In June 2009, President Barack Obama launched the “Year of Community Living” for persons with disabilities (While House, 2009). The Year of Community Living was positioned to begin on the 10th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Olmstead decision (in June 1999) and to end on the 20th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA; in July 1990). In doing so, the president committed his administration to enforcing the Supreme Court's recognition that the ADA established a right to receive needed services and support in the most integrated setting feasible and to work toward “maximizing the choices and opportunities for individuals to receive long-term services and supports in the community” (White House, 2009). As the Year of Community Living acknowledges the rights of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to share in community life, it also brings attention to past progress to that end. To examine the progress of the nation and the individual states in overcoming the discrimination that the ADA, the Olmstead decision, and the Year of Community Living have recognized as inherent to institutionalization, we present data on the most recent 20-year period on people living in community and institutional residential settings for intellectual and developmental disabilities (defined here as places other than homes shared with family members in which people receive residential services and supports). That period, between June 1988 and June 2008, might well be called the “generation of community living,” as it brought greater net increases in community residential services and accompanying decreases in institutional services than any other 20-year period in U.S. history.

Between 1988 and 2008, the number of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities living in residential settings with 6 or fewer residents increased from 78,173 to 321,025 (311%; see Table 1 and Figure 1). This growth was evident in every state, with every state but one reporting more than a 100% increase in persons living in settings of 6 or fewer residents. In June 1988, persons living in places of 6 or fewer residents made up 29% of all residents. In June 2008, they were 73% of all residents. Although data were not available for 1988, in the 1998 to 2008 decade, persons living in places of 3 or fewer residents increased by an estimated 76,437 people (60%), so that by June 2008 they made up about 47% of all residential services recipients with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The increase of residents in places of 6 or fewer residents was very similar between 1988 and 1998 (126,398) and between 1998 and 2008 (116,454). During this time, the number of people living in institutional settings of 16 or more residents decreased rapidly. There were 137,610 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in institutional settings in June 1988. That number decreased to 89,349 in June 1998, a decrease of 48,261, and then to 59,312 in June 2008, a decrease of 30,037 institutionalized persons. The proportion of residential service recipients with intellectual and developmental disabilities living in facilities with 16 or more residents went from a majority (51%) in 1988 to 14% in 2008.

Table 1.

Numbers of People With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Living in Residential Settings With 1 to 6, 7 to 15 or 16 or More People, 1988 to 2008

Numbers of People With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Living in Residential Settings With 1 to 6, 7 to 15 or 16 or More People, 1988 to 2008
Numbers of People With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Living in Residential Settings With 1 to 6, 7 to 15 or 16 or More People, 1988 to 2008
Figure 1.

Distribution of residential service recipients with intellectual and developmental disabilities by size of setting in 1988, 1998, and 2008.

Figure 1.

Distribution of residential service recipients with intellectual and developmental disabilities by size of setting in 1988, 1998, and 2008.

The number of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities living in settings of 7 to 15 persons changed relatively little during the 1988 to 2008 period: 51,899 people in 1988; 54,474 people in 1998; and 56,529 people in 2008. However, because of overall growth in the number of residential service recipients, the proportion of all residential service recipients in settings of 7 to 15 people decreased from 19% in 1988 to 13% in 2008.

The total number of people who received residential services increased from 267,682 in 1988 to 436,866 in 2008, a 57% increase. This compares with a total U.S. population growth of 26% during the period. The number of people receiving residential services grew by 80,711 persons (30%) between 1988 and 1998, from 267,682 to 348,393 persons, and by 88,473 persons (25%) between 1998 and 2008, from 348,393 to 436,866 persons.

(Sources: Lakin, K.C., Larson, S.A., Salmi, P., & Scott, N. (2009). Residential services for persons with developmental disabilities: Status and trends through 2008. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Research and Training Center on Community Living; White House (2009). President Obama commemorates anniversary of Olmstead (available from http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/President-Obama-Commemorates-Anniversary-of-Olmstead-and-Announces-New-Initiatives-to-Assist-Americans-with-Disabilities.)

Acknowledgments

Preparation of this report was supported by a grant from the Administration on Developmental Disabilities (Grant 90D0217/01) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and a cooperative agreement with supplemental support from the National Institute on Disabilities and Rehabilitation Research, U.S. Department of Education (Agreement H133B080005-09).

Edited by K. Charlie Lakin and David Braddock