Thousands of Illinois residents with developmental disabilities will soon be able to move into the community, under a legal settlement approved in federal court this week.

The agreement, which brings an end to a lawsuit first filed in 2005, will ensure that individuals with disabilities who are currently living in large, state-supported care facilities have the option to move into the community. It also guarantees an additional 3,000 residents now living with their families access to community-based services in the next six years.

Meanwhile, the settlement makes certain that those who prefer to live in larger facilities will continue to be able to do so. That was a sticking point that led a previous resolution in the case to fall through.

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The agreement is part of an effort to bring Illinois in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act. In 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the law requires people with disabilities to have the option to live in the community whenever possible.

Nine people with developmental disabilities first brought the lawsuit that prompted this week’s agreement, alleging that the state of Illinois denied their requests for community-based services.

“This agreement is just one more step in the historic process to assure persons with disabilities in Illinois have the choice to live in small, community-based settings, where they can make decisions about who they live with, what time they eat, what time they go to sleep and what they do during the day,” said Patti Werner, an attorney with Access Living, an organization that helped the plaintiffs pursue the lawsuit.

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