As INARF first reported in September, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) entered into a proposed settlement agreement with the State of Oregon in a class action lawsuit, Lane v. Brown. The State of Oregon was charged with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Olmstead v. L.C. The DOJ investigation showed that Oregon was in violation of Olmstead in that it over-relied on sheltered workshops as adult placements. Interviews with individuals receiving services indicated that they would prefer community-based employment and had the capability of maintaining competitive employment, but few were offered supported employment as an alternative.
In their findings, the DOJ concluded that facility-based employment is a segregated setting, the majority of Oregon’s employment and vocational services are delivered in facility-based employment settings, many persons in facility-based employment could be served in individual supported employment, and the State administers its employment and vocational services system in a manner that segregates persons with disabilities in facility-based employment. The US District Court for the District of Oregon approved the settlement agreement in late December. The agreement will impact approximately 7,000 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in Oregon who can and want to work in employment settings in the community. Under the terms of the agreement, 1,115 people in sheltered workshops will receive jobs in the community at competitive wages over the next seven years. An additional 7,000 individuals will receive employment services, providing them the opportunity to work in the community.
This case highlights Olmstead's Integration Mandate, which requires states to offer access to the most integrated setting consistent to an individual's needs and desires. Under the mandate, individuals should be presented with the choice of community-based employment and facility-based employment and permitted to choose facility-based employment after being offered this choice. Not offering individuals with disabilities the option of community based options, as a function of either state policy and/or funding, and without regard to the individual's needs or desires, is inconsistent with the mandate.
As INARF has previously affirmed, we advocate for options, access, and choice. The Association firmly believes that work is a critical component of the human experience, and it is the right of all individuals to work in the most integrated setting of choice, appropriate to their skill level. We believe that to ensure the highest level of integration it is essential that individuals receive information and support in making informed employment decisions that are based on their short and long term goals. Further, it is critical that employment services are fully and adequately funded, that transition planning be a priority and that the system supports a full array of employment options including self-employment, supported employment, and facility-based employment to assure that all Hoosiers with disabilities have the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of work.