Olmstead Act Turns 13

“For the Department of Justice, turning the promise of the Olmstead decision into a reality for individuals with disabilities across the nation has become a major component of ADA enforcement.”
Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez

The Supreme Court heard the case Olmstead vs. L.C. on April 21, 1999 and decided it on June 22, 1999. This week marks the thirteenth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in which the Supreme Court recognized that the civil rights of people with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are violated when they are unnecessarily segregated from the rest of society.  The promise of Olmstead is that people with disabilities will have the opportunity to live like people without disabilities – to have friends, work, be part of a family, and participate in community activities because states are required to ensure that persons with disabilities receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.

In reaffirming its commitment to enforcement of the Olmstead decision, the Department of Justice has chosen to commemorate the anniversary of the Olmsted decision by presenting “Faces of Olmstead” a website profiling stories of some of the thousands of people whose lives have been affected by the Olmstead decision and the Department’s enforcement efforts.

To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the decision, President Obama issued a proclamation launching the “Year of Community Living,” and directed the Administration to redouble enforcement efforts. In a press release commemorating the 13th anniversary President Obama had this to say: “The landmark Olmstead case affirmed the rights of Americans with disabilities to live independently,” said President Obama. “On this anniversary, let’s recommit ourselves to building on the promise of Olmstead by working to end all forms of discrimination, and uphold the rights of Americans with disabilities and all Americans.”

To learn more about the Olmstead decision and the Civil Rights Division’s enforcement activities, visit, Olmstead: Community Integration for Everyone. A brief explanation of the Olmstead may also be found at The Olmstead Act – What Is It?


WINAHEAD is made up of representatives from thirty institutions. Our members are professionals employed by two- and four-year colleges and universities who work directly with students with disabilities to ensure equal access to higher education. WIN indicates the geographic area we represent: Western Iowa and Nebraska. AHEAD is our national parent organization, the Association on Higher Education and Disability.
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