“What’s Good Is Bad, What’s Bad Is Good, You’ll Find Out When You Reach the Top, You’re on the Bottom”: Are the Americans With Disabilities Act (and Olmstead v. L. C.) Anything More Than “Idiot Wind?”

Mental disability law is contaminated by “sanism, ” an irrational prejudice similar to such other irrational prejudices as racism and sexism. The passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-a statute that focused specifically on questions of stereotyping and stigma-appeared at first to offer an opportunity to deal frontally with sanist attitudes and, optimally, to restructure the way that citizens with mental disabilities were dealt with by the remainder of society. However, in its first decade, the ADA did not prove to be a panacea for such persons. The Supreme Court’s 1999 decision in Olmstead v. L.C. – ruling that the ADA entitled certain state hospital residents to treatment in an “integrated community setting, ” and stressing that “unjustified isolation … is properly regarded as discrimination based on disability “-appeared to have the potential to transform and revolutionize mental disability law. This Article questions whether Olmstead has done that, and whether, in fact, it has the capacity to do that. Furthermore, a review of post-Olmstead caselaw-a universe that is “pretty pallid” – and the meager (in volume) scholarship, conclude that, in spite of Olmstead, “there are still many sanist attitudes that need to be undone.”