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Lois Curtis, artist and advocate for disability rights, dies at 55

“She was the lead plaintiff in a landmark Supreme Court decision that gave people with disabilities the right to seek care services in their own homes and communities, not just in institutions

Confined to psychiatric hospitals and institutions against her wishes, Lois Curtis would regularly call for help, dialing the number of a sympathetic lawyer who handed out her business card to social workers and people with disabilities. “When can I get out of here?” she would ask. “Would you please get me out of here?”

Ms. Curtis had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and developmental disabilities as a young woman, and by her late 20s she had spent more than half her life in state institutions. Isolated and angry, she chain smoked to pass the time and prayed to God at night, asking to be rescued from the Georgia Regional Hospital in Atlanta.”

The article goes on to discuss the details of the case, called Olmstead v. L.C. — Ms. Curtis was the “L.C.” — and how it galvanized the disability rights movement, offering a legal framework for people with disabilities to secure the right to live, work and study in their own communities. Some lawyers described it as the movement’s Brown v. Board of Education, comparing it to the 1954 Supreme Court ruling that outlawed racial segregation in public schools. Read more here.

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