Olmstead v. L.C. 24 years later

CW: Institulization

Olmstead v. L.C. was a landmark Supreme Court case decided on this day in 1999 that required states to eliminate unnecessary segregation of disabled people and to ensure that they receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate for their needs.

The late Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, both disabled women living in Georgia nursing homes, were involved in this case. Curtis and Wilson requested permission from state officials to live in the community in their own homes.

Susan Jamieson of Atlanta Legal Aid filed a lawsuit on their behalf when the state denied their request. The Supreme Court heard the case after several appeals. Services for people with disabilities must be offered “in the most integrated setting possible,” according to the Supreme Court ruling.

As someone who lives with Cerebral Palsy one of my biggest concerns is the thought of being placed in a nursing home when it’s not absolutely necessary. I wouldn’t want to live in a nursing home in my twenties.

Most people are unaware that many non-elderly disabled persons live in nursing facilities. Can you imagine what it would be like to be in your 20s or 30s and be forced to live in an institution because there are not enough services and supports in the community?

According to annual federal nursing home data, over 6,000 young people under the age of 21 live in American nursing homes. According to NPR’s Investigative Unit, young individuals ages 31 to 64 accounted up 14 percent of the nursing home population in 2010.

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.

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. Olmstead v. L.C. helped make life as I know it a reality.


“How Two Women Changed Thousands of Lives.” Disability Rights Texas, 17 June 2019, http://www.disabilityrightstx.org/en/2019/06/17/olmstead20th/.

Shapiro, Joseph. “Lois Curtis, Who Won a Landmark Civil Rights Case for People with Disabilities, Died.” NPR, 5 Nov. 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/11/05/1134426128/lois-curtis-who-won-a-landmark-civil-rights-case-for-people-with-disabilities-di.

Shapiro, Joseph. “Youth in Nursing Homes Seek Alternative Care.” NPR, 9 Dec. 2010, https://www.npr.org/2010/12/09/131916238/youth-in-nursing-homes-seek-alternative-care.

Shapiro, Joseph. “A New Nursing Home Population: The Young.” NPR, 9 Dec. 2010, http://www.npr.org/2010/12/09/131912529/a-new-nursing-home-population-the-young. 

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