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


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?

Watch the video above to hear how a panel convened by Open Society—featuring Joaquin Sapien, an investigative reporter with ProPublica and coproducer of the film, as well as the advocates and experts Raymond Federici, Elizabeth Jones, and Will Hall—answered these and other important questions.

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