Congress Considers Bill to Defend Freedom of People With Disabilities

On January 15, disability justice activists celebrated the reintroduction of the Disability Integration Act (DIA). This monumental piece of legislation is an important step forward for the full civil rights of those with disabilities.

The DIA would ensure that people with disabilities have the right to live in their homes and receive services to do so. Insurance companies and state governments would be barred from discriminating against people with disabilities through imposing what is essentially segregation. Far too many of those with disabilities are forced into nursing homes and other institutions rather than given in-home supports they need, which are often less expensive than institutionalization.

Once they are in nursing homes, people almost entirely lose their freedom: the freedom to choose not only where they live, but what they eat, who they spend time with, if and when they go out and return home, and more. They’re also at a higher risk of abuse by the staff.

Many people live in nursing homes simply because there isn’t any accessible and affordable housing available to them. Access to housing is one of many barriers people with disabilities face. Under the DIA, the failure of a public entity to ensure “affordable, accessible, and integrated housing” to allow people with disabilities that require Long Term Services and Support, such as home health aides and attendants, to live in the community would be considered “discrimination.” There is also a provision that addresses how some forms of long-term support are only given based on tenancy in certain types of housing such as public housing.

Even for those who are receiving services that allow them to live at home, there are still limitations placed on their freedom. Many programs require that individuals only receive help while they’re at home. Clients typically cannot choose the schedule on which their services are provided. These restrictions can diminish access to employment, education and…

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