COLUMBUS, Ohio — A federal judge has granted class action status to a lawsuit brought on behalf of Ohioans with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The lawsuit alleges such individuals experience segregation when forced to receive services from institutions due to fewer community- or home-based options.

Last week’s ruling expands the lawsuit to potentially thousands of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Disability Rights Ohio sued Ohio in 2016 on behalf of six people the group says are, or are at risk of being, “needlessly institutionalized” because of barriers to more integrated residential, employment or day services.

The director of Ohio’s Department of Developmental Disabilities says it’s fighting the lawsuit and is pleased the court has let other voices get involved, including the Ohio Association of County Boards and guardians of people with disabilities.