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Biden Administration Plans Crackdown on Disability Rights Violations

June 27, 2023
Source: Disability Scoop

Federal officials are beefing up enforcement of a key U.S. Supreme Court decision that affirmed the rights of people with disabilities to be supported in the community whenever possible.

The Office for Civil Rights [OCR] at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [HHS] said it is launching a new national initiative to “help drive compliance with the integration mandate and protect the rights of people with disabilities.”

In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled that people with disabilities have the right under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA] and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to receive services in the most integrated setting that’s appropriate to their needs.

The decision in the case known as Olmstead v. L.C. accelerated a shift away from institutions in favor of serving people with disabilities in community-based settings. However, more than two decades later, hundreds of thousands of individuals nationwide remain on waiting lists to access services in the community.

The new initiative, announced this month to coincide with the 24th anniversary of the Olmstead decision, will reinvigorate enforcement and compliance efforts at the Office for Civil Rights by addressing complaints received by the office and other barriers to community living, officials said.

In addition, the civil rights office plans to ensure that state and local entities as well as those receiving funding from HHS understand their obligations under the ADA. And, there will be technical assistance and other outreach to educate providers on their responsibilities and make sure that stakeholders know their rights.

“Twenty-four years ago, the Supreme Court affirmed that people with disabilities have a right to live and receive services where they live. The landmark ruling has enabled millions of Americans to have greater independence, autonomy and opportunities to participate fully in their communities,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra. “Progress has been made, but there is still much work to be done. This new initiative from OCR creates additional opportunities for people with disabilities to live, work and participate in their communities.”

In a posting about the new effort, Melanie Fontes Rainer, director of the Office for Civil Rights, encouraged people to speak up about problems accessing community living.

“We welcome information from the public about individual and systemic Olmstead compliance issues that would benefit from OCR’s investigation, technical assistance and enforcement activities,” she wrote. “If you believe that a person with a disability has been denied access to community-based services and supports, you may file a complaint with HHS OCR.”

Beyond the Olmstead enforcement initiative, HHS said it also expects to propose new regulations later this year to clarify disability rights protections under Section 504.

Related news:

HHS Marks 24th Anniversary of the Olmstead Decision
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)