Historically, people with disabilities have been excluded from participating fully, or most often even minimally, in the day to day life and decision making processes of their families, communities and governments. With the advent of independent living centers (ILC's) created by people with disabilities and through their struggle, the exclusions have begun to erode. Among the most formidable means to this end has been information sharing, communications and networking.
The mission of ILC's is to empower persons with disabilities to exercise greater control of their own lives, conduct community systems change activities to ensure greater integration into the community, and provide consumer-directed services to enable them to live in the least restrictive and most integrated environments. Providing independent living services is one of the most information intensive tasks ever undertaken. ILC staff seek to empower consumers by connecting them with knowledge so consumers can confidently make choices and decisions about services, laws, regulations, educational programs, employment options, self-help, peer support, their life, their future, and their destiny. Ideally, ILC staff serve as guides through a self-help process of information review and knowledge transfer.
DIMENET addresses the problem created by the Federally mandated purpose that the ILC mediate the process of peer to peer information sharing between individuals with disabilities both consumers and/or professionals. To accomplish this objective, the ILC must efficiently collect, access, and manage large amounts of data. Additionally, the philosophy of independent living requires reliance on the extemporaneous sharing of non-tangible knowledge that people acquire as a result of their own previous life experience. This dictates that the people of the independent living movement, both consumers and professionals, be tightly linked through communication tools. The information infrastructure and the Internet are critical to performance of this objective.
DIMENET provides accessible access to the information infrastructure to people with disabilities through ILC's. ILC's are an ideal vehicle to reduce disparities in access for people with disabilities, an under-served and disadvantaged group due to their unique technology needs and economic status. DIMENET software is designed by technical experts and ILC associations in order to accommodate common assistive technology devices. Nationwide, ILC's have selected DIMENET as their telecommunications host to provide access to the Internet and to each other. DIMENET is an information source within the Internet, insuring equal access and enabling ILC's to fulfill their Congressional mandate.