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The Promise of Olmstead by John McCarty

Updated: Jun 28, 2022

The man widely recognized as the father of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA), Justin Dart, Jr., said about the ADA, "And what is that promise? For whatever the laws says legally, the clear promise of the ADA is that all people with disabilities will be fully equal, fully productive, fully prosperous, and fully welcome in the mainstream."

The Olmstead decision under the ADA promises full integration in the broader community, not just a place to live. I visualize a day in my life under this promise: I imagine waking up in an apartment with my roommate Grace where she is sitting at the table having breakfast. Both the choice of roommate and the location of the apartment are mine. The person whom I hired to support my body, let's call him Bob, has let himself in and has helped me get ready for work. He'll have breakfast with us before he helps me gather my stuff and gets me to work. I work as a consultant and speaker full time because I decided I was uniquely qualified for that work. After work every evening I'm doing something different in my community that I'm interested in and I choose to do. Maybe I go to my neighborhood gym where Bob supports me. Or I might go to my board meeting for Uniting for Change. Or, maybe Bob and I are on a team for Trivia Night at ReClif. When I am finished with whatever my activity for the evening is, he gets me home where Grace is making dinner. After dinner I’ll choose an activity to help me relax. Maybe I listen to music, read a book, or play a game with Grace. I have hired part time support who arrives later in the evening to help me get ready for bed. Being in total control and appropriately supported is nothing short of life affirming and that’s what the promise is. That's my dream and it's the promise of Olmstead.

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