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The Difference Operation Close the Doors Has Made to Help People

by Tia Nelis and Nancy Ward

In this 2013 article, Tia Nelis and Nancy Ward reflect on some of the progress that’s been made in institution closures since their 1995 story, and the work that continues.

Self Advocates Becoming Empowered has been working over 20 years on closing institutions and seen how much things have improved. By giving self-advocates the resources they need, they can start to advocate for people to live in the community with supports. Many self-advocates have used these resources. Some example have been:

As a result of using these resources many states have had success on advocating closing their institutions. And this work to close institutions has built the courage and strength people need to do this big job. We have seen many places close and some people getting to live in the community with supports.

We still have a long way to go, but we are not willing to give up the battle. We have many supporters, but also many people need us. We continue to fight. And to encourage people to speak up for what they want and never give up on their dreams. We hope that some day we can all live in the community with supports. Free Our Brothers and Sisters Now!!!


Nancy Ward is Co-Director, and Tia Nelis is part of the team, for the Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE) National Technical Assistance Center for Voting and Cognitive Access. The purpose of the center is to assist Protection and Advocacy systems to ensure voting access for citizens with cognitive disabilities. Nancy is based at the Oklahoma Disability Law Center, and can be reached at Tia is also a Self-Advocacy Specialist with the Institute on Disability and Human Development, University of Illinois at Chicago. She may be reached at



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Retrieved from the Web site of the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota ( Citation: Gaylord, V. (Ed). (Winter/Spring 2014). Impact: Feature Issue on Stories of Advocacy, Stories of Change from People with Disabilities, Their Families, and Allies (1988-2013), 27(1). [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration].

The PDF version of this Impact, with photos and graphics, is also online at

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