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Fifteen years ago this week (June 22, 1999) the US Supreme Court ruled that people with disabilities have the right to live independently in their communities, instead of being institutionalized (institution’s included nursing homes and some group homes).  The Supreme Court recognized that institutional placement of persons who can handle and benefit from community settings was occurring because of a belief that individuals with disabilities were incapable of or unworthy of participating in community life.  The Justices also recognized confinement in an institution (including nursing homes and some group homes) severely diminishes the everyday life activities of individuals, including family relations, social contacts, work options, economic independence, educational advancement and cultural enrichment.

As directed by Congress, the Attorney General issued regulations implementing title II, of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Title II requires public entities (any State or local government and any of its departments, agencies, or other instrumentalities) to administer services, programs, and activities in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities.  Integrated settings are defined as one that enables individuals with disabilities to interact with nondisabled persons to the fullest extent possible.  This mandate is violated when  (1) a public entity directly or indirectly operates facilities and/or programs that segregate individuals with disabilities; (2) finances the segregation of individuals with disabilities in private facilities (nursing homes, groups homes, sheltered workshops); and/or (3) through its planning, service system design, funding choices, or service implementation practices, promotes or relies upon the segregation of individuals with disabilities in private facilities or programs.

Individuals can file complaints about violations of title II and Olmstead with the Department of Justice.  A title II complaint form is available on-line at and can be sent to:

US Department of Justice

Civil Rights Division

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Disability Rights Section – NYAV

Washington, D.C. 20530

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