Celebrating 23 Years of the ADA — Gateway to the Community

July 24, 2013

 WEDNESDAY:  Gateway to the Community

 This week, in honor of the 23rd anniversary of the ADA, we recognize and celebrate the different gateways that the ADA is opening up to people with disabilities.  Today we highlight the ADA as a gateway to the community. 

 Ensuring that people with disabilities have the opportunity to live and participate in their communities is at the heart of the Civil Rights Division’s disability enforcement mission. In 2009, the division launched an aggressive effort to enforce the Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead v. L.C., which recognized that people’s civil rights are violated under the ADA when they are unnecessarily segregated from the rest of society.  Under the ADA, states are required to avoid unnecessarily placing persons with disabilities in institutions and to ensure that persons with disabilities receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.

 The goal of the division’s Olmstead enforcement work is to offer people with disabilities opportunities to live life to their fullest potential. The division has enforced Olmstead in 47 matters in 25 states on behalf of children and adults with physical, mental and developmental disabilities that are in or at risk of entering segregated settings, including state-run and private institutions, nursing homes, board and care homes and sheltered workshops.  As a result of our efforts, tens of thousands of people with disabilities across the country have the opportunity to live and participate in their communities.

 Individuals with Mental Illness Living in New York City Adult Homes:  On July 23, 2013, the Justice Department obtained a comprehensive agreement that requires the state of New York to ensure that people with mental illness are not required to live in New York City’s large institutional adult homes.  The agreement will help at least 2,000, and potentially more than 4,000, adult home residents who are unnecessarily segregated in 23 adult homes.  In adult homes, residents have been subjected to strict schedules and rules, deprived of privacy and independence and allowed no choice in their own daily lives. 

 As part of the agreement New York will offer supported housing to this disenfranchised population.  Through supported housing, people will be able to live in apartments scattered throughout the community, with rental assistance and support services that will enable them to experience inclusion, independence and full participation in community life.  Click here for more information.

 Children with Disabilities Who Have Medically Complex Conditions Living in Florida Nursing Homes:  On July 22, 2013, the United States filed a lawsuit against the state of Florida to challenge ADA violations from the state’s failure to provide services and supports to children with significant medical needs in the most integrated setting appropriate for themNearly 200 children with disabilities are currently living in nursing facilities in Florida, often very far from home.  They could be served in their family homes or other community-based settings, but remain institutionalized because of deficiencies in Florida’s service system. 

 Unnecessary institutionalization denies children the opportunity to develop and maintain bonds with family and friends; interferes with their ability to interact with peers without disabilities; and keeps them from enjoying the social and recreational activities that contribute to child development.  Children with even the most significant disabilities should have the opportunity to grow up in a family setting in their communities, just like children without disabilities.   Click here for more information. 

 To find out more about DOJ Olmstead enforcement work, visit the Olmstead: Community Integration for Everyone website, and visit our Faces of Olmstead website to read about some of the individuals whose lives have been improved by the Olmstead decision and the Department’s Olmstead enforcement efforts.  Visit the ADA Anniversary Webpage to view previous blog entries, and for more general information on the Americans with Disabilities Act, visit  ADA.gov, or call the toll-free ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301 (voice) or (800) 514-0383 (TTY).