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The Legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to People with Disabilities

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The North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities (NCCDD) mourns the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg authored the most important United States Supreme Court decision for people with disabilities, which was the Olmstead Decision. Olmstead is often called the Brown v. Board decision for people with disabilities.

It held that people with disabilities were unlawfully segregated in institutions and had the right to live integrated lives in the community. Justice Ginsburg explained that institutionalizing people with disabilities constitutes discrimination for two reasons.

First, it creates the impression that these individuals are incapable and unworthy of living in the community. And second, it “severely diminishes the everyday life activities of individuals, including family relations, social contacts, work options, economic independence, educational advancement, and cultural enrichment.”

As a result of Justice Ginsburg’s decision, thousands of Americans with disabilities across our state and country now live and receive supports in the community rather than in institutions. Still, there is a long way to go to see the promise of Olmstead realized.

North Carolina is currently in the process of developing an Olmstead Plan through its North Carolina Olmstead Plan Stakeholder Advisory Committee. NCCDD is actively supporting this work and supporting the vision of Justice Ginsburg’s decision in all that we do. While we mourn the loss of Justice Ginsburg, we commit to continue to build on the vision of Olmstead to ensure that every person with a disability in North Carolina has the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is the vision of Olmstead. And this is the legacy of Justice Ginsburg that we continue to build upon.