June 23, 2011
On June 22, 1999, the Supreme Court ruled in Olmstead v. L.C. that, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the unjustified institutional isolation of people with disabilities was a form of unlawful discrimination. Since taking office, the Obama Administration has taken many steps to uphold both the letter and the spirit of the ADA.
“The landmark Olmstead case affirmed the rights of Americans with disabilities to live independently,” said President Obama. “On this anniversary, let’s recommit ourselves to building on the promise of Olmstead by working to end all forms of discrimination, and uphold the rights of Americans with disabilities and all Americans.”
Since the Olmstead ruling, much progress has been made. Many individuals have successfully transitioned to community settings, but waiting lists for community services have grown considerably and many individuals who would like to receive community services are not able to obtain them.
On Monday, the President met with Lois Curtis, one of the original plaintiffs of the Olmstead case. In March 2011, Ms. Curtis who lives with mental and developmental disabilities, finally began living in the community – 11 years after the initial decision. She now sells her artwork and serves as a prime example of how persons can become more productive members of society once they are able to live in community based settings.
The Department of Justice also continues to enforce the ADA and Olmstead. In October of last year, the Department entered into a comprehensive settlement agreement with the state of Georgia’s mental health and developmental disability system, resolving a lawsuit the United States had brought against the state. The lawsuit alleged unlawful segregation of individuals with mental illness and developmental disabilities in the state’s psychiatric hospitals in violation of the ADA and Olmstead. In the last two years, the Department has joined or initiated litigation to ensure community-based services in over 25 cases in 17 states.
In 2009, the President launched the "The Year of Community Living," a new effort to assist Americans with disabilities. In the time since then, the Department Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of Health and Human Services released $40 million in Housing Choice vouchers for 5,300 people over 12 months, As part of the "Year of Community Living", HHS Secretary Sebelius created the "Community Living Initiative" to coordinate the efforts of Federal agencies and underscored the importance of the ADA and Olmstead and affirmed the Administration's commitment to addressing isolation and discrimination against people with disabilities across the age span. The Money Follows the Person Rebalancing Demonstration Program, through funding awards to States, has also helped almost 12,000 individuals transition from institutions to the community.
Read more about Lois’ story here.