managing and improving – helping with financial management and using expert advice for improvements, and
  • reflecting and developing – by helping people to make changes to their support arrangements when necessary (Ibid., p. 13).

Activity 2.1

Module Title Independence skills, how to gain and transfer them
Activity Title Where Should I live?
Activity Code A2.1
Duration of the Activity (in minutes 90 minutes
Type of resource Activity sheet
Aim of activity The aim of this activity is to make young PwVHPI and young people in general who wish to become DARE ambassadors and support their peers to learn how to find a living situation that’s right for them based on their needs and desires. They will also be able to identify and understand components of a lease agreement and understand their rights and responsibilities as a tenant.
Materials Required for Activity Note taking materials, pen or pencil, a digital device such as computer, laptop, tablet or smart phone with a text editor.
Step-by-step instructions You recently found an opportunity through the Solidarity Crops programme to work as a volunteer in an NGO in another country. While you are considering this opportunity and before making your decision whether to apply or not for this volunteering position, you make some research on where you could live in that country. During this process, and in order to explore the possibilities available for finding a living situation that’s right for you based on your needs and desires live in your own apartment you are following the steps listed below:

Step 1: Think first on where you may want to live and what you want when living on your own. Take some notes and then use the Important to You Checklist and take some time to complete it.

Important to Your Checklist

Very Important Not Very Important
Affordable without a roommate
Large enough for two people
Utilities are included
Furniture is provided
A stove and refrigerator are included
Air conditioned
Pets are allowed
On a bus line
Close to work, shopping, or school
In a safe neighborhood
On the first floor
On an upper floor
A lease is required
Has a nice view
Has a washer and dryer in the building
Has a yard
Has access to community amenities (pool, etc.)
Has off-street parking

Step 2: After completing the Important to You Checklist you will have an idea regarding what you really want and what are the expenses involved in having an apartment are based on your needs. How much money do you think you need per month of living by your own? How much money do you think you need per month for living with a roommate?

For answering these questions read first the following articles:

Step 3: After estimating the costs for living by yourself, you may start considering of living with a roommate. But selecting a roommate may not be as easy as you think. What kind of person are you?

Are you someone who...?

  • Is neat OR Is messy
  • Saves money OR Spends money
  • Gets up early OR Stays up late
  • Borrows from others OR Doesn’t like to borrow
  • Is usually on time OR Is usually late
  • Likes loud music OR Like moderate music
  • Can say “no” to friends OR Has trouble saying “no”
  • Likes to be around a lot of people OR Spends free time alone or with only a few people

Based on your answers, describe the kind of person that would make the best roommate for you. Remember that reliability is important. If your roommate doesn’t pay his/her share of the expenses, you are left with an apartment you can’t afford.

The Best Roommate: …

Step 4: Now start researching on the internet to find an apartment that fits what you feel is important to you based on your checklist, as well as any compromises with your future roommates. List the 5 top choices and answer to following questions:

  • What did you compromise on?
  • What was the one thing you were not going to budge on or compromise on?
  • Did you find that it was easy or difficult to stay within budget?
  • Why did you choose that place?
  • How many places required a security deposit?
  • Did you find a(n) apartment/house where utilities were included?
  • If you didn’t find an apartment that has utilities included, or you just chose housing where utilities were not included, was it the best choice? How much do you think a monthly bill may be? When you were getting an apartment did you budget that you needed money left over for utilities? How much money would you need above your rent for utilities?

Step 5: After completing the above-mentioned steps, come up with the best choice you could make in order to live abroad in a situation that meets your requirements.

Adapted from: Youth Skills for LIFE Curriculum.

Activity 2.2

Module Title Independence skills, how to gain and transfer them
Activity Title Designing a Presentation on the Topic of Peer Support
Activity Code A2.2
Duration of the Activity (in minutes 120 minutes
Type of resource Activity sheet
Aim of activity The aim of this activity is to make young PwVHPI and young people in general who wish to become DARE ambassadors and support their peers to understand what Peer Support is through the design of a presentation on this topic.
Materials Required for Activity Note taking materials, pen or pencil, and a digital device such as computer, laptop, tablet or smart phone with a text editor.
Step-by-step instructions The National Center for Independent Living decided to assign you the presentation of the topic “The Essence of Peer Support” during its annual conference. More than 80 persons will attend your presentation, including parents, young volunteers and people with disabilities.

Step 1: It is very important, before developing your presentation to design it, so as to create a comprehensive and exploratory one that will serve your goal.

Why is so important to start with designing a presentation before developing the content? You can find the answer online.

One good way to put on paper your presentation structure is to use the “Presentation Design Canvas”. You can learn more about this canvas and download it.

You can also get informed online about the 7 different ways you can use to structure your presentation and keep your audience wanting more.

Step 2: Be sure that at the end of the design phase you have answered the following questions:

  • Who is going to present, when, for how long and how?
  • Who is the audience? What problems/issues our audience is facing? What kind of value does our audience want to gain?
  • Which is the purpose of your presentation? What we want to achieve? To inform, to persuade or just to have fun? Why do we implement this presentation? What change we want to see to our audience? What are our goals?
  • What is the main message of your presentation written in one sentence, which contains your unique point of view on the topic?
  • What is the title of the presentation?
  • What are the main topics of the presentation; the main information that is going to be given per slide?

Step 3: Now it’s time to take a pen and paper and start designing your presentation! It is strongly suggested to use your computer or your smart phone only for researching about the “Peer Support” topic for including in your structure the main information that is going to be given per slide and for reading the theoretical chapter of this module! Otherwise, regarding your presentation design, you have to live in the “analogue world”!

Good luck!

Activity 2.3

Module Title Independence skills, how to gain and transfer them
Activity Title “How to Create a Travel Budget”
Activity Code A2.3
Duration of the Activity (in minutes 120 minutes
Type of resource Activity sheet
Aim of activity The aim of this activity is to make young PwVHPI and young people in general who wish to become DARE ambassadors and support their peers to understand one of the most important life skills which is creating a travel budget.
Materials Required for Activity Note taking materials, pen or pencil, and a digital device such as computer, laptop, tablet or smart phone with a text editor.
Step-by-step instructions Your friends proposed you to joint them abroad on a seven-day training in Italy and assigned you to create the travel budget.

In order to successfully complete this activity, follow the steps:

Step 1: start by finding out the meaning of the term budget and why travel budgeting is important. Click on the following links to find out the answers:

Step 2: A template for using it in order to develop your travel budget is important. Check two worksheets that you could use while creating your travel budget and download the one that you thin is more appropriate for your trip:

Step 3: Furthermore, get some useful tips and hints on creating a travel budget by reading the following posts:

Step 4: Now you are ready to start developing your budget. Make sure during the process to answer to the following questions:

  • What a travel budget is and why is it important?
  • What are the typical cost categories for my travel budget?
  • How will I estimate the costs per budget cost category?
  • What are some of the most significant, positive or negative, risks that could impact my travel? How can I be prepared for avoiding or mitigating them?

Step 5: In the end of the process and having your draft travel budget ready, present it to your friends and try to make any needed adjustment based on their feedback.

Additional Learning Resource 2.1

Module Title: Independence skills, how to gain and transfer them
Title of Resource: Website Independent Living Institute
Resource Code: R2.1
Introduction to the resource: The website gives an overview over the work and activities of the Independent Living Institute (ILI). The Independent Living Institute is a policy development center specializing in consumer-driven policies for people with disabilitiess’ freedom of choice, self-determination, self-respect and dignity. Our ultimate goal is to promote people with disabilities’s personal and political power. Towards this end we provide information, training materials and develop solutions for services for persons with extensive disabilities in Sweden and internationally.
What will you get from using this resource? You will learn about the work of one of the most renown and prestigious organisations of its kind in the world as well as current policy issues concerning independent living. It can also be inspiring to work about the achievements of the activists, who are all people with disabilities.
Link to resource: Independent Living Institute

Additional Learning Resource 2.2

Module Title: Independence skills, how to gain and transfer them
Title of Resource: TEDx with Denise Lance: The Independence Myth: People With Disabilities Are Interdependent Too


Resource Code: R2.2
Introduction to the resource: This is a TED-talk by Denise Lance, a women with cerebral palsy who achieved 4 college degrees. She cautions from framing the debate on independence in a way that obscures the fact that all people are dependent on each other and need help sometimes. Asking for help should not be shameful.
What will you get from using this resource? This resource helps questioning the learned lessons on independent living and put it into a new context. The ideas and lifestory of Denise Lance can be inspiring.
Link to resource: The Independence Myth: People With Disabilities Are Interdependent Too

Additional Learning Resource 2.3

Module Title: Independence skills, how to gain and transfer them
Title of Resource: The Truth About Growing Up Disabled | Dylan Alcott | TEDxYouth@Sydney
Resource Code: R2.3
Introduction to the resource: The 11:25 min video is a TED-talk by Dylan Alcott, Paralympic gold medalist, World Champion, Grand Slam champion and world record holder for both wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis. He speaks about growing up and having confidence issues as well as facing societies lack of education about disabilities as well as stigma. The talk is engaging and funny.
What will you get from using this resource? In this motivating and inspiring talk many issues that people with disabilities face when growing up are discussed. Dylan Alcott provides a lens on how to look at the world as a person with disabilities, facing adversity from society and nevertheless trying to live a successful life. He also talks about issues to fight about, such as better media representation of people with disabilities.
Link to resource: The Truth About Growing Up Disabled

Additional Learning Resource 2.4

Module Title: Independence skills, how to gain and transfer them
Title of Resource: Top 15 Disability Travel Blogs and Websites in 2020
Resource Code: R2.4
Introduction to the resource: This May 2020 blogpost is a collection of 13 websites about traveling created by people with various disabilities. It includes the links to the sites, how often they are updated, their popularity and rank and where the bloggers are from.
What will you get from using this resource? You can learn more about how people with disability meet the challenges posed by travelling and find tips about destinations, accessibility, and accommodation, sometimes including reviews. It is a good start for an online journey into the world of blogs about travelling by people with disabilities.
Link to resource: Top 15 Disability Travel Blogs and Websites in 2020.

Additional Learning Resource 2.5

Module Title: Independence skills, how to gain and transfer them
Title of Resource: Important Independent Skills to Teach your Teen, Now
Resource Code: R2.5
Introduction to the resource: The article is providing information to parents regarding the Independent Living Skills for their teens regardless health issues.
What will you get from using this resource? The Independent Living Skills checklist will give learners a balanced view of the variety of skills teens need to learn before leaving home. Elizabeth Crary, author of “Pick Up Your Socks”, is the inspiration for this Independent Life Skills list.

It also highlights the importance of listening openly the teens and how to communicate with them in an efficient way following certain tips.

Link to resource: Important Independent Living Skills to Teach your Teen, now

For finding out the definition of certain terms with which you may not be familiarised, please read the DARE Practical Guide for Inclusion, the first output DARE project partners developed.


Kelly, O., Deneva, D. (2014). Peer Support for Independent Living, A Training Manual. [online] Accessed June 11, 2020

Mead, S., Hilton D., Curtis, L. (2001). Peer Support: A Theoretical Perspective. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal 25(2), pp. 134-141.

Mead, S., MacNeil C. (2006). Peer Support: What Makes It Unique? International Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation. 10 (2), pp. 29-37.

Theunissen, G. (2001). Die Independent Living Bewegung. Empowerment-Bewegungen machen mobil (I). Published in: Behinderte in Familie, Schule und Gesellschaft. Nr. 3/4/2001, Reha Druck Graz, pp. 13-20.

Thomas, P., Gradwell L. and Markham N. (1997). Defining Impairment within the Social Model of Disability. [online] Accessed June 11, 2020


Endeavour Foundation (2017). 21 Tips for Promoting Independence in Adults with a Disability. [online] Accessed June 11, 2020

ENIL (2017). Adolf Ratzka and Bente Skansgård – Two Titans of the Independent Living Movement. [online] Accessed June 11, 2020

Independent Living Resource Center (2013). What are Independent Living Skills? [online] Accessed June 11, 2020

Optimum Performance Institute (2018). Independent Living Skills. [online] Accessed June 11, 2020

Time Magazine (1998). Adolf Ratzka 55, German activist for disability issues. [online] Accessed June 11, 2020

UMFS (n.d.). YOUTH SKILLS FOR LIFE CURRICULUM. [online] Accessed June 11, 2020

United Nations (2016). Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). [online] Accessed June 11, 2020

Scroll to top