Thoughts on the Passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

September 2020

Sally Gould-Taylor
Interim Executive Director
Institute on Disabilities at Temple University
College of Education and Human Development

photo of Ruth Bader Ginsburg wearing black judicial robe and lace collar
Official portrait of Justice Ginsburg, 2016

The Institute on Disabilities at Temple University pauses today to honor the life and work of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg passed away Friday, September 18, 2020, at the age of 87. While perhaps best known for her work to promote gender equality, Justice Ginsburg was a tireless advocate for equality of opportunity for all.

In 1999, Justice Ginsburg authored the majority opinion in Olmstead v. L.C., a landmark case for disability rights and inclusion. The Court's Opinion affirmed, that people with disabilities have a civil right to live, work and participate in all aspects of their communities and found that segregation of people with disabilities is a type of discrimination prohibited under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Speaking of the harm caused by segregation on the basis of disability, Justice Ginsburg wrote: it "perpetuates unwarranted assumptions that persons so isolated are incapable or unworthy of participating in community life" and "diminishes the everyday life activities of individuals, including family relations, social contacts, work options, economic independence, educational advancement, and cultural enrichment."

Olmstead was a game changer for people with disabilities and their families who seek community inclusion and participation. Because of the Olmstead decision, people with disabilities, including those with intellectual disabilities, have the right to choose home and community-based services instead of institutional or congregate care, which heretofore had been the only option for those needing support.

Through our work with and on behalf of people with disabilities and their families, the Institute on Disabilities, strives to follow the example and words of Justice Ginsburg. She said, "If you want to be a true professional, you will do something outside yourself. Something to repair tears in your community. Something to make life a little better for people less fortunate than you. That's what I think a meaningful life is – living not for oneself, but for one's community."

May her memory be a Revolution.


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