The outcome of the Olmstead v. L.C. case began in Georgia where two women, Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, saw constant segregation due to their intellectual disabilities. Their frequent trips to state mental hospitals brought attention to the fact that community support and personal choice for individuals with disabilities was lackluster, almost nonexistent. After being represented by an attorney at the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Lois, and later Elaine, saw her position for removal of institutional bias being taken up to the U.S. Supreme Court for consideration.
It was found under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), that discrimination against an individual with disabilities was illegal, and that the behavior portrayed towards both Curtis and Wilson held both legal and moral conflict.
Under the Olmstead decision, The Court stated that individuals with disabilities have rights that are inclusive of:
- Prohibition in the segregation of individuals with disabilities in community living
- The ability to receive services in integrated environments
- Services received may be appropriate to individual needs
- The ability to receive community based services rather than institutionally based ones, in the event that:
- Community placement is the appropriate course of action
- The individual in question does not oppose to the treatment being offered
- The individual’s placement can be accommodated in a reasonable manner
As a section under the ADA, the Olmstead decision follows the anti-discriminatory nature that the ADA set many years ago. The ADA, which celebrates its 26th signing anniversary, prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in a number of areas that include transportation, employment, government activities, and more. According to the Olmstead decision, unjustified segregation would violate Title II of the ADA, which stated that individuals with disabilities may not be discriminated against when it came to State and local government provided public services. This gave individuals with disabilities the right to choose where they were to live, instead of having economic factors coerce them into making decisions they may not otherwise wish to make. The Olmstead decision tied together the anti-discriminatory nature of the ADA by not legally binding individuals with disabilities to be institutionalized, meaning that there legally cannot be a system that will inevitably end up with a majority of the disability community in institutions.
For individuals with disabilities, these acts held the power to allow them to work in traditional office environments, live in community settings that foster independent lifestyles, receive equal opportunities when it came to a variety of traditionally implemented services, and most importantly, have the right to decide where to live, without economic or legal influences.
Here at UCP, we appreciate the previously implemented and ongoing efforts for integration, habilitation, and opportunity for expansion for those who live with disabilities. Many of our affiliates provide services that both directly and indirectly relate to the Olmstead decision. For example, most of our affiliates offer community living based services. Outlined below are a sampling of specific services that follow ideals set by the Olmstead decision.
- CHEERS, a.k.a, Center for Habilitation, Education, Enrichment, and Recreational Services, which is under the UCP of Central California affiliate is a program led through UCP of Central California that holds services that provide vocational training, life skills, and classes in various areas that are integrated within the community and are available for those who live at homes with their families. The thought that individuals would not have to necessarily be institutionalized in order to receive aid is something that has brought to surface many programs similar to CHEERS.
- Within the UCP of Central Pennsylvania lies In-Home and Community Support Programs, which offer a variety of training and support to individuals with disabilities in the realm of opportunities that allow them to participate further in the community around them. These community integration and in-home habilitation programs allow for an individual to feel as though they can be cared for and supported throughout processes in any environment that they choose. It need not have to be an institution that can provide habilitation, but rather, it can occur within the home, simultaneously alongside community support options.
- Through UCP of Central Arizona, the Summer Program, as an extension of the Day Treatment and Training for Kids and Teens Program, works on even further enhancement and training of social, community, cognitive, and communication skills for kids and teens. This program focuses on the individual needs of each child, and exposes each individual to real life scenarios in preparation for community integration. This program, along with many other of it’s kind, provides services of transportation to and from the individual’s home/school, making it clear that such services, again, are not contingent upon whether or not an individual is residing at home or within an institution. Usually, habilitation skills are not necessarily provided for children outside of an institution setting, however, as can be seen from such programs, not only is the child free to reside wherever he/she may desire, but he/she may also be provided with many character building and habilitation services that otherwise would confine them to institutions.
In addition to skill specific programs, services such as Child Development, Respite Care, and Early Intervention are made available in a location of the individual’s choice, making it clear that community integration, and most of all, personal choice, is the priority when it comes to the creation and reformation of programs focused towards individuals with disabilities.
While disability rights and removal of bias and segregation from the disability community has seen great progress, there is much still much to be done. On the 17th anniversary of the signing of the Olmstead decision, we at UCP wish to not only celebrate, but also take part in movements that further advocate for the rights that all individuals are entitled to.
We want to hear how the Olmstead decision has impacted your life! Share your stories using the hashtag #OlmsteadAction on social media.
Find out more information on the Administration for Community Living’s celebration of the Olmstead Anniversary here.