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Community News
What Is Community Integration?
Psychiatric News
Volume 39 Number 15 page 17-17

The Supreme Court's Olmstead decision found that unjustified institutionalization of persons with disabilities is a form of discrimination, but it left considerable latitude about the nature of adequate community integration.

Working under contract with the National Council on Disability (NCD), the Public Interest Law Firm of Philadelphia produced a study titled" Olmstead: Reclaiming Institutionalized Lives," which includes comments from people with disabilities about how they view "the most integrated setting."

Those comments were the result of focus groups, informal interviews, and discussions at various state-level meetings about Olmstead, according to Martin Gould, NCD's senior research specialist.

When asked to describe "the most integrated setting," the most common response was "a place where the person exercises choice and control." The second most common response was "A home of one's own shared with persons whom one has chosen to live with" or where one lives alone. Respondents also mentioned some variation of the idea that integration is "living in the community with everyone else like everyone else."

What do people with disabilities need to live in the community? They most frequently answered that question by identifying "ordinary human needs," such as friendship, rather than listing services.

Most often, they expressed the idea that "support depends on the person, must be defined by and tailored to the individual, and might change over time."

The second most common response was that people need "friendships, emotional support, and networks of friends, families, and mentors."

Education, opportunities to participate in community affairs, and transportation were mentioned by a number of respondents.

The most important barrier to community integration, according to the respondents, is the lack of affordable and accessible housing.

The National Council on Disability is a presidential-appointed advisory body authorized by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

"Olmstead: Reclaiming Institutionalized Lives" is posted online at<www.ncd.gov/newsroom/publications/2003/reclaimlives.htm>.

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