A groundbreaking Consent Decree in Ligas v. Hamos, finalized in the federal district court in Chicago, will dramatically expand community living options for people with developmental disabilities, while assuring that those who choose to live in larger facilities may continue to do so.

The Consent Decree gives individuals with developmental disabilities who currently live in large private, but state supported, facilities known as Intermediate Care Facilities for the Developmentally Disabled (ICF-DDs) the choice to move into small community-based settings with the necessary supports. The Consent Decree also requires that an additional 3,000 people with developmental disabilities currently living at home be provided with community-based services.

"Final approval of the Consent Decree represents a milestone for the treatment of individuals with developmental disabilities in Illinois," commented lead trial counsel John Grossbart, a litigation partner and managing partner of the Chicago office of SNR Denton, which represented plaintiffs on a pro bono basis. "For far too long, Illinois’ citizens with developmental disabilities have not been given the ability to choose. The Consent Decree rectifies this wrong. It will allow residents and their families to make their own judgments about which living arrangements are best for them, and it meets the needs of both our clients and those who prefer ICF-DDs. We are very proud to have played a part in this important expansion of disability rights."

Twenty years ago, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and more than 10 years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that undue segregation is discrimination under the ADA. Notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s ruling, most people with developmental disabilities in Illinois seeking residential services are only offered placements in large facilities. Illinois currently ranks at 50th among all states and the District of Columbia in serving people with developmental disabilities in small integrated settings.

"This case is about choice, and now thousands of people with developmental disabilities will have the option to choose community living," said Barry Taylor, Legal Advocacy Director at Equip for Equality, which served as lead counsel for the plaintiffs. "Under the Consent Decree, the State of Illinois will move closer to fulfilling the promise of the ADA to integrate people with disabilities into our society."

"Experience around the country shows that when given meaningful supports, people with disabilities thrive in community settings," explained Benjamin Wolf, Associate Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and co-counsel for the plaintiffs. "We are pleased that everyone involved has come together to offer real choices to these citizens of Illinois."

"This agreement is just one more step in the historic process to assure persons with disabilities in Illinois have the choice to live in small, community-based settings, where they can make decisions about who they live with, what time they eat, what time they go to sleep and what they do during the day," explained Patti Werner, Managing Attorney for Community Integration at Access Living and co-counsel for the plaintiffs.

"I want to live with friends in the community and have my own room," said David Cicarelli, a named plaintiff in the case. David’s father, Jim Cicarelli agreed, "We’re so happy that our son, and many others with developmental disabilities, will be fully integrated into the community. For over 10 years, David has waited to fulfill his dream to live in the community. We are thrilled that finally his dream will be realized."

A copy of the Consent Decree and other documents relevant to the case are available at www.equipforequality.org.