Justice Department report alleges Utah in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Jun 18, 2024, 9:50 PM | Updated: 10:27 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — A Justice Department report released Tuesday suggests Utah is segregating youth and adults with disabilities, alleging that the state is breaking federal civil rights laws.

Justice Department finds Utah segregating people with disabilities

The investigation that started in March of 2021 alleges the state is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by not integrating people with disabilities into the community. Findings show that while everything is working well on paper, reality says otherwise.

“One of my goals is to live independently with a roommate,” Emily Arthur said. She has Down Syndrome and works nine hours weekly at Concordia Lutheran Elementary School and Learning Center.

But, her mother, Julie, says that her part-time job was no thanks to the state and that the Justice Department report is long overdue. “It’s like no one takes you seriously that she wants a job earning equal pay to someone else doing that job,” Julie Arthur tells KSLTV.

Julie says she and her daughter have met with state-led programs since Emily graduated from Corner Canyon High School but always hit dead ends. She says there are hundreds of others just like Emily here in Utah.

Wait lists for funded programs like the Division of Services for People with Disabilities would back that up. The current wait list for division is close to 5,000 people.

“They are really not providing them employment opportunities, and these are people who want to work in integrated settings,” Nate Crippes, Public Affairs Supervising Attorney for the Disabilities Law Center said.

He hopes this new report encourages state leaders in positions to make changes, to do so. He says if state leaders don’t fix the problems, the DOJ could sue.

“I would hope that the State of Utah will engage meaningfully with the DOJ and work to find a solution to ensure that people with disabilities can be served and employed in integrated settings,” Crippes said.

The ADA and US Supreme Court require local governments to make their services for people with disabilities available in the most integrated setting appropriate; like retail jobs, offices, or restaurants for equal opportunity and pay where they interact with people of all abilities.

“The state has not made it a priority,” Julie tells KSLTV. “And they’ve shown their lack of funding that they don’t value people with intellectual disabilities.”

The state was contacted for a response, and did not reply at the time of publishing.

There is much more to this report and a lot of it comes down to funding. If you would like to read the full report, click here.

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Justice Department report alleges Utah in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act