Illinois Advocates Launch "Freedom Ride '05"
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 17, 2005
ALTON, ILLINOIS--A group of about 30 people with disabilities, along with their family members and advocates, left Alton on what will be a 700-mile journey across the state to bring attention to what they claim is its bias toward institutions.
Calling the action the "Freedom Ride '05", organizers compared it to the civil rights marches of the 1960s.
Campaigners want the state to take advantage of a waiver program that would allow people to use their Medicaid funds for community-based services rather than nursing homes and other institutions.
Illinois officials estimate that the state spends $300 million each year to house 2,740 people with intellectual disabilities in its nine state-run institutions.
According to the most recent data from the State of the States in Developmental Disabilities report, Illinois in 2002 had the fourth largest population of individuals in state-operated institutions, behind Texas, California and New Jersey.
"These institutions may provide a convenient way to care for people, but they rob them of their ability and responsibility of personal choice. Large institutions provide one-size-fits-all care for individuals whose needs vary greatly," said Ann Ford, executive director of the Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living, in a press release.
The action is scheduled to end in the state capital on Thursday, with a speech by Lois Curtis, the surviving plaintiff in the landmark case of Olmstead v. L.C. and E.W.
In 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court used that case to rule that institutionalizing people with disabilities unnecessarily violates their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The federal government followed the decision with an order to states to come up with plans to help people who wanted to leave institutions to move into communities and to keep from institutionalizing people who do not want to be housed in such facilities.
"Institutional care is a thing of the past," said organizer Lester Pritchard. "We need a 21st Century approach to this issue. The status quo is unacceptable."
"Plaintiff in Landmark Olmstead Case to Join Freedom Ride '05" (Real Choice In Illinois)
"Disability advocates hitting road against group homes" (News-Gazette)
State of the States in Developmental Disabilities (University of Colorado)