supreme court

Saturday, June 22 marks the 25th anniversary of one of the most important U.S. Supreme Court decisions for people with disabilities in the U.S.

In 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Olmstead v. L.C. that unjustified segregation of persons with disabilities constitutes discrimination in violation of title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The decision affirmed their right to live and receive services in the least restrictive and most integrated settings possible.

More specifically, the Court held that public entities must provide community-based services to persons with disabilities when (1) such services are appropriate; (2) the affected persons do not oppose community-based treatment; and (3) community-based services can be reasonably accommodated, taking into account the resources available to the public entity and the needs of others who are receiving disability services from the entity.

From the White House 25th anniversary observance:

Three women were behind the landmark decision: Lois Curtis, Elaine Wilson and Sue Jamieson.

“Lois and Elaine were people with mental health and developmental disabilities. Since childhood, they had been cycled in and out of institutions, away from their homes, separated from their families and communities,” writes the U.S. Dept. of Labor in its blog. “In the mid 1990s, both found themselves confined to the state-run Georgia Regional Hospital despite desperately wanting—and having been deemed ready by health care professionals—to transition to community-based treatment.

“In May 1995, Sue, an attorney with the Atlanta Legal Aid Society who had known and advocated for Lois since she was a teenager, filed a federal suit on Lois’s behalf. The suit, filed against the State of Georgia, including the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Human Resources, Tommy Olmstead, asserted that Lois’s unjustified segregation constituted discrimination under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Later that year, as Georgia Regional Hospital prepared to release Elaine to a homeless shelter yet again, her mother called Sue for help. Elaine joined the suit in January 1996.”

Let’s celebrate — and keep fighting to create a fair, equitable and dignified life for those with disabilities. There’s a long way to go.

Image: Wannapik

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