In The Politics of Autism, I discuss problems facing autistic adults.
Now, a plan to create a new program on the property for young people 21 and over who have "aged out" of Giant Steps has run into a stone wall, with the town planning board rejecting an expansion plan. The obstacle placed in Roberts' path has attracted the attention of advocates statewide, who are sensitive to what they perceive to be "not-in-my-backyard reactions to the placement or expansion of programs for people with disabilities. They point out that there is a severe shortage in Connecticut of services for the 21-and-over population, who are no longer eligible for the federally mandated educational benefits they enjoyed since preschool.
In interviews, advocates watching this play out from afar — Roberts has filed an appeal of the commission's denial of the expansion — say they believe that programs that serve people with disabilities have, over time, encountered barriers such as this with greater frequency than other business plans. They mentioned the placement of group homes and sober houses, and the proposed expansion of treatment facilities, as examples. But they said this denial cuts particularly deep.
"It potentially raises an ADA claim," said disability rights lawyer Kathleen Flaherty, referring to the Americans With Disabilities Act. The law requires reasonable accommodations to be made so people with disabilities have a chance to participate in mainstream life.
In fact, Roberts' appeal, filed by lawyer Michael Bologna of Fairfield, raises an ADA claim.
"You can't help but think that something else is going on," said Flaherty, executive director of the Connecticut Legal Rights Project in Middletown.