Assuring Access to Community Living for the Disabled (Olmstead Act)
On June 22, 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Olmstead vs. L.C. that, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), unjustifiable institutionalization of a person with a disability who, with proper support, can live in the community is discrimination. In its ruling, the Court said that institutionalization severely limits a person's ability to interact with family and friends, to work, and to make a life for him or herself.
Under the court's ruling, certain principles have emerged:
- Unjustified institutionalization of people with disabilities is discrimination and violates the ADA;
- States are required to provide community-based services for persons with disabilities otherwise entitled to institutional services when the state's treatment professionals reasonably determine that community placement is appropriate; the person does not oppose such placement; and the placement can reasonably be accommodated, taking into account resources available to the state and the needs of others receiving state-supported disability services;
- A person cannot be denied community services just to keep an institution at its full capacity;
- There is no requirement under the ADA that community-based services be imposed on people with disabilities who do not desire them.
The court also said that states are obliged to "make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures when the modifications are necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability, unless the public entity can demonstrate that making the modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program, or activity." Meeting the fundamental alteration test takes into account three factors: the cost of providing services in the most integrated setting; the resources available to the state; and how providing services affects the ability of the state to meet the needs of others with disabilities.