Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

10th Anniversary of Freedom for People with Disabilities

Mike Ervin

 by The Progressive

June 22 marks the 10th anniversary of a landmark ruling for people with disabilities.

The case, which reinforced the Americans with Disabilities Act, was called Olmstead v. LC and EW.

LC was Lois Curtis and EW was Elaine Wilson. These two women had spent most of their lives in state mental institutions.

They wanted to live in more integrated community settings, and their doctors said they didn?t need to be institutionalized. But their home state of Georgia provided no community options for them, and so they languished in the institutions.

In 1995, lawyers sued the state on their behalf under the ADA, which requires states to provide services for people with disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate. The case worked its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that such needless, unending institutionalization did indeed violate the very core of the ADA.

Curtis and Wilson finally moved into smaller group community homes, where they flourished. Wilson died in 2005 but Curtis continues to live in the community and travel the country. She serves as an ambassador for freedom and choice for people with disabilities, especially those in institutions.

The Olmstead decision said that states must show steady progress in providing alternatives to institutions or they would be open to similar litigation.

Lawyers and activists all over the country have used the Olmstead precedent to challenge cruel and unfair state policies. As a result, people with disabilities have expanded their options, and some of the worst institutions have been closed.

But many states, such as Florida, Illinois and Tennessee, have spent a lot of taxpayer money fighting against Olmstead lawsuits long after the Supreme Court spoke. Earlier this year, Illinois finally reached agreement with plaintiffs in an Olmstead lawsuit that has dragged on for years.

Curtis and Wilson and the lawyers that guided them are heroes. Because of them, the ADA is the strong law it was intended to be.

This June 22, many people with disabilities should be celebrating the 10th anniversary of our independence day.a


© 2021 The Progressive
Mike Ervin

Mike Ervin

Mike Ervin is a writer and disability rights activist living in Chicago. He blogs at Smart Ass Cripple, "expressing pain through sarcasm since 2010."

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Facebook 'Appallingly Failed' to Detect Election Misinformation in Brazil, Says Democracy Watchdog

"The disinformation that Facebook allows on its platform feeds into the 'stop the steal' narrative in Brazil—a growing tactic intended to set the stage for contesting the election."

Julia Conley ·


'Scary Stuff': GOP Election Deniers Surge to Victory in 2024 Battlegrounds

"This is how our democracy could crumble, quickly and quietly," warned one observer.

Jake Johnson ·


On Social Security's 87th Birthday, Progressives Warn GOP Wants to 'Take a Chainsaw to It'

"We need to pass Social Security 2100 to protect and expand this vital service," said the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Jake Johnson ·


House Democrats Request 'Damage Assessment' Following Recovery of Classified Docs

"Former President Trump's conduct has potentially put our national security at grave risk," Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Adam Schiff wrote to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines.

Kenny Stancil ·


Violent Threats Against FBI Soar as Trump Lies About Mar-a-Lago Search

Menacing messages posted online "include a threat to place a so-called dirty bomb in front of FBI Headquarters" and "general calls for 'civil war' and 'armed rebellion,'" officials warned.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo