Life Without Limits Initiative
Life Without Limits (LWL) is a national initiative launched by United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) to empower people with disabilities to envision and build a better future for themselves, their communities and the world at large.
UCP’s LWL initiative was formed in 2007 as a platform from which people with disabilities, their families, and disability advocates could engage corporations, organizations and individuals to build sustainable communities that draw upon the disability community’s untapped strength.
People with disabilities represent:
- 20 percent of the U.S. population (52 percent of the 65+ population);
- $1 trillion consumer market with $220 billion in disposable income;
- An engaged and connected market – 51 percent go online frequently;
- A huge underutilized labor force – 2/3 of people with disabilities who are unemployed want a job;
- A significant untapped voting block.
LWL was conceived in 2004 in response to the realization that goals set many years ago that led to both the deinstitutionalization of many individuals with disabilities and the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) have not been fully realized. The fact that there is a long way to go before individuals with disabilities are fully integrated into all aspects of society motivated UCP to jump-start a far-reaching dialogue about the ways in which people with disabilities could become fully integrated in society and live life without limits.
Early accomplishments of the initiative include the distribution of a DVD “focus group in a box” to UCP affiliates and other organizations to conduct their own focus groups to encourage discussions around the opportunities and obstacles facing people with disabilities and the creation of a custom forecast map designed by the Institute for the Future (IFTF) that identifies future forces that are likely to have major impact on individuals with disabilities over the next decade. To help facilitate conversations about LWL and better understand the map, IFTF also developed a map glossary, and UCP created a one-page summary and a flyer on navigating the map.
In April 2007, the Life Without Limits National Visioning Sessions and 2007 UCP Annual Conference was convened in Orlando, Florida. Conference participants had the opportunity for in-depth review and discussion of future forces that are likely to have major impacts on individuals with disabilities. The opening keynote address, delivered by Dr. Bob Johansen, IFTF’s Distinguished Fellow, highlighted the waves of change that will shape the lives of people with disabilities over the next decade. How these same people will use their abilities to explore the emerging edges of what it means to be human was also discussed.
During the conference, UCP convened three visioning sessions. The purpose of the sessions was to provide participants with an opportunity to identify key elements that should be included in a new vision of the future for individuals with disabilities. After much deliberation and discussion, the following key elements were identified:
- Believable Hope
- Navigating the World Across Generations
- Universal Access
- Agile/Potent Networks
- Meaningful Employment
- Community Not Government
All of the proceedings and discussions from the visioning sessions are archived on the LWL web site (which was re-launched in Fall 2011). The site also includes the conference opening and closing presentations as well as the proceedings from the Straw Person Visioning Session convened in Omaha, Nebraska in February 2007.
All of this visioning created significant information and forecasting projects. Early LWL projects underscored key focus areas to advance the civil rights movement for people with disabilities, including:
- My Child Without Limits (early childhood intervention)
- Ruby’s Bequest (caregiving)
- Technologies for Independent Living (housing & technology)
Learning from its past, Building for the future
Now seven years later, UCP is again refocusing its LWL initiative, recasting LWL into two key efforts:
- Research & Exploration (Life Without Limits Think Tank)
- Programs & Events (Life Without Limits Institute)
At the heart of UCP’s refreshed LWL initiative is a commitment to societal change and measureable progress for people with a spectrum of disabilities. Whether it’s a disability evidenced from birth, the result of an accident, or as a consequence of aging, the challenges people face are both unique and universal.
To change the political and cultural environment, UCP’s LWL initiative is designed to advance the civil rights movement for people with a spectrum of disabilities. In each of its three new focus areas, UCP will endeavor to create structures that allow people with disabilities to harness their own future. It will do this through dynamic partnerships with established organizations and industry as well as with do-it-yourselfers and self-advocates, recognizing there is strength in networks as well as through individual creativity.
- Shining a spotlight on key issues impacting people with disabilities and using this information to advocate for dynamic changes in society that advance the civil rights movement for people with disabilities;
- Improving the lives of people with disabilities by harnessing the latest innovations in technology to increase their access to the wider world and marketplace;
- Creating a forum for increased learning that strengthens service providers, advocates, medical researchers and self-advocates to create broad changes in the way that society interacts with people with disabilities.