The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin posted an article (subscription required) that outlines the history of disabled Illinoisans' battle to uphold the Americans With Disabilities Act, which deems unwarranted institutionalization as discrimination. The ACLU of Illinois has worked on three community integration cases (Colbert v. Quinn, Williams v. Quinn and Ligas v. Hamos) that sought to protect the rights of developmentally disabled adults who are completely capable of living in their own communities.

In 2005, advocacy groups for the disabled sent a letter to Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich expressing their concern that little or no progress had been made in the years since the Olmstead decision. They were willing to work with the government, but only if that work was going to make a difference. The governor didn't respond. According to Barry Taylor of Equip for Equality, "It became clear to us that the only way we would have meaningful change was through litigation." A class action on behalf of specific individuals and "all those similarly situated" was the obvious solution.

In Illinois, the type of disability you have or where you live determines the type of facility where you will be housed. One case could not adequately address all of Illinois' different approaches to institutionalizing disabled adults. To meet this challenge, three legal service programs filed three separate class actions with similar allegations and the same goal. They would pool their expertise, work together on similar issues but each take the lead on one type of case. Colbert v. Quinn was filed by Access Living on behalf of a man in his 30s, Lenil Colbert, who could read, write and balance his checkbook, but had spent 13 years in a nursing home with close to 100 elderly and infirm seniors in a community located far away from his family. The Colbert case also sought relief for the 20,000 other physically and/or mentally disabled adults confined to nursing homes. Williams v. Quinn was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the 4,500 mentally ill adults institutionalized in large state-funded private facilities. Equip for Equality filed Ligas v. Hamos for the approximately 6,000 adults with developmental disabilities in similar homes. The state chose to litigate all three.

Read the rest (subscription required).