Annual Interactive Dialogue on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
“Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on living independently and being included in the community”
28th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
March 10, 2015
Thank you, Mr. President.
The United States warmly welcomes today’s discussion on the rights of persons with disabilities to live independently. This discussion is particularly timely for us as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in July. This landmark legislation ensures that persons with disabilities have the same rights under our laws that others enjoy. We point to the ADA when we assist other countries in improving their domestic legislation and implementing their obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
The United States has a strong commitment to enabling persons with disabilities to live independently and be included in the community. This commitment arose from the groundbreaking advocacy of persons with disabilities and their organizations. We know that successfully supporting people with disabilities to remain in, and return to, the community includes the need for accessible housing options and accessible transportation. It includes having access to quality services and supports as needed. It means access to education and competitive, integrated employment opportunities on an equal basis with others. It also requires changing attitudes, and overcoming stigma and fear of the unknown.
In the landmark 1999 Olmstead v. L.C decision, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that the ADA prohibits unnecessary segregation and protects the right of persons with disabilities to receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate for them. The Olmstead ruling was a critical step for our nation because it acknowledged that the choice to live independently is fundamental for Americans with disabilities. As such, President Obama launched the Year of Community Living on the tenth anniversary of the Olmstead decision. By establishing Community Living as a priority throughout the United States government, the President signaled the importance of living independently and being included in the community. Federal and state agencies are working together to achieve the goals of Olmstead.
Our Departments of Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development collaborate to provide funding and technical assistance to states so that they can develop and expand the full array of community services. These services range from housing and health care to transportation and employment. The Department of Health and Human Services has its own organization focused on Community Living. This part of that agency works to maximize the independence, well-being, and health of people with disabilities across the lifespan. It also works to support the families and caregivers of persons with disabilities. Our Department of Justice’s enforcement efforts have helped states comply with Olmstead’s community integration mandate. These enforcement efforts also have helped ensure that states serve people with disabilities in the way most conducive to independence and full participation in community life.
We are proud of the progress we have made, and we look forward to celebrating our 25th year of the ADA.