Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Opinion: Will Government Restrict Autism Housing Options?

From Age of Autism, post by Nancy Bernotaitis, parent of three children, her youngest, 15, diagnosed on the autism spectrum.  Nancy has been involved in the autism community for over 13 years serving as president of the Autism Society of America-Dayton Chapter, Goodwill/Easter Seals Assistive Technology Specialist, and webinar moderator for Moms Fighting Autism.  She is the Executive Director of Good Works Farm, Inc., a future farm community for adults with autism. 

As is typical of our government, a ruling meant to protect Americans with disabilities (Olmstead v. L.C. 1999) is being misconstrued to the detriment of this population.  In Olmstead v. L.C., a ruling requires states to “eliminate unnecessary segregation of persons with disabilities and to ensure that persons with disabilities receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate for their needs.” 
In 2009, President Obama issued a proclamation launching the “Year of Community Living” and directed his Administration to redouble enforcement efforts.
The U.S. Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) lead by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) is charged with this enforcement. 
In May of 2013, Jeff Rosen, Chairperson of the National Council on Disability (NCD), an independent federal agency charged with advising Congress and the executive branch on disability policy, wrote a letter to Shaun Donovan, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), interpreted the ruling to mean that individuals with disabilities move from provider-owned housing into their own homes or scattered-site housing and apartments, and urged HUD to issue “guidance to recipients of HUD funds on meeting the obligations of Olmstead and the integration mandate of the ADA.”  In his letter, Mr. Rosen seeks to define community living as “utilizing a definition that excludes gated communities, segregated farmsteads, clusters of group homes, settings that restrict personal choice and control, and other settings with the characteristics of an institution.”

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