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(Information from Dan Barry, The New York Times)

The Justice Department announced today that it has entered into the nation’s first statewide settlement agreement vindicating the civil rights of individuals with disabilities who are unnecessarily segregated in sheltered workshops and facility-based day programs.

The agreement with the State of Rhode Island will resolve violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for approximately 3,250 Rhode Islanders with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  This first-of-its-kind statewide agreement addresses the rights of people with disabilities to receive state-funded employment and daytime services in integrated settings, such as supported employment and integrated day services, rather than in segregated sheltered workshops and facility-based day programs with only other people with disabilities.  The agreement also provides relief to transition-age youth at risk of segregation in facility-based programs.  Under the agreement, transition-age youth will have access to a wide array of transition, vocational rehabilitation, and supported employment services intended to lead to integrated employment outcomes after they leave secondary school.  The parties have jointly filed the settlement in federal district court and have requested that it be entered as a court-enforceable Consent Decree.

Under the agreement, Rhode Island — which federal officials praised for recognizing and embracing the need for reform — has 10 years to do the following to resolve violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act:

■ Help state residents with developmental disabilities obtain typical jobs in the community that pay at least the minimum wage and offer the maximum number of hours consistent with the employee’s abilities and preferences;

■ Provide support for nonwork activities in the mainstream, including community centers, libraries, and recreational and educational facilities;

■ Prepare high school-age students with developmental disabilities for competitive jobs in the community through internships and mentoring programs, among other efforts;

■ Redirect the “significant” public funds that are used to support segregated settings toward encouraging services in integrated settings.

In other words: inclusion, rather than exclusion, as upheld by the 1999 Supreme Court case known as Olmstead v. L.C., in which the court determined that the unjustified segregation of people with disabilities constituted discrimination.

For more general information about the Justice Department’s ADA Olmstead enforcement efforts, visit the Civil Rights Division’s Olmstead: Community Integration for Everyone website.   To find out more about the ADA, visit Division’s website or call the toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD).

Note:  Federal and state officials said they had received a positive response from businesses to the reforms. They said that the U.S. Business Leadership Network, a network of Fortune 500 companies, and Walgreens would sponsor a business summit meeting in Rhode Island in June to explore ways to expand the training and employment of people with development disabilities.

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