Olmstead v. L.C. was a landmark Supreme Court decision that was decided on this day in 1999 that required states to eliminate unnecessary segregation of people with disabilities and to ensure that people with disabilities receive services in the most integrated setting suited to their needs. Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, two disabled women residing in Georgia nursing homes, were involved in this case. Curtis and Wilson asked state officials to let them live in their own homes in the community.
After the state denied their request, Susan Jamieson of Atlanta Legal Aid filed a lawsuit on their behalf. After numerous appeals, the Supreme Court heard the case. The Supreme Court ruled that services for people with disabilities must be provided “in the most integrated setting possible.” Because of this ruling, the inclusion of people with disabilities in community settings has improved significantly. But many disabled Americans continue to live in nursing homes and institutions unnecessarily.
People with disabilities may be unable to live in their communities without cases like Olmstead v. L.C. I am grateful that the institutionalization of disabled people was found to be discriminatory. I would have a considerably lower quality of life if I were in a nursing home. I wouldn’t be able to go shopping, or to the movie theater. I want to make my own decisions, and living in my apartment allows me to do that.
Dignity of risk has also been important in my independent living journey. Dignity of risk is about a person’s right to make their own decisions, take risks, and live the life they want. I knew that moving out of my parent’s house was a big deal. I was 20 years old and wanted to move out. In 2018, I went to a Boston Bruins game without my parents. I was so nervous, but I ended up having a great time. I can’t wait to go on more trips with my friends.
I’ve lived on my own for almost two years. Living on my own has been a dream come true. It hasn’t been without its challenges, but I am grateful that I can live my life independently. I live in my hometown with my best friend, and there’s nowhere I’d rather be.
Deegan, P. E. (1992). The Independent Living Movement and people with psychiatric disabilities: Taking back control over our own lives. Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal, 15(3), 3–19. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0095769
“How Two Women Changed Thousands of Lives.” Disability Rights Texas, Disability Rights Texas, 17 June 2019, http://www.disabilityrightstx.org/en/2019/06/17/olmstead20th/.
Shouse, Janet. “The Dignity of Risk.” Tennessee Works, Tennessee Works, 1 June 2016, https://www.tennesseeworks.org/the-dignity-of-risk/.