On June 22, 1999, the Supreme Court ruled in Olmstead v.L.C. that the unjustified institutional isolation of people with disabilities is a form of unlawful discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Obama Administration has made significant progress continuing to enforce Olmstead as well as more broadly helping to level the playing field for people with disabilities.
"Olmstead affirmed the rights of Americans with disabilities to live in their communities," said President Obama. "As we mark the anniversary of this historic civil rights decision, we reaffirm our commitment to fighting discrimination, and to addressing the needs and concerns of those living with disabilities."
In April of this year, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the creation of the Administration for Community Living (ACL), which brings together key HHS organizations and offices dedicated to improving the lives of those with functional needs into one coordinated, focused and stronger entity. ACL combined the Administration on Aging, the Office on Disability and the Administration on Developmental Disabilities into a single agency that supports both cross-cutting initiatives and efforts focused on the unique needs of individual groups, such as children with developmental disabilities or seniors with dementia. This agency will work on increasing access to community supports and achieving full community participation for people with disabilities and seniors.
HHS also has worked closely with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to develop and subsidize rental housing for very low-income adults with disabilities and implement the new Section 811 Project Rental Assistance Program, which will assist extremely low-income adults with disabilities in accessing integrated affordable housing. Last month, HUD announced a new $85 million funding opportunity under the Section 811 program for state housing agencies that meet certain eligibility criteria, including having a partnership with a state health and human services agency and Medicaid agency, to provide essential support and services that help people live in integrated settings in the community. This funding opportunity works to align critical health and housing services and aims to assure integration by promoting Medicaid efforts to serve people in the most appropriate integrated setting.
The Department of Justice also continues to enforce the ADA and Olmstead. Over the last three years, the Civil Rights Division at the Department has been involved in more than 40 Olmstead matters in 25 states. Recently, in Virginia, the Department entered into a landmark settlement agreement with the Commonwealth, which will shift Virginia's developmental disabilities system from one heavily reliant on large, state-run institutions to one focused on safe, individualized, and community-based services that promote integration, independence and full participation by people with disabilities in community life. The agreement expands and strengthens every aspect of the Commonwealth's system of serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in integrated settings, and it does so through a number of services and supports. The Department has a website dedicated to Olmstead enforcement, which includes links to settlements, briefs, findings letters, and other materials.