Americans with Disabilities Act Technical Assistance Letters


January 19, 2001

The Honorable Bob Graham
United States Senator
2252 Killearn Center Boulevard
Third Floor
Tallahassee, Florida 32308

Dear Senator Graham:

        This is in response to your inquiry on behalf of your constituents, xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx have asked that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) be amended to prohibit the "forced" relocation of persons with developmental disabilities to a more integrated setting. Please excuse our delay in responding.

        The xxxxx letter describes the situation of their son, xxxxx xxxxx, as follows. xxxxx is an adult with developmental disabilities who is a long-time resident of the Melmarck Institute, located in Pennsylvania. County and state officials want xxxxx to be moved to a smaller home in order to comply with the ADA mandate for community-based housing for persons with developmental disabilities, despite his desire to remain in his current setting, and have denied the request of xxxxxxx family to apply his Medicaid payments to the cost of his current home.

        The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through its regional office in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has fully and thoroughly investigated the numerous complaints that xxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx have filed against Pennsylvania agencies in connection with their son. These complaints have been rejected by HSS on the basis that the actions of the agencies were consistent with the ADA's requirement for treatment in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of persons with disabilities. Attached are two letters sent by HSS to xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx in May 1999 and February 2000. It should be noted that the Department does not serve as a reviewing authority for the administrative actions or decisions of other federal agencies following their investigations of complaints about discrimination.

        Providing programs and services in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of persons with disabilities is a core concept of the ADA and the Department's implementing regulations. The application of this concept to persons with developmental disabilities was recently upheld by the Supreme Court in Olmstead v. Zimring (527 U.S. 581, 1999) (holding that mentally disabled patients may in specified circumstances compel a state to provide them treatment in a less segregated setting). The concept of the enhanced integration of persons with disabilities is a fundamental principle underlying the ADA and its goal of a fuller life for the persons it is designed to protect. The amendment to the ADA requested by xxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxx could undermine the efforts by states to provide services to people with disabilities in their communities.

        We hope this information will be helpful to you in responding to your constituents. Please do not hesitate to contact the Department if we can be of assistance in other matters.


                                                                                                                            Bill Lann Lee
                                                                                                                            Assistant Attorney General
                                                                                                                            Civil Rights Division


Updated August 6, 2015

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