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Remembering Lois Curtis


The world suffered a great loss on Thursday, November 3rd with the passing of Disability Rights Icon Lois Curtis. It was because of Lois, we now have the Olmstead Decision. The Olmstead Decision says that disabled people should NOT be segregated from the rest of the community. In fact, the disability community should receive their services and supports in the most integrated setting. The Court held that states are required to provide community-based services for people with disabilities who would otherwise be entitled to institutional services when: (a) such placement is appropriate; (b) the affected person does not oppose such treatment; and (c) the placement can be reasonably accommodated, taking into account the resources available to the state and the needs of other individuals with disabilities.


Born in 1969, Lois had Cognitive disabilities alongside Schizophrenia. She was in and out of institutions in her youth until finally, her family was threatened to either send her to jail or admit her into a mental institution. She was twelve when she was ripped from her family. She was a black disabled woman living in Georgia and at the time there were few options for disabled people. In the institution, she was consistently kept under medication which made her feel tired and being stuck in the institution, she felt she was missing out on living her life. She had hopes and dreams of living in her own space in the community where she could live her life as she chose. Lois was an artist, singer and song writer.


While in the institution she sought out help from Legal Aid to get back into her own home. From this, she became a co-defendant in the Olmstead v Lois Curtis case. From this, in a decision delivered by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, that Curtis other people with disabilities had a right—under the Americans with Disabilities Act—to live in the least restrictive setting. Lois was able to leave the institution and move into her own home in Clarkston, Georgia.


While living in the community, she worked to help other disabled people by going around the country using her art and speaking on the struggles of disabled people forced into institutions. This month and going forward, we must never forget Lois Curtis and what she did for our community. Lois passed away on November 3rd surrounded by loved ones in her own home. She lived in freedom in her own home for 20 years.


Rest in Power, Lois Curtis. Thank you.



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