Shocking Statement Regarding Independent Living by Mary Lazare
Heads are turning at Congress after a blazing statement by Mary Lazare, Principal Deputy Administrator for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living. A couple weeks ago, Lazare attended the national conference held by the Autism Society in Bethesda, Maryland. There, she said that she was looking at segregating individuals with disabilities to live separately from non-disabled people. This horrifying statement is shaking up the world of independent living, how exactly we will explore below. Let’s take a look:
What Was Said
While there were no known recordings of Lazare’s statement, she did tweet via the Administration’s twitter account apologizing and rescinding her remarks. However, this tweet is meaningless since she mentioned segregation at the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities conference in Oxon Hill, Maryland earlier that same day. These statements led four federal lawmakers to write to Head of the Administration on Community Living, Lance Robertson, asking if the Administration still supports its position on independent living. Robertson confirmed that the Administration still stands with their statement, which stems from a Supreme Court decision in the case Olmstead v. L.C., asserting that individuals with disabilities have the right to live and actively participate in their communities.
Who is Mary Lazare?
Trump made Lazare Principal Deputy Administrator at the Administration. Her statements reflect the horrible decision making process at the executive level, and showcase her misunderstanding of the Olmstead case. The lawmakers wrote, “Olmstead has nothing to do with maintaining choice and everything to do with viewing the segregation of people with disabilities as a violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act,” in a letter to Lance Robertson. This raises the question: Is Mary Lazare fit to serve in her current position?
What this Means for the Disability Community
Right now, nobody can be sure of the fallout after these statements. However, it’s comforting to hear from lawmakers and senators that they stand with the Supreme Court’s decision to allow individuals with disabilities the right to live independently. In addition, Lazare’s tweets after-the-fact state that she and the Administration also stand with the Supreme Court’s decision: “I regret & apologize for my words at #ASAconf18. ACL believes ppl w/disabilities have the right & choice to live in the community. We work to expand those opptys & are 100% committed to that mission. We also recognize Olmstead gives people the right to other choices.” Nevertheless, one can say one thing in person, yet hide behind a screen to apologize and take back what s/he originally said, which is not conducive to how a person in a position of power should behave. Instead, Lazare should come out and publicly apologize for these atrocious statements. This will better lead to conversation to clear the smoke and let the dust settle.
The disability community has had a rough history. We have fought so hard and for so long to get out of and shut down institutions where we were mistreated, overmedicated, and effectively imprisoned against our wills. Furthermore, it is healthy for non-disabled people – and people in general – to get to know people of all walks of life, as it helps them grow and learn tolerance and acceptance. The Trump Administration seems to be taking steps backward in order to limit or even erase the rights of groups of people who are not caucasian. How long until the madness is over?
ILCNSCA is a full-service independent living center whose main goal is to provide independent living opportunities – including education and employment – to its members. We stand with the Supreme Court’s decision in the Olmstead v. LC. case, and vehemently disavow the statements made by Mary Lazare. We wish to see support for independent living increase among communities not just on the north shore of Massachusetts, but across the nation and even the world. For all your independent living needs, contact ILCNSCA by phone at 978-741-0077, or visit our website at https://ilcnsca.org/.
This post was written by Sperling