U.S. Supreme Court Finds That Persons With Disabilities Have The Right to Community Integration Under the ADA

Jun 22, 1999, 01:00 ET from National Organization on Disability

    WASHINGTON, June 22 /PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Supreme Court held this
 morning that states discriminate against persons with disabilities if they
 prevent those persons from having the opportunity to live in community-based
 environments rather than institutions.  With its decision in Olmstead v. L.C.
 & E.W., the Supreme Court upheld and gave force to the critical regulation of
 the Americans with Disabilities Act that required that persons with
 disabilities be provided services in the "most integrated" setting appropriate
 to the needs of the person.
     The High Court reviewed Olmstead when the Georgia Department of Human
 Resources appealed a lower-court decision that the state violated an ADA
 regulation by segregating two Georgia women with mental disabilities in a
 state psychiatric hospital even though the facility's professionals had
 recommended a transfer to community care.  Georgia, and the other states
 supporting Georgia's appeal, argued that the treatment of the women was not
 "discrimination" as defined under the ADA.  The Court flatly rejected the
 state's argument and confirmed the principle under the ADA that persons with
 disabilities must be placed in the community whenever it is determined that
 community placement is appropriate and such placement can be reasonably
 accommodated in light of the state's resources and the needs of others with
 mental disabilities.
     The National Organization on Disability (N.O.D.) and Former U.S. Attorney
 General Dick Thornburgh of the law firm of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart LLP filed a
 friend-of-the-court brief in support of the position taken by the two women
 who sought community placement.  As Attorney General, Thornburgh oversaw the
 passage of the ADA in 1990 and directed the Justice Department's drafting of
 the regulation at issue in Olmstead.  The N.O.D./Thornburgh brief opposed
 Georgia's argument and asserted that the unnecessary segregation of people
 with disabilities is inconsistent not only with congressional intent but also
 the Justice Department's interpretation of the statute and regulation.
     "I am heartened by the decision of the Supreme Court," said Thornburgh.
 "The right to live in the environment of your own choosing is a right set out
 in the ADA.  The Court's decision makes that right abundantly clear."
     N.O.D. President Alan A. Reich reacted to the decision by noting that it
 "is an important step in achieving the goal of the ADA and of people with
 disabilities -- full and equal participation in all aspects of life."
     N.O.D. promotes the acceptance and full participation in all aspects of
 life of America's 54 million men, women and children with physical, sensory or
 mental disabilities.  Founded in 1982, N.O.D. is concerned with all
 disabilities, all age groups and all disability issues.  Through its network
 of 4,500 community partners in towns, cities and counties nationwide, N.O.D.
 promotes voluntary action to expand opportunities for people with
     To learn more about N.O.D., visit its Web site at www.nod.org.  To read
 the N.O.D./Thornburgh brief, visit www.nod.org/amicus_brief.html.

SOURCE National Organization on Disability