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The Struggle to Ensure All People with Disabilities Can Live in a Home of Their Own

People with Disabilities, Public Policy, and the “Right to Fail”


The Open Society Foundations screened and moderated a conversation about Right to Fail, a documentary that raises serious questions about what it means to advance the rights of people with disabilities—including the right to make the most basic choices in their own lives. 

Following years of litigation, a landmark settlement in Brooklyn federal court affirmed the right to live in and be included in the community. This gave more than 4,000 people with disabilities the opportunity to move out of group homes and into their own apartments. Right to Fail, a recently released PBS Frontline/ProPublica documentary, is an unflinching look at the challenges some New Yorkers faced making this transition.

While exposing gaps in the support people received for their moves into the community, the film also raises important questions: Can we deconstruct the implicit notion that some individuals with disabilities should not be in charge of their own lives? How can we better provide support—as distinct from control or protection—for formerly institutionalized members of our communities? Should people have to choose between the dignity of choice and freedom, and the dignity of physical safety? 

A conversation immediately following the screening of the documentary featured Joaquin Sapien, investigative reporter with ProPublica and co-producer of the film, and advocates and experts Raymond Federici, Elizabeth Jones, and Will Hall, speaking about how to make living in the community a reality for everyone.


  • Tirza Leibowitz


    Tirza Leibowitz is a division director with the Open Society Human Rights Initiative.

  • Raymond Federici


    Raymond Federici is a self-advocate, a person with lived experience, and a staff advisor at a Fountain House model clubhouse outside Philadelphia.

  • Elizabeth Jones


    Elizabeth Jones is an expert in mental health system reform and was a key witness in the landmark federal case that the Frontline/ProPublica film explores.

  • Will Hall


    Will Hall is a schizophrenia diagnosis survivor, therapist, Madness Radio host, and the author of Outside Mental Health: Voices and Visions of Madness.

  • Joaquin Sapien


    Joaquin Sapien is a ProPublica reporter and co-producer of Right to Fail.

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