By Jill Barker
My son Danny is forty years old this week. He has multiple disabilities resulting from brain damage acquired during his first few days after birth. He functions at the level of a 6 to 12 month old infant and always will. And, yes, I know he is not really an infant. We do not love him less because he lives and survives with profound developmental disabilities.
I first heard the term Inclusion around 1990. Danny was 13 years old and attending High Point School in Ann Arbor. High Point was an outstanding program for Danny, bringing together services, expertise, and a supportive community to accommodate children with the most severe disabilities, including complex medical and behavioral conditions.
Inclusion, when applied to schooling for disabled children, is the belief that all children, regardless of the severity or nature of their disabilities, can and should be educated in regular classrooms with their non-disabled peers. Inclusion was promoted by many disability advocates as a “right” for every child. Most discussions of the idea did not include an examination of whether the premise on which the belief is based is true for every child or whether it is required by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (it is not). In the face of any disagreement with the idea, promoters of inclusion encouraged families to take sides: “Are you for ‘Inclusion’ or against it?” Or as many advocates would have it, “Do you want disabled children isolated and segregated from the rest of society or do you want them to be fully integrated into and embraced by ‘the community’”? This continues to this day.
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On March 6th, 2018 the House Judiciary Committee convened to examine the harmful effects of class action lawsuits aimed at closing Intermediate Care Facilites for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF's/IID). The hearing came at the request of Chairman Bob Goodlatte.
Testimony was presented by Martha Bryant, Mother, RN, BSN & VOR member, Caroline Lahrmann, Mother, VOR Ohio State Coordinator & past president, and Peter Kinzler, Father, longtime VOR Member, Director & Legislative Committee Chair. Alison Barkoff of the Center for Public Representation.
spoke on behalf of those in favor of using class action lawsuits against ICF's/IID and opposed to providing notification to families and guardians of individuals residing in these homes.
Read or download testimony of the participants:
In September, 2018 VOR sent out 2 Action Alerts, asking Congress to pause and reconsider HR 3506, the EMPOWER Act to renew the Money Follows the Person (MFP) program.
VOR continues to support the rights of parents, family members, and concerned individuals as legal guardians of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We have collected some of our current and past documents here for your convenience.
In March of 2018, the National Council on Disability issued a position paper, "Beyond Guardianship, Toward Alternatives That Promote Greater Self-Determination". In September, VOR's Issues Oversight Committee submitted a report on our position and findings regarding that report.
VOR's Response is available to download here
Issues to Consider Regarding Guardianship and Supported Decision Making
By VOR's Issues and Oversight Committee on Guardianship Rights
Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their parents, family members and guardians may have heard about Supported Decision-Making (SDM), an initiative that could affect their decision-making rights. Some see SDM as an alternative to guardianship, while others view it as an attempt to remove the legal instrument that provides a safety net for vulnerable individuals.
VOR is a national organization that advocates for high quality care and human rights for individuals with I/DD. We understand the valuable role that guardians play in the emotional and physical well-being of their wards. As advocates who appreciate the diversity of the I/DD community and the need for a wide array of supports, we want to ensure that guardians and family members are aware of the issues connected to Supported Decision-Making so that they can make informed decisions about the care of their loved one with disabilities.