Autism Society Statement on the 20th Anniversary of the Supreme Court Olmstead Decision

Bethesda, MD, June 22, 2019 — On June 22, 1999, the United States Supreme Court held in Olmstead v. L.C. that unjustified segregation of persons with disabilities constitutes discrimination in violation of title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Supreme Court explained that its holding “reflects two evident judgments.” First, “institutional placement of persons who can handle and benefit from community settings perpetuates unwarranted assumptions that persons so isolated are incapable of or unworthy of participating in community life.” Second, “confinement in an institution severely diminishes the everyday life activities of individuals, including family relations, social contacts, work options, economic independence, educational advancement, and cultural enrichment.”

Today, the Autism Society of America joins other national disability and civil rights organizations to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of this landmark decision. This decision led to increased community participation and independence of people with disabilities.

Unfortunately, however, the commitment of many states to meet the high demand for services and supports in the community is lacking. Many individuals and families are languishing on waiting lists for employment, residential, respite, personal assistance, and other services.  Families with adult family members with autism and other developmental disabilities with significant support needs are expected to care for individuals, sometimes for a lifetime.

The Autism Society urges the federal government to use this anniversary to recommit to supporting people with disabilities in the community.  We urge federal government agencies to work together to develop an enforceable plan to hold states accountable for their Olmstead plans. This must include changing laws, infusing resources, and using the full weight of the Department of Justice to ensure that these plans are implemented.

“People with autism and other disabilities deserve to have the best chance to lead meaningful lives to the best of their abilities,” stated Scott Badesch, president and CEO. “And parents and other family members deserve to know that they and their loved ones will be supported with quality services and supports in their life-long journey.”

The Autism Society is the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots organization representing children and adults with autism across the lifespan.

For more information about the Autism Society, see

For more information about the Olmstead decision, see