Texas moves a step closer to comprehensive ADA settlement

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News from Texas

The state of Texas, the Department of Justice and a coalition of disability advocacy groups announced an interim settlement August 19, temporarily suspending litigation as the parties move to find a way to accelerate the state’s deinstitutionalization efforts.

“Many (people with disabilities) have been denied the opportunity to live where they choose, and have essentially been imprisoned simply for having a disability,” Amy Mizcles, executive director of The Arc of Texas, said in a news release. “We are heartened to see this practice beginning to come to an end.”

In December 2010, Disability Rights Texas, the Arc of Texas, the Center for Public Representation and the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.

The lawsuit accused the state of unnecessarily segregating as many as 4,500 people with disabilities in its network of 13 state-owned nursing homes, through a practice of systematically neglecting to evaluate the residents to determine if they are eligible to be transferred to more community-based settings.

Though the parties provided few details, the interim settlement commits the state to expanding community living options, improving evaluation procedures for individuals in the nursing homes and taking other steps to bring the state into compliance with federal law.

“Both the (Americans with Disabilities Act) and Texas law mandate that the state provide services to individuals with disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs,” Steven Schwartz, an attorney with Center for Public Representation, said in a news release. “The filing of the interim agreement with the court represents a positive step to meeting these requirements.

“It represents progress towards achieving a final, comprehensive agreement that puts Texas on the right path towards properly serving thousands of institutionalized individuals in their own communities.”

Disability Rights Texas and Disability Rights Washington, which publishes this Galaxy Website, are part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and members of the National Disability Rights Network.