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The New Century: A New Definition of Success

The Olmstead decision of 1999 and the 1999 Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act combined to support the transformation of the employment system. The elimination of extended (sheltered) employment as a successful rehabilitation outcome is quite in step with the rulings under the Olmstead decision.

The Olmstead decision has forced a much more systematic analysis of federal and state policies and actions in support of community options. On December 21, 2001, United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy Thompson submitted to President Bush the first report of agency efforts to meet Executive Order 13217, entitled Delivering on the Promise: Preliminary Report of Federal Agencies' Actions to Eliminate Barriers and Promote Community Integration. This report describes the actions federal agencies propose to take in key areas, including employment.

The DHHS report, as was the case with the President's Panel in 1954, underscored the economic and personal benefits of employment.

If people with disabilities are to fully access and be a part of their communities, they must have the opportunity to work. Work is so essential that without it people with disabilities often face isolation and segregation from the very communities in which they wish to participate. The dignity, responsibility and economic independence resulting from gainful employment is the most effective way of reducing dependency on public benefits, enhancing self-reliance, changing attitudes and promoting community acceptance of people with disabilities.

Individuals working in the community
Photo courtesy Sherie Wallace
Individuals working in the community
Photo courtesy Sherie Wallace
Individuals working in the community
Photo courtesy Sherie Wallace