A message from DRNC CEO Virginia Knowlton Marcus

Twenty-five years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the most consequential disability rights case in history, Olmstead vs. L.C. The defendant in the litigation was Tommy Olmstead, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Human Resources. The plaintiffs, Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, were disabled women who brought the lawsuit to vindicate their right to live in the community with supports, rather than being segregated in institutions. The Supreme Court’s decision in this case affirmed the right of people with disabilities to receive community-based services instead of being stuck in unwanted institutionalization.  

I will always remember the immense joy we in the disability community and our allies felt on June 22, 1999 after receiving news of the decision. It felt like the whole world had shifted. I’m glad we didn’t know then what we do now, that shifting public investment from institutions to community-based services would be incredibly hard with slow progress. It makes no sense. Community living is what the vast majority of we disabled people want; it is significantly more cost-effective than facility-based care; and it results in far better outcomes. It is a stain on our society that we continue to stick people in congregate settings just because they happen to have a disability, rather than welcoming and including all people in our communities. 

People with disabilities have the right to participate fully in society and receive the support necessary to lead independent lives. Warehousing people in institutions when they want to be included in their community is unlawful discrimination. Full stop. 

North Carolina’s Olmstead plan lacks ambition, imagination, and investment. People with disabilities in our state should not have to plead, or take “someday” for an answer. If we want to exercise our legal right to live in the community with services to learn, work, and play alongside non-disabled people, we must fight for it.  

We have to actively pursue our vision of strong community infrastructure that consists of good jobs for direct support professionals and ample supports and housing choices for people with disabilities. North Carolina has both the need and the resources to create a robust community infrastructure. 

As Frederick Douglass once advised: 

  • If there is no struggle there is no progress. 
  • Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. 
  • Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow. 

Our siblings from national ADAPT are coming to North Carolina to join us in this fight. These are disability activists who mean business and get results. From fighting for accessible transportation, to saving the Affordable Care Act, to full-throated advocacy to end the institutional bias that keeps disabled people from thriving in their communities, ADAPT members have been willing to lead the charge. Join us in bringing attention to the 25th anniversary of the Olmstead decision and calling for its full and prompt implementation in North Carolina and beyond. 

WHAT: National ADAPT Rally to Free Our People
WHEN: Sunday, June 23rd, 2-4 p.m.
WHERE: Halifax Mall, 300 N. Salisbury St., Raleigh, NC
WHY: To break the chains of institutional bias and demand compliance with the 25-year-old Olmstead decision! 

We hope to see you there. Let’s make some noise!