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Olmstead Academy on mission to change narrative about people living with disabilities

Olmstead Academy is shifting the narrative about people living with disabilities
Olmstead Academy is shifting the narrative about people living with disabilities 02:52

MINNEAPOLIS — "Olmstead" is a big name that changed a lot of lives in the United States.

In 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Olmstead v. L.C. that segregating people with disabilities without a valid reason is illegal.  

Sue Jamieson was an attorney who filed the case. It was an extension of her advocacy on behalf of men and women confined to institutions. 

The case was filed in the name of Lois Curtis, who was diagnosed with severe mental disabilities at age 12 and was forced to leave public school and attend a psycho-educational center.  

Curtis says the separation from her family and friends was traumatic and not helpful to her development.

The court agreed with the plaintiffs, leading to groundbreaking legislation.   


The Olmstead Academy is put on by Advocating Change Together (ACT). It's a place where self-advocates make projects to show the rest of the world the challenges people with disabilities face daily. 

Many talk about transportation issues, which is a huge barrier to having a job and independence. They also talk about guardianship.

"It's about educating. For example, our project is about guardianship and bringing awareness that even though people with disabilities might have guardians, they still have rights, they still have the opportunity to make decisions, but they don't know it," said ACT's Meredith Kujala. "We have 40-some voices in there that after this week will go out and spread more awareness, and spread word about inclusion and just making sure everybody's at the table and being heard."

Jennifer Walton is ACT's executive director.

"I think the biggest hope is to really shift the narrative that it is not people with disabilities who need to keep changing. We need society and systems to change, to accommodate, to be accessible, to be inclusive so that we can see real integration in all of the spaces where we live, work and play, and to be able to do that side by side together with everyone," Walton said.

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