President Barack Obama looks at a painting by Lois Curtis during a meeting in the Oval Office, June 20, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama looks at a painting by Lois Curtis during a meeting in the Oval Office, June 20, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Today marks twenty years since Olmstead – arguably the most important civil rights decision for Americans with disabilities.

Olmstead v. L.C. was filed in 1995. The plaintiffs were two women – L.C. (Lois Curtis) and E.W. (Elaine Wilson), both of whom had been diagnosed with intellectual disabilities and had received institutional care in the state of Georgia. They sued the state, arguing for the right to community-based, not institutional, care.

The case was referred to the United States Supreme Court. On June 22nd, 1999, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg read the Court’s finding that “unjustified institutionalization of persons with mental disabilities we hold qualified as discrimination.” Further, the Court argued that people with disabilities have the right to receive state-funded community supports and not be unjustifiably segregated.

Following the Olmstead decision, a group of five individuals with disabilities and their families sued the state of Oregon for their right to home and community-based services. The class action lawsuit – Staley v. Kitzhaber – was settled swiftly and paved the way for the creation of brokerages and community-based supports for thousands of Oregonians. Brokerages opened statewide in 2001 and today we serve nearly eight thousand adults with disabilities in every county. In 2013, local community developmental disabilities programs began offering support services to people living in their own or family home as well.

Twenty years on, we celebrate the extraordinary vision of Oregonians who fought for – and won – their right to community-based supports.

Learn more at https://www.olmsteadrights.org/

Hear Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg read the Olmstead Decision on June 22, 1999

 

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