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Community living and participation means being able to live where and with whom you choose; work and earn a living wage; participate in meaningful community activities based on personal interests; have relationships with friends, family and significant others; be physically and emotionally healthy; be able to worship where and with whom you choose (if desired); have opportunities to learn, grow and make informed choices; and carry out responsibilities of citizenship such as paying taxes and voting.

Of the estimated 6.2 million people in the United States with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD), most live with their families and many need and receive long term services and supports. When people live outside of their family home they have several options for community living including opportunities to live in apartments with individualized support, with one or two other people with support, with host families, and in small group homes with other people with disabilities and 24-hour support. Unfortunately, many people with IDD also may still live in large, segregated congregate places including large group homes (with 7 or more people living there), residential programs located on campuses, and state and private institutions, which could limit community inclusion.

Often the interest and desire to create new congregate settings is in response to advocates’ frustrations with: a) long waiting lists for community living, b) issues related to quality of community services, c) lack of options that are person-centered and able to meet the specific needs of each individual person, and d) staff who are not adequately prepared and not specifically trained to support people with certain types of significant needs. These concerns about community living are both real and significant, but the solution to return to building large, segregated, isolated living programs is not the answer to improving quality of life for people with IDD and could result in less positive outcomes.

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a male and female with a intellectual disability

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