June 23, 2011; Source: Huffington Post | Two recent developments highlight how the lives of people with disabilities can change through policy decisions. Current actions in Los Angeles and Illinois will affect individuals, families and agencies advocating for the disabled.

Nine people with disabilities sued the state of Illinois for failing to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which says that states must provide disability checks to people who qualify, regardless where they live. Illinois restricted its funding to people living in institutions. As part of a settlement earlier in June, 3,000 people with disabilities will be able to move out of institutions and into community based housing over the next six years. Prior to the settlement, there was a 14-year waiting list of people wishing to leave institutional living.

As Illinois expands its community based housing options for people with disabilities, the city council of Los Angeles voted to draft an ordinance to forbid people living in group homes
to collect disability checks.

Neighbors have objected to placing group homes in their neighborhoods because they can bring drugs and violence. If the ordinance passes, advocates believe that current residents of these homes will be forced to live in dilapidated residences or on the street.

The proposed ordinance says that everyone living in a single family home must be on the same lease. This includes people living in group homes. In order to collect funding from the state of California, people with disabilities are required to maintain their own leases.

As Illinois moves people with disabilities into community based housing, Los Angeles may be moving them out. People with disabilities who depend on government funding have more at stake than most of us. These developments have made that clear. — Nancy Knoche