INDEPENDENT LIVING: We’re (principally) again to regular! | Opinion

A week and a half ago, New York State announced a milestone: More than 70% of adults in the Empire State had at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. And what is its meaning? According to the Associated Press, Governor Andrew Cuomo crowed in front of a crowd that was only invited to the World Trade Center in Manhattan: “What does 70% mean? It means that we can now return to life as we know it. “

That sounds terrible! But it might be oversimplified, says a friend who enjoys performing in community theater productions and is still waiting for the 16-month draft to end.

Others who may have less reason to celebrate are those who did not enjoy what was called a “normal life” even before the pandemic, such as people in nursing homes or other community care facilities who would have preferred to live in their own homes in the community.

Finding even an approximate number of people in need in Niagara County is difficult as there are at least 17 of these facilities (11 skilled care facilities, four adult nursing homes, one assisted living facility, and one assisted living program). The New York State Department of Health counts 117 COVID-19 deaths in the county’s nursing homes as of February 2021, which appears to be the average of the county’s statistic statistics. That this number isn’t viewed as a shocking percentage of the total number of community care residents in the county means the actual number of residents is a multiple of 117.

Another reason to consider this group is that we just have a major anniversary behind us. June 22nd marked the 22nd anniversary of the US Supreme Court ruling in the Olmstead v. 1999 LC which found the institutionalization of people with intellectual disabilities against their will under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act 1990 (ADA). Talk about a game changer in treating people with mental illness!

To clarify the details, the ruling was that people with intellectual disabilities have the right to live in the community rather than in institutions if, in the words of the Court, “the state’s treatment experts have determined that community placement is appropriate “. , Transfer from institutional care to a less restrictive setting will not be refused by the person concerned, and placement can be adequately provided taking into account the resources available to the state and the needs of others with intellectual disabilities. “

While personally I would have preferred the judgment to include fewer reservations and potential institutional loopholes, it is essentially that the person who is able to live self-sufficient can choose for himself whether he or she prefers to live in one less restrictive environment to live ie the community.

If it hadn’t been for the coronavirus restrictions from a few months ago when the planning took place, my agency, Independent Living of Niagara County, would have continued their perennial practice of an Olmstead Decision Jubilee Picnic at a local park weekend. Next, together with our colleagues from our mother agency Western New York Independent Living, Inc., we will celebrate a virtual Disability Pride Celebration on the anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act from July 26th.

Both the Olmstead Decision and the ADA are hugely important milestones for people with disabilities to achieve their legal right to fight discrimination, and they are extremely worth celebrating. To follow our preparations, visit our website at: Please join those of us who believe that people with disabilities have the right to “live in their homes, not at home”.

Sarah K. Lanzo is the director of Independent Living of Niagara County, a member of the Western New York Independent Living Inc. family of agencies serving people with disabilities. For more information, call 284-4131 ext 200.

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