Glossary Independent Living-related terms

This glossary aims to clarify some of the terms we use in Guttmann Barcelona Life and which can lead to confusion as they may be used in everyday disability-related language even if their meaning is not clear.

Independent Living

It is a philosophy led by people with disabilities themselves which claims their empowerment. According to this philosophy, people with disabilities must have the possibility to determine their own circumstances.

Personal autonomy

It encompasses moral autonomy (or self-determination) and functional autonomy. Moral autonomy or self-determination is the ability of a person to control and make decisions about how to live according to one's wishes, whether what is decided is performed on one’s own or with the help from others. Functional autonomy is the ability to carry out a physical activity by oneself.


It is the process by which individuals, groups and communities become empowered to control their circumstances and achieve their own goals, striving to maximise the quality of their lives.


It is the ability of a person or group to control their life circumstances on different scales. In the case of historically powerless groups (such as people with disabilities), self-determination is the result of a process of empowerment. The term moral autonomy is also used.

Quality of Live

It is each individual's perception of his or her position in life in the context of his or her culture and value system, and in relation to his or her goals, expectations, standards and interests.

Participation in society

It is the process by which a person has the opportunity to decide which activities he or she is involved in at any given time, and is included in these activities on an equal footing with others.

Social inclusion

The social inclusion of people with disabilities is the process by which action is taken to ensure that  they are perceived to be as legitimate a member of an ordinary spaces as people without disabilities. Thus, people with disabilities come to feel that they are part of the activities in which they participate.

Peer support

It is one of the fundamental pillars of the philosophy of independent living, and is based on the idea that people who experience a certain event ind the best solutions to the difficulties they encounter when relating to other people who are in the same circumstance.

Medical model

This model has been the reference in our society since the beginning of the 20th century for conceiving and treating people with disabilities. It proposes that the disabled person is an incomplete and defective being to be repaired, rehabilitated and cared for by professionals and/or family members. Therefore, it considers that the problem is in the person and categorises him or her as patients who have with restricted rights and duties until their return to "normality".

Social model

The social model proposes that the environment excludes certain people from the exercise of their rights and duties through a heterogeneous set of barriers, so it is the environment that disables people. Therefore, the solution lies in transforming society for it to be inclusive. The social model complements the philosophy of Independent Living, which defends the right to self-determination of people with disabilities, focusing on the environment and the barriers that prevent decision making and participation in society of all people under equal conditions.

Universal accessibility

It is the condition that environments, processes, goods, products and services must fulfill, both physically and socially, so that everyone can enjoy them safely, confortably, and in the most autonomous and natural way possible.

Reasonable adjustments

Necessary and appropriate modifications and adjustments not imposing a disproportionate or undue burden, where needed in a particular case, to ensure the enjoyment or exercise of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others.

Extensive glossary in relation to Independent Living

Access the document with the extensive glossary here.