The other day, I had a conversation with a friend about how much we (independently) enjoy being at "home." There is nothing unusual about our conversation. For most of us, home is a refuge - whether we live in a private home, a townhouse, condo or apartment. At the end of a difficult day or week at work, it is so rewarding to head home, to rest, relax and recharge engaged in whatever activity one wants - reading, watching television, reading blog posts or just hanging out.

My enjoyment of "home" has lost a little luster of late. Every time I think about how much I love my own home, I am sad for Stanley Ligas. Stanley Ligas is 41-years-old; he has a job, takes care of his own finances and he knows what he wants. Unfortunately, an antiquated system of providing services to those persons with developmentally disabilities in Illinois keeps Stanley trapped in a large institution - a "home" that he shares with nearly 100 other people.

A few years ago, the ACLU of Illinois, along with Equip for Equality, Access Living, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and the Chicago law firm Sonnenschein Nath and Rosenthal, brought a lawsuit on behalf of Stanley and several others, seeking to give each person with developmental disabilities in Illinois a choice about where they live - a choice that is guaranteed to them under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This right was further made clear 10 years ago, when the Supreme Court decided the case Olmstead v. L.C. In short, these individuals have a civil right to live in a setting that is the one they desire and the least segregated, rather than simply being bound to a large institution.

The lawsuit resulted in a landmark settlement with the State of Illinois. Under the agreement, we felt confident that Stanley - and thousands of folks like Stanley - soon would be able to make an informed choice about where they live. The agreement would have brought critical, systemic change to a flawed system that does not serve many individuals and their families.

After a fairness hearing to consider the agreement last week, a federal court rejected the settlement and decertified the class previously approved by the court. (I wrote a post to the blog after the fairness hearing. ) This was a great disappointment for the ACLU of Illinois and our coalition partners. But the judge did not dismiss the case and our work goes forward. Read more about the court's decision and our reaction.

In a few weeks, we will celebrate the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. For all the progress that has been achieved under the ADA, it is sad that Illinois still ranks dead last when it comes to permitting persons with disabilities to live and interact in the community, rather than be stuck - like Stanley Ligas - in large institutions. It just doesn't seem fair and reminds us that we will not reach the real goal embodied in the ADA until those with disabilities are integrated fully into our communities.

This work makes me proud (again) to be part of the staff at the ACLU of Illinois. I am happy to have colleagues that work so hard for people like Stanley. Sometimes, the work here seems complicated - legalistic and complex. Not this case. Guys like Stanley just want the simple human dignity that comes from having a place of their own. I look forward to the day when we achieve that goal.