Landmark victory for people with disabilities

On November 13, the disability community scored a huge victory when a class of people with developmental disabilities entered into a settlement agreement with the State of Illinois that will open up community services for thousands of individuals who have been trapped in institutions.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, signed by George H.W. Bush in 1990, delivered to people with disabilities the right to receive long-term care services in the most integrated setting. Under the law, and under the 1999 Olmstead Supreme Court Ruling, people with disabilities have the right to receive services in a community based setting. While many other states have implemented the ADA's integration mandate, Illinois lags far behind. Thousands of people are forced to live in institutions because community options don't exist. In some institutions, people not only lose the chance to pursue educational, employment and social opportunities offered in the community at-large, they lose control over basic decisions, such as when to get up, what to eat, what to do during the day.

In 2005, a coalition of groups, including Access Living, Equip for Equality and the ACLU, filed a complaint on behalf of people with developmental disabilities living in Intermediate Care Facilities, institutions for people with developmental disabilities. On November 13, the two parties agreed to a settlement. Under terms of the agreement, thousands of people with disabilities living in institutions who want out will get the opportunity to live in the community. This settlement is a significant step toward realizing the promise of the ADA and Olmstead.

As our world becomes more inclusive, people with disabilities still struggle with the stigma and reality of segregation and discrimination. This legal victory brings the community a bit closer to reversing that reality.