The Politics Of Naive Integrationism: Community Integration For Disabled People And The Promises Of Olmstead

Heather Ann Swadley, University of Pennsylvania


Are disabled people “better off” in segregated or integrated settings? This question serves as a source of frequent tension between non-disabled academics and disability rights activists, the former often arguing for segregated service provision and the latter championing integration. This project argues that this supposed choice is a false dichotomy—it is a choice between fully supportive segregated services and what I call “naïve integration.” Naïve integration is a governmental policy posture that presumptively integrates disabled people while simultaneously failing to provide the community supports and accessibility features necessary to allow them to thrive. The reason integration is perceived as a policy failure is that the federal government, as well as state and municipal governments, all too frequently integrate disabled people in a naïve manner. I argue for a radical reimagination of what it means to integrate disabled people into their communities. Utilizing insights from political science, sociology, public policy, and law, I suggest that naïve integration may be overcome through a strategy of creative litigation and systemic policy changes inspired by Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act’s Olmstead mandate. I explore how the fields of housing, education, and employment could be impacted by a more robust understanding of Olmstead’s presumption toward service provision in community-based settings.