Seventeen years ago today, the Supreme Court decided in Olmstead v. L.C. (Olmstead) that under the Americans with Disabilities Act, people with disabilities cannot be unnecessarily segregated and must receive services in the most integrated setting possible. This landmark decision is at the core of ACL’s mission and has caused a shift in funding, policy, and attitudes toward community living that has improved the quality of countless lives of people with disabilities and older adults.
In 2015, the Workforce Investment and Opportunities Act (WIOA) took another step toward codifying the spirit of Olmstead, adding transitions as a fifth “core service” provided by Centers for Independent Living. CILs know better than anyone how important transition services are. But in a time of limited resources, the increased expectations that accompany a mission expansion can seem daunting.
We have to remember that supporting transition is not really new for all of us. Empowering people with disabilities to live in the community and assisting youth in making the transition from school to adulthood have been the heart and soul of the independent living movement. WIOA makes the importance of this work explicit.
So how do we do it? One of the most exciting ways we can enhance the capacity of the IL networks, and provide the fifth core service within the limits of existing resources, is to expand the partnerships and collaboration with organizations outside of the traditional IL networks.
Some, if not many, CILs have already begun building these relationships. We can all share experiences and best practices and learn from each other’s successes and setbacks.
A number CILs are working closely with their local Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) to help older adults remain in the community. For instance, Placer Independent Resource Services (PIRS) works with the local AAA to help older adults obtain home modifications, like grab bars, ramps, and door levers that make it possible for older adults to leave a nursing facility, or avoid one in the first place. Another partnership success is the Arthritis Foundation Walk with Ease program, which was funded by the AAA and executed by PIRS. The program educated both older adults and people of all ages with disabilities on the importance of stretching and physical activity as a tool in self-management of chronic disease or disability.
Another CIL, Resources for Independent Living, in Sacramento CA partners with their local AAA to coordinate a falls prevention program and train social workers at a local older adult calling center on resources and disability issues.
Partnerships are not only important at the local level, though. They are important at the federal level as well. Through ACL’s partnership with the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), CILs, AAAs and other community-based organizations are now eligible providers in the Veteran-Directed Home-and Community-Based Services. CILs are uniquely positioned to participate in this opportunity and assist veterans in choosing and managing the supports and services they need. We will provide more information soon on how CILs can work with VA Medical Centers on this exciting program.
These are just a few examples of how partnerships can help Centers for Independent Living and State Independent Living Councils do what they do best: empower people with disabilities to take charge of our futures, with the services and supports we need to live our lives to the fullest.
We want to learn from and share your partnership successes, too. Share your stories with us. Thanks for all you do to make the promise of Olmstead real for people with disabilities of all ages.