Hello all and Happy New Year!
With each new year, people everywhere assess their lives, set goals, and make resolutions. Since 2020 and the start of the pandemic, doing so has almost felt foolish and naïve. For many, the pandemic has permanently altered the way we approach life, community, and one another. For those within the disability community, COVID has confirmed much of what advocates have been saying for years: that accessibility is not just possible, but necessary.
While it can feel like our community has been left behind in many areas regarding the pandemic and cynicism seems to be creeping in, hope remains our greatest asset in the path forward.
Rugged hope. Bold hope. Collective hope.
Progress for the disability community is not only still possible but is more important than ever. This year Disability Rights Pennsylvania celebrates our 45th anniversary, and we will continue to advocate for the full inclusion of people with disabilities in Pennsylvania. We will continue our COVID advocacy as well as continue to address any barriers that keep people with disabilities from living the lives they choose as well as inform individuals of their rights. To fully realize inclusion, the disability community and our allies must continue advocating for inclusive policies because accessibility and inclusion benefits everyone. We thank you for your past support and ask that you continue to contribute to our advocacy as we press on in this work—along the road paved with hope.
Fighting to End Unnecessary Institutionalization Before Olmstead
Disability Rights Pennsylvania celebrates its 45th anniversary this year! We were incorporated and recognized as the Protection and Advocacy organization in Pennsylvania in 1977. Throughout this year, we will be looking back at 45 impacts we have had on disability rights over those 45 years.
Many in the disability community are familiar with the Supreme Court’s important 1999 Olmstead decision, which interpreted the integration mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act and held that unnecessary institutionalization is discrimination. But DRP and other advocates were fighting long before Olmstead to end unnecessary institutionalization.
Disability advocates and attorneys tried a series of legal strategies beginning in the 1960s and 1970s, arguing, for instance, that the Constitution required services to be provided in the least restrictive environment and arguing that the federal Developmental Disabilities “Bill of Rights” required community services for people with disabilities who were unnecessarily institutionalized. Those strategies ultimately proved unsuccessful, yet, disability advocates continued to strategize on how to accomplish less restrictive environments for people with disabilities.