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Elaine Wilson

Elaine Wilson

…Celebrating a civil rights hero’s journey from unlawful institutionalization to community living.

As a young child Elaine Wilson developed Polio and became very sick. She described how her learning disability made school a struggle and only with the assistance of a private tutor did things get better. Elaine was institionalized at the age of fifteeen. Thus began years of moving from one segregated environment to the next often enduring abuse and neglect.

When Elaine was forty, her family contacted Atlanta Legal Aid and, with the help of Sue Jamieson, Elaine (E.W.) joined Lois Curtis (L.C.), in the lawsuit against the state of Georgia. In 1999, the case, known as the Olmstead Decision, made it all the way to the Supreme Court. The court ruled in their favor, declaring that “unnecessary institutionalization amounts t segregration and is a violation of individual civil rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.”. This landmark decision became a national mandate to free ten of thousands of people from unjust institutionalization.

Elaine moved into a home of her own, became active in the community and until her death, travelled the state of Georgia helping, encouraging and inspiring others with her story. She taught people how to overcome barriers that prevented, and continue to prevent, people with disability labels from discovering and living their dreams.

Elaine knew that her fight did not end on the day she left Washington, it had only just begun. The Olmstead decision was encoded into law and now it was time to make sure it was enforced, not inly in her own life, but in the lives of those still locked away.

"I have been on a long journey. Now I want to tell my story. I hope it will help others who hear it" E.W.

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