Integration does not just mean getting out of an institution (unless that is all a person wants). Of course, getting out is essential, but, for lots of people, it will only be the beginning of full integration. Each person returning to the community must have reasonable opportunities to be interconnected into the community as he or she chooses.
People who have been in institutions for a long time have likely lost many of their connections to the community. It is typical for a person stuck in a nursing home to not have a motorized wheelchair, transportation, or any real way of getting out and about. The nursing home parking lot becomes an impregnable wall fencing the person into the nursing home. Friends and relatives may visit, but, for many, those visits diminish or even stop all together over time.
Thus, as we advocate for these men and women to get out of nursing homes and other institutions, we must ensure that, for those who want them, there are opportunities to reconnect to the community with accessible transportation, integrated housing, employment opportunities, and ways to be part of the faith and civic communities that they want to be part of.
2014 and 2015 are big anniversaries for the disability rights advocates. These anniversaries are opportunities to spread the word to people with disabilities, advocates, and the larger community of the rights people with disabilities have to live fully integrated lives in the community and the opportunity the community has to be enriched by being inclusive, inviting and accommodating. In 2014, we celebrate the 15th anniversary of Olmstead v. LC, the most important civil rights legal decision for people with disabilities. Then, in 2015, we celebrate the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA).
Already, the ADA Legacy Project has begun the process for celebrating the 25th anniversary of the ADA. It has created an outstanding website at ADALegacy.org. The mission of The ADA Legacy Project is to honor the contributions of people with disabilities and their allies by:
- preserving and promoting the history of the disability rights movement;
- celebrating the impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as other related disability rights legislation and accomplishments; and
- educating the public to create opportunities for inclusion, access, and equal rights for the future.
Please go to their website to learn about upcoming events and get excited for 2015, or don’t wait, go ahead and get involved now.
For the 15th Anniversary of Olmstead, a new website will be debuting this summer called OlmsteadRights.org. The website will tell Olmstead stories through narratives, audio recordings, and videos of people whose lives have been changed by Olmstead. We will also have a major celebration of the 15th Anniversary at the Carter Presidential Library on June 23, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. Go here to find out more about this great celebration. You can also follow the Olmstead anniversary celebration by liking I am Olmstead on Facebook.