US JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ISSUES NEW GUIDANCE MANDATING THAT PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES HAVE RIGHT TO LIVE INTEGRATED LIVES BEYOND HOUSING AND INCLUDING WORKING AND OTHER ACTIVITIES

In a 13-page guidance document issued this week, the U.S. Department of Justice says that the integration mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act applies broadly. Thus, just as people with disabilities have a right to live in the community, the U.S. Department of Justice is telling the states that the same rights apply to employment and other activities too. As the newly issued guidance document says, ““The integration mandate of Title II of the ADA is intended to allow individuals with disabilities to live integrated lives like individuals without disabilities, including by working, earning a living and paying taxes….The civil rights of persons with disabilities, including individuals with mental illness, intellectual or developmental disabilities, or physical disabilities, are violated by unnecessary segregation in a wide variety of settings, including in segregated employment, vocational and day programs.”

The rights of people with disabilities under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) to access services in the most integrated setting possible were affirmed by a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision in a case known as Olmstead v. L.C. With the new guidance, the Justice Department is making its viewpoint clear that the Olmstead ruling applies not only to where people with disabilities are housed, but also how they spend their days.

The Justice Department acknowledges that millions of people with disabilities nationally spend most of their day at sheltered workshops or in other segregated programs. Many of these individuals could be successful in competitive work environments earning at least minimum wage, but have not been given the resources to pursue such opportunities, according to the Justice Department.  The Justice Department said that  individuals with disabilities must have an opportunity to “make an informed decision” about what setting is right for them and that other alternatives must be made available to them in addition to sheltered workshops and facility-based day programs.

At Clausen House, our mission is to support adults with developmental disabilities live independently and reach their full potential as contributing members of the community. Our Residential, Independent and Supported Living programs, Day and Learning program, Supported Employment program, and Social Recreation program each involve integration and community participation.

Source for the article: Segregated Employment, Day Programs May Violate ADA, by Michelle Diament, November 3, 2016, Disability Scoop; Statement of the Department of Justice on Application of the Integration Mandate of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Olmstead v. L.C. to State and Local Governments’ Employment Service Systems for Individuals with Disabilities