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Document: Residential Programing

These decisions flowed from the growing arguments about the possibilities of supporting people with needs that challenge support providers to live in the community. The court decisions required public funds to be used to develop community alternatives for that group of people it has been argued would always require an institution.

The research from the Pennhurst closure particularly gave added support to the development of small, community living arrangements that were able to support people with severe disabilities well in the community.

These experiences began to undermine the arguments of those who appeared to support community alternatives but in fact supported continued institutionalization for some, if not many, people.

For instance, in 1974 the National Association of Superintendents of Public Residential Facilities for the Mentally Retarded said it "thoroughly supports the recent emphasis upon community programming… [and] it does express concern over the manner in which this goal is being realized… All too often 'community back wards' and 'closeting' are being substituted for institutional 'warehousing'."

Indications that the tide was turning were clear when the President's Committee, in 1975, said that "there is now demonstrable evidence that people [with developmental disabilities] can live successfully in the community in several types of residential alternatives to institutions: their own homes, foster care or adoptive homes, small group homes, hostels and independent community residential settings."

In 1976, the NARC's Research & Demonstration Institute released Community Residences for Mentally Retarded Persons. This compendium of information on community residences included a look at community residences for people with severe disabilities. The seven community residences examined range in size from 6 to 73. Most were in the 6-10 bed range.

Don't Forget to Review: Moments in Disability History

Stories of Discrimination
Resident in room
Photo courtesy William Bronston, M.D.