Making the Right to Community Living A Reality

Photo by Tom Olin of Lois Curis, Black disabled woman and plaintiff from the US Supreme Court Case of Olmstead, smiling waving to people facing her. She is standing in front of her own home.

Disability Pride Month is every July and is celebrated around the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the United States comprehensive civil rights law protecting people with disabilities. The 1999 Supreme Court Decision of Olmstead, made possible by the ADA and disabled self-advocates, ruled that Disabled people have the protected right to live and receive supportive services where they choose, in integrated homes and communities. Many disability rights advocates and allies call this “community living”. Even with this year marking the 23rd anniversary of the Olmstead decision and the 32nd anniversary of ADA, the right to community living has yet to become a reality for millions of disabled people.

On June 22, 2022, The Kelsey, The Century Foundation, and the Disability Economic Justice Collaborative co-hosted the #OlmsteadAt23 Twitter Chat, bringing together cross-sector partners and community members to commemorate the anniversary and share ideas for how the US can live up to the promise of Olmstead and make the right to community living reality: that all people have equitable access to economic opportunity, housing, home-and-community-based services, and community life.

Here are three ways that the United States can progress in making disabled people’s right to community living a reality: 

  • Acknowledge the problem. The right to community living has not been realized for millions of disabled people and the affordable housing and supportive services crises continues to exacerbate this need. 
  • Change policies and invest in programs. In order for all disabled people to live out their right to community living, policies must change and investments made so there is equitable access to housing, services, support, care, food, and more.  
  • Listen to, center the needs of, and take lead from Disabled people, particularly Black and Brown people with disabilities who need supportive services – including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

Pride emerges when people have the freedom to choose where and how they live their lives. It also emerges when there is greater visibility and celebration of oneself and community.  So, as this month continues and we celebrate Disability Pride, let us work together to create the policies and practices that will create community living for all. Continue to follow the conversations on social media by searching #DisabilityPrideMonth #ADA32 #OlmsteadAt23