AUCD Celebrates the 17th Anniversary of the Olmstead Decision

Urges Congress to Support States in Implementation of Olmstead

June 22, 2016

Press Statement

Contact: Andrew Imparato
Executive Director 


WASHINGTON, DC (June 22, 2016) - AUCD and its self-advocates, family members, and allies, joins with the greater disability community in celebrating the 17th Anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court Olmstead vs. L.C. decision (1999), a landmark decision that has afforded hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities the opportunity to move from institutions to their own homes and communities. Seventeen years ago today the Supreme Court ruled that, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, people with disabilities cannot be unnecessarily segregated and must receive services in the most integrated setting possible.

Since that landmark ruling, our country has made significant strides toward assuring people with disabilities transition from institutions to community-based services and supports. In addition, most states are closing the front door to institutional care and helping people obtain and keep jobs and find homes in their communities, rather than entering an institution. Increasingly, public policy is promoting and requiring federal funding to be used to support people to have the opportunities to live, work, and participate fully in their communities. As companions to the Olmstead decision, Congress recently passed the Workforce Opportunity and Innovation Act (WIOA) and the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE), two laws that continue to reflect our nation's commitment to encourage and promote economic empowerment and full integration for people with disabilities. The WIOA promotes competitive integrated employment for all people with disabilities and puts in place strategies to reduce the number of youth entering segregated and subminimum wage jobs. As the ABLE Act is implemented, it will help people with disabilities save their money to be able to pay for services that allow them to be independent and self-sufficient. Thanks to the 2014 Department of Health and Human Services Rule on home and community based settings, states are now moving to increase capacity for residential services and supports that are more integrated and that support real jobs with real wages so that people can support themselves and have better choices for how they want to live. 

We applaud these trends and also recognize that many people with disabilities continue to experience access challenges to individualized community supports. There are many issues that create barriers for people with significant disabilities to live and work in the community. Some of these are:

  • Nearly every state has significant waiting lists for Medicaid Home and Community Based Services, the foremost funding source for community living. Recent data (2013) indicates an estimated 232,000 people in the U.S. are on waiting lists for community services.
  • Many states have built systems that utilize group homes as a key way to support people in the community. When people find themselves in a situation where they need to live outside of their family home, they are often placed in an "open bed" versus being offered person-centered supports designed specifically to meet their needs. People in these group home settings often remain as isolated as they do in a large-scale institution. A process for creating and sustaining supports to make their living situation a home in a neighborhood is needed.
  • In most states and communities, it is not unusual for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) to transition from school to sheltered workshops or non-work day services with little opportunity to move out of those environments into supported or competitive employment. Assumptions about the abilities of people with I/DD place low expectations on them, which both underestimate and undermine their potential achievement of supported or paid community employment.
  • People with I/DD do not have equal access to various forms of technology (e.g. communication devices, mobility devices, smart home, digital information) that could greatly increase their ability to live and work in the community.
  • In the United States more money is spent per person on institutional and segregated services than is spent on community living and supported employment. In fact, $260,970 was spent on institutional services per person (2013 state operated ICF/IID expenditure) compared with $42,713 on community (2013 HCBS expenditure). There continues to be an institutional bias in our Medicaid program toward institutions over community-based services.

AUCD believes that everyone with an intellectual, developmental, or other disability deserves to live in the community where they have the opportunity to experience vibrant lives that include work, friends, family, and high expectations for community contributions. The Federal Government must support state compliance with the Olmstead decision by developing the capacity to support all people with disabilities in their communities. Congress must support legislation that allows individuals eligible for long-term services and supports under Medicaid the right to individualized services and supports, such as the Disability Integration Act (S. 2427). 

Get more facts about the Olmstead decision on the Administration for Community Living website or read the full decision. For more information about the HCBS Rule, please visit the website.

The Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), located in Silver Spring, MD, promotes and supports a national network of interdisciplinary centers on disabilities. The members of AUCD represent every U.S. state and territory. AUCD and its members work to advance policy and practice through research, education, leadership, and services for and with individuals with developmental and other disabilities, their families, and communities. For more information, visit AUCD's website,