My Response to the VOR Response

At last, things are getting interesting here at the DRO Blog. Please read this and the last two blog entries and join the discussion! Your comments are welcome. (Part 3 in a series).

Read Bob’s original post in this series here. (Part 1)

Read VOR’s guest opinion post here. (Part 2)

Let’s pretend that a group was formed during the height of the civil rights movement in the 1960s and the group decided to call itself “The Voice of the Negro.”  Let’s say the group was made up of white people and a few black folks that work for them.  And, finally, let’s say that their main goal was to keep segregated lunch counters in business.

Now I could imagine that such a group would claim that their desire was to protect black people’s right to choose black-only, segregated lunch counters.  They might also argue that civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination also guarantee black people the right to choose such segregated lunch counters.  And finally, they might go to court to assert that enforcement of civil rights laws would take away the right of black people to use black-only lunch counters.

Back here in the real world, the organization “VOR” sent me a letter that says:  “Contrary to your claim, VOR has never supported only ‘institutionalization.’”  To be precise, this is what I wrote:   “VOR argues that it is fighting for ‘choice’.  That ‘choice’, of course, is to be put in an institution… VOR is closely allied with those whose livelihood and profit come from running institutions and segregated work settings.”  What I was getting at is that the choice that VOR promotes is like that of the imaginary civil rights group: the right to choose segregation.

The VOR letter and its cited “Policy and Position Statement,” clearly demonstrate that their driving force is to keep segregated, institutional settings as the dominant option for I/DD services.  They do not suggest that other services should not exist, just that they should be secondary in nature, funded only if resources are left over after the segregated settings are fully supported.

Like my fictional group, VOR claims that anti-discrimination laws (in this case, the ADA Olmstead case) create a right to be segregated.   Olmstead, of course, does nothing of the kind.  It says that if a person with disabilities is receiving governmental services, s/he has the right to receive them in the most integrated, appropriate setting.   Neither Olmstead nor other parts of the ADA create an entitlement to human services.  The ADA assures equal access to available services.  Olmstead prohibits unnecessary and unwanted segregation when receiving available services.

The VOR Policy and Position Statement calls for a “full array of high quality residential and other support options” including institutions.  That sounds reasonable, even admirable.  But, tellingly, it then describes community-based settings as having “poorly trained staff and inadequate health and safety measures in place” and claims that people with IDD “living at home or in other community settings often experience the same problems with poor care”.  It doesn’t mention any problems or concerns with institutional settings.

DRO is very familiar with problems in institutions and the community.  None are acceptable.  We know that people need to consider various perspectives and have good information, quality options and unbiased advice when making choices.   The VOR Policy and Position Statement, however, says that it “opposes efforts to remove guardianship from people with I/DD based on disagreements over the type or quality of care with government agencies, service providers, or advocates.”  Concern about the views of the person with I/DD or the actual quality of care a person is receiving are not mentioned.  VOR’s concern appears to be about WHO decides, not whether the decision is good, bad or indifferent.

My imaginary group, The Voice of the Negro, would have similarly changed its name to “VON” to address public appearance.   Like VOR, VON is not a word and most people would assume it to be an acronym.   This alteration would hide (but not change) the organization’s purpose of defending segregation.

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