Opportunities and Choices
Recently, the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Administration for Community Living (ACL) issued press releases celebrating the 17th Anniversary of the Olmstead decision. VOR shares their view that there is much to celebrate in opening doors to community living for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) who are able and wish to take advantage of such opportunities. Unfortunately, their ideological preoccupation with one key part of Olmstead, community integration, at the expense of the other key part, choice, has reduced options for all people with I/DD. This crimped and, VOR would submit, inaccurate application of the plain language of Olmstead has done significant harm to many of our most disabled citizens.
By Harris Capps and Joan Kelley
Sheltered Workshops are private non-profit, state, or local government entities that provide employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Persons served in this environment may include those with developmental, physical, and/or mental impairments, ranging from mild to extreme/profoundly affected individuals. Sheltered workshops:
- Provide prevocational training, with the goal to prepare for competitive employment for available jobs in the open labor market
- Emphasize support of individual needs, based on ability to choose work activities that fit with a person’s skills
- Often include additional training in personal care, living skills and developing social skills
- Honor the depth and scope of the DD population, recognizing that some individuals may not ever be able to be competitively employed
After completing a rehabilitation program, many individuals are able to leave the workshop environment and enter regular employment, if there is a job available for which they qualify. Individuals unable to obtain regular employment because of the severity of their impairments or unavailability of jobs can remain in the workshop environment. Individuals performing services are paid a fraction of, or up to minimum wage, depending on their capacity to perform the services. 
VOR Celebrates the ADA and Recognizes the Full Meaning of the Olmstead Decision
The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently recognized the 17th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court Olmstead decision by pointing out the strides that have been made in providing more opportunities for individuals with disabilities in mainstream American life. As we celebrate this aspect of the Olmstead decision, let us not forget the fullness of the ruling and the emphasis the Court placed on individual choice to protect health and safety and the basic civil rights of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).
Too often, some disability rights advocates and federal agencies have read Olmstead as a mandate for all individuals with I/DD, regardless of their individual needs, to be served in community-only settings. Federal “Olmstead enforcement” activities are an example of how some have misread the Olmstead decision and the Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA) to the detriment of the individual rights of those who were intended to be the beneficiaries of these landmark actions. Driven by the DOJ Civil Rights division and the Administration for Community Living (ACL) of the Department of Health and Human Services, these activities are aimed at eliminating opportunities for individuals with I/DD to live and work in more structured, congregate settings which provide higher levels of care, including nursing, therapy and behavioral supports. While community living may work well for many people who are capable of making decisions with a little help, congregate settings furnish life-sustaining services for those who need more care to assure their health and safety.
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For Immediate Release
October 1, 2014
For More Information
Julie Huso, Executive Director
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Julie Huso, Executive Director of VOR, a national organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, will attend the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living’s Convention & Expo in Washington, D.C. on October 6, 2014.
VOR advocates for high quality care and human rights for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities across the country. The annual AHCA/NCAL event includes educational sessions, inspiring general sessions, and an interactive Expo Hall for long-term and post-acute care professionals for seniors and people will developmental disabilities.
For Immediate Release: September 25, 2014
Julie Huso, Executive Director of VOR, a national organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, will represent VOR at the South Carolina Association of Residential Care Homes Conference on September 29, 2014.
“We know from our national advocacy that service options are decreasing,” said Huso. “That comes as a surprise to many families and advocates, but service cuts are resulting in fewer and fewer choices, especially when it comes to specialized care provided in residential settings.”
(Published in the Austin American Statesman, September 7, 2014
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