RD225 - Assessment of Virginia's Disability Services System: Community Living

Executive Summary:

The right of people with developmental and other disabilities to live and participate in the community is well-established in the United States. When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990, Congress described the isolation and segregation of individuals with disabilities as a serious and pervasive form of discrimination (42 U.S. Code § 12101(a)(2)), and it enacted the ADA to combat this type of discrimination. Today, 29 years after Congress made these statements, people with disabilities continue to face barriers to community living and these rights have yet to be fully realized.

Continuing discrimination, both overt and subtle, prevents many people with disabilities from accessing important community resources, facilities, and services. The persistence of discrimination is reflected in the number of lawsuits regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act, which are increasing each year and totaled 9,373 in 2016 (see Table 1).

Even as people with disabilities continue to face these barriers, their procedural rights to vindication in court are increasingly in question, as states and the United States Congress seek to quell the growing number of legal claims based on the Americans with Disabilities Act. Virginia must protect the rights of people with disabilities to access the courts and vindicate their right to live in and access their communities.

Community Living is about more than just place. Being in the community is an important aspect of Community Living, but equally important is the capacity to be a participatory member of one’s community and to exercise control over one’s own life to the maximum extent possible. Restrictive guardianship practices, and other policies and practices that presumptively deny people with disabilities the ability to control their own lives, are barriers to full community participation. Thousands of Virginians have been placed under guardianship, some of whom have also had their voting rights revoked (see Table 1). Virginia must work to ensure that state policies and practices facilitate maximum independence and self-determination among people with disabilities.

Many people with developmental disabilities rely upon critical services and supports to live integrated lives in the community and to maximize their independence and self-determination. Long waiting lists and restrictive eligibility criteria limit the ability of many people with developmental disabilities to access these services (see Table 1). Large numbers of people with developmental disabilities currently rely upon the support of aging caregivers to live in the community. Virginia must work to expand access to critical long-term services and supports for people with developmental disabilities, both to meet the existing needs of its citizens with developmental disabilities and to be prepared to accommodate the future needs of those who currently rely upon the support of aging caregivers who will not be able to provide for them indefinitely.