Friday, June 22, 2012

Commemorate and Celebrate: Disability Rights

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Thirteen years ago today, the Supreme Court agreed that the unnecessary segregation of individuals living with disabilities was a violation of civil rights. In practice, the court's ruling has developed into four guiding tenants:
  • 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; and,
  • there is no requirement under the ADA that community-based services be imposed on people with disabilities who do not desire it
In recent years, the government has revamped its efforts in applying these tenants and ensuring equality for persons living with disabilities. 2009, the tenth anniversary of the Olmstead decision, was a pivotal year in this effort, as the Civil Rights Division launched an aggressive enforcement campaign in conjunction with "The Year of Community Living" initiative proclaimed by President Obama. This year the administration has reaffirmed its commitment to Americans with disabilities, the ADA, and enforcing the Supreme Court's decision. Likewise, in an effort to show its dedication, the Justice Department is commemorating the court case with the "Faces of Olmstead," a virtual campaign showcasing the personal stories of thousands of individuals whose lives have been greatly improved through the Olmstead decision and enforcement.

Rather than the digital realm, Disability Rights North Carolina chose to celebrate the fifth anniversary of their designation as the State's protection and advocacy system, yesterday, in a more traditional fashion: a birthday party. Held at North Carolina State University's McKimmon Convention Center, the nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting, promoting, and defending the rights of children and adults living with disabilities celebrated their birthday with a public party. With a fun, carnival theme, complete with door prizes, snacks, and of course cake, the party was a balanced mix between celebration and education. Informational displays combined with games and candy to make the organizations goals and accomplishments easily understandable to all, regardless of their familiarity with disability rights in general. Overall, it was a unique and effective way to celebrate their successes and simultaneously raise awareness and grow their base.

As this week draws to a close, take some time to visit the links above. Help commemorate and celebrate these two important events by familiarizing yourself with the issues and the individuals affected. For further information visit the ADA website, here, and the Disability Rights site, here.

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