Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Freedom for people with disabilities

This week marks the 10-year anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court Olmstead decision, which admonished segregation, sought to put an end to discrimination and opened the door to freedom for thousands of people in the United States. It was not about race or gender, but about freedom for citizens who happen to have disabilities. The court ruled that “the unnecessary segregation of individuals with disabilities in institutions may constitute discrimination based on disability.”

Years ago, it was common for people with disabilities to be segregated in institutions. Today, citizens who happen to have a disability can live the life they want in the community because of two brave women in Georgia, living in an institution, who wanted to leave.

However, for many, the struggle continues. Missouri has six institutions. Ten other states have none. Medicaid is required to pay for expensive nursing homes and institutions. Almost 5,000 are waiting for community services. There is no demand for institutions.

Is this the year that people cry out against injustice and policy is passed that reflects what we all have a right to — a real life in the community?

Shelly Shetley
Self-advocate and chair Missouri Planning Council for Developmental Disabilities
Kansas City

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