This Black History Month, we celebrate the life and legacy of our African American heroes. They endured, persisted, and paved the way – for us all.
The Arc salutes Lois Curtis. Ms. Curtis’ bravery and refusal to live behind the dark walls of a state institution led to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court Olmstead v. L.C. decision in 1999. The case established that unjustified segregation of people with disabilities is a form of discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act – and that people with disabilities have a right to live in the community rather than institutions.
More than 20 years after Ms. Curtis returned to the community, she is living life to the fullest.
“I am doing pretty good,” Ms. Curtis tells The Arc.
She lives in her own home near Atlanta, Georgia. Ms. Curtis, 52, has a new and blossoming passion for singing and song writing. She enjoys writing original songs and her own versions of Motown hits. Ms. Curtis records at a local recording studio and takes keyboarding lessons. She is also invited to sing for groups in the Atlanta area.
Ms. Curtis says singing makes her feel good and reminds her of good memories with her mother.
These days, Ms. Curtis travels often with her family and direct support professional. She enjoys vacationing in Florida and her family is currently planning a trip back to Miramar Beach.
She loves church, going to the movies, shopping, getting her nails done, and going out to eat. Her favorite cuisine is Mexican.
Ms. Curtis’ longtime direct support staff Pertula Mark says it is a joy to see her happy. There are some tough days when Ms. Curtis talks about her time living in the institution or runs into people she knew at the facility.
Despite the pain of the past, Ms. Curtis, Olmstead co-plaintiff Elaine Wilson, who died in 2005, and attorney Sue Jamieson inspire us all to keep fighting for inclusion, community living, and equality for people with disabilities.
Thank you, Ms. Curtis!