Friday, November 14, 2008

landmark victory for people with disabilities

Yesterday, the disability community scored a huge victory when a class of people with developmental disabilities entered into a settlement agreement with the State of Illinois that will open up community services for thousands of individuals who have been trapped in institutions.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, signed by George H.W. Bush in 1990, delivered to people with disabilities the right to receive long-term care services in the most integrated setting. Under the law, and under the 1999 Olmstead Supreme Court Ruling, people with disabilities have the right to receive services in either an institutional or a community based setting. While many other states have implemented the ADA's integration mandate, Illinois lags far behind. Thousands of people are forced to live in institutions because community options don't exist. In institutions, people not only lose the chance to pursue educational, employment and social opportunities offered in the community at-large, they lose control over basic decisions, such as when to get up, what to eat, what to do during the day.

In 2005, a coalition of groups filed a complaint against the state of Illinois on behalf of people with developmental disabilities living in Intermediate Care Facilities. Yesterday, the two parties agreed to a settlement. This was a significant step toward realizing the promise of the ADA and Olmstead. Under terms of the agreement, over the course of nine years, thousands of people with disabilities living in institutions who want out will get the opportunity to live in the community.

Still today, as our world becomes more inclusive, people with disabilities struggle with the stigma and reality of segregation and discrimination. This legal victory brings the community a bit closer to reversing that reality.

To to read the news release issued by the groups representing the disability community, visit

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