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Michele Haddad’s Story: The Olmstead Decision in Action

July 14, 2010
On September 7, 2007, Michele Haddad was riding on one of the more than seven million motorcycles registered in the United States when an accident with a drunk driver caused a spinal cord injury that left her paralyzed.  During four months in the hospital and in the years since, Michele Haddad, 49-year old mother of two grown sons, has undergone a series of surgeries. She had quadriplegia and regained some use of her arms but not of her hands; she has no vocal cord on the left side. With the support of family and friends, Ms. Haddad had been able to remain in her community in Jacksonville, Fla., something that has kept her going since the accident.  She needs help with the basic daily activities most of us take for granted – bathing, dressing and eating, for example.  A change in her caregiver situation in March 2010 left her in need of community-based services, and she immediately notified the State of this need. She had been on the State’s waiting list for services since November 2007. Ms. Haddad was informed by the State of Florida that she could receive community services if she would first enter an institutional setting for 60 days.  Florida effectively required institutionalization as a prerequisite to receiving community services, despite the fact that the cost of community-based care for her would be less than the cost of care in a nursing home. It would be devastating to Ms. Haddad to be forced into a nursing home away from her family and friends. That is why Ms. Haddad filed suit against the State for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The ADA requires that individuals with disabilities be provided services in the most integrated setting appropriate, as determined by the Supreme Court in the landmark decision Olmstead v. L.C. The Olmstead decision recognized the harms caused by unnecessary institutionalization that deprives individuals of the right to live in their communities.  Michele Haddad’s lawsuit argued that the State of Florida failed to provide community-based services to Medicaid-eligible individuals with spinal cord injuries who are at risk of institutionalization.  In May, the Justice Department filed a statement of interest to support Michele Haddad’s lawsuit.  Last month, in the same week that marked the 11th anniversary of the Olmstead decision, a U.S. District Court in Jacksonville ruled that the State of Florida must provide Haddad with services that will allow her to remain in her home.  Michele Haddad is one of many individuals with disabilities who have been helped over 20 years of enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the anniversary of which we will celebrate later this month.  The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation and telecommunications, as well as federal, state and local government programs. Enforcement of the ADA is a top priority for the Civil Rights Division.  To learn more about this landmark civil rights law and the Justice Department’s enforcement efforts, visit www.ada.gov  or call the ADA Information Line to speak with an Accessibility Specialist (1-800-514-0301, v; 1-800-514-0383, TTY).
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Updated April 7, 2017