Our next post for Black History Month is dedicated to Lois Curtis, one of the plaintiffs in the landmark 1999 Olmstead Supreme Court decision. Lois is an artist, is Autistic, and spent much of her life from the age of 11 in institutions. She frequently contacted Atlanta Legal Aid Society in attempts to get help to get out of these institutions, such as Georgia Regional Hospital. Today, Lois enjoys her life outside of institutions and receives community supports. She is quoted as saying: “I go out to eat sometimes. I take art classes. I draw pretty pictures and make money. I go out of town and sell me artwork. I go to church and pray to the Lord. I raise my voice high! In the summer I go to the pool and put my feet in the water. Maybe I’ll learn to swim someday. I been fishing. I seen a pig and a horse on a farm. I buy clothes and shoes. I have birthday parties. They a lot of fun. I’m not afraid of big dogs no more. I feel good about myself. My life a better life.”
The 1999 Olmstead decision continues to impact the civil rights of disabled people beyond its initial rulings. The US DoJ settlement agreement with the State of Georgia to “transition all individuals with developmental disabilities in the State Hospitals from the Hospitals to community settings” was heavily impacted by the Olmstead decision, and our own NWGA CIL staff members experienced the effects of that settlement agreement on a variety of fronts.
We continue to work towards equity, access, inclusion and IL-philosophy’s application to services & supports across the board. Lois Curtis’ fight in the Olmstead case–and her continued work–is a major part of this movement.
You can read the Olmstead decision at this link from the Library of Congress (the file is in pdf format).