Independent Living Centers Champion Olmstead Decision All Year Long

Jun 10, 2014, 12:05 ET from California State Independent Living Council (SILC)

SACRAMENTO, Calif., June 10, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Fifteen years ago, the Supreme Court called upon the Americans with Disabilities Act as the basis for the Olmstead Decision, declaring that segregating people with disabilities in institutions is discrimination and against the law.  Every day, Independent Living Centers (ILCs), like Dayle McIntosh Center (DMC) and the Central Coast Center for Independent Living (CCCIL), champion Olmstead by providing programs, services and resources designed to keep people with disabilities living independently rather than isolated in institutions. DMC's California Community Transitions Project does exactly this by helping individuals transition from skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) into community living settings of their choosing.

"Olmstead is the umbrella for every service DMC provides from advocacy to transitional youth services to housing referrals and assistance and more," said Andy Arias, DMC's Systems Change Advocate. "Olmstead is integral to what we do and who we are. And it's important for Californians with disabilities to learn about Olmstead and their right to live in the community."

According to Debbie Carrillo, DMC's Independent Living Community Liaison, getting the word out to seniors and others with disabilities to prevent them from being or becoming institutionalized is the first step toward independence. By conducting Olmstead trainings and establishing community organizing groups in SNFs, DMC connects people through advocacy groups and awareness campaigns to let everyone know that people with disabilities deserve to live where they choose.

"All advocacy leads back to Olmstead," said Arias. "If we don't advocate for each person's right to live in the community, more people with disabilities will end up living in SNFs or group homes."

One way DMC gets the word out is through online videos and social media. Arias believes capturing advocacy efforts and achievements on video is an effective way to spotlight the accomplishments of people with disabilities.

For Alicia Hernandez Sanchez, CCCIL's Associate Director, and her staff, the intent behind the Olmstead Decision is alive in their work with Latinos in Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties through the "Aging Latinos in Action" (ALA) project. In partnership with Community Housing Improvement Systems and Planning Association, Inc. (CHISPA) and Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action (COPA), CCCIL initiated ALA to develop a leadership cadre of Latino seniors with disabilities who assume leadership roles to educate and engage others on local policy issues and effect change in their communities.

"We started with a healthcare academy to share information about the Affordable Care Act and Medi-Cal expansion," said Sanchez. "From there, we held meetings with the residents of Sherwood Village, an affordable senior living community developed by CHISPA, to discuss what could be improved and how to make change happen."

Two priorities emerged from those discussions: doors in the common area were not fully accessible and a nearby crosswalk was unsafe. After receiving training from COPA community organizers and CCCIL staff, the ALA Leadership Team met with the property owner, who committed to installing accessible, automatic doors within the month. ALA leaders then met with Councilwoman De la Rosa about the crosswalk. She scheduled a meeting between ALA Leaders and the local planning department.

"Creating opportunities for ongoing civic engagement within the independent living model is critical to people's independence," stressed Sanchez. "Working collaboratively, ILCs can motivate people with disabilities to engage in their communities rather than living isolated and alone – that's what community organizing is all about."

"And ILCs are all about building and maintaining independence to ensure people with disabilities can participate fully in life," said California State Independent Living Council Executive Director Liz Pazdral. "They are a tremendous resource for Californians who want to remain in their homes or move out of an institutional setting."

The California State Independent Living Council (SILC) is an independent state agency which, in cooperation with the California State Department of Rehabilitation, prepares and monitors the State Plan for Independent Living.

The SILC Mission: To Create Policy and System Change for Independent Living

SOURCE California State Independent Living Council (SILC)