ADAPTing Your Neighborhood
Pre-ADA, Denver, Colorado at a time when disabilities, and disability issues generated no interest to the public eye. People with disabilities were locked up and out; with not but a few champions fighting to be recognized, included into society, and its variety. Even peers, supporters, the very foundations that were being laid to assist people with disabilities, had no idea as to the scope of problems involved with turning what existed currently into what would be a truly inclusive culture. All groups and organizations were still learning and coming to know what disability rights involved, and what the issues were.
A few individuals, who having advocated loudly and boldly for themselves found each other to be pioneers in leadership positions voicing the concerns of the disabled population. Having secured state grants and established a CIL, they found one obstacle in their path to inclusion-transportation. ADAPT which at that time meant American Disabled for Accessible Public Transportation found its members were unable to get to and hold jobs because of the lack of accessible public transportation. ADAPT then met with legislators, mayors, councils, boards, etc. to resolve, or at least make known the kind of problems persons with disabilities faced in everyday situations of life. After a year of serious effort, working the proper channels and lobbying for accomodation there was no recourse. It was decided that further steps would be necessary.
So, 19 individuals armed in anger, discouraged, decided to stage a civil protest which later transformed into civil disobedience, to bring the media attention to their cause. This appealing to the media is ADAPT's mainstay and the most powerful tool it has come to utilize to appeal to its truth. Together they lay seige to the local bus depot and bound themselves handcuffed in front and across the exit and entrance to the facility. The media blitz in short time made known their declaration for independence. The mayor obviously flustered sent word no person in a wheelchair was to be arrested. Passioned chants stayed their hearts and for 36 hours they remained through the cold dark Colorado night while deliberations were discussed.
Within one year, all of the buses in Denver, Colorado were made accessible,-The direct result of one act of civil disobedience. And though ADAPT has come to be affiliated with arrest and acts of civil protest, it more truly stands for change and civil rights for all. And it having gravitated to becoming what it is now this day in this strange time, does what is necessary to shed light on those issues which are important to the community as a whole.
Currently ADAPT is working and largely focused on the issue of long term care
in our nation. In fact though ADAPT now stands for many things, for years now
it has been known as American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today and has
successfully encouraged Newt Gingrich to introduce into legislation a bill called
MiCASA HR2020, the Medicaid Community Attendants Services Act which would redirect
institutionally biased funds back into home/community base services at 1/3 the
cost of current spending.
ADAPT understands there are many paths to the same place and many ways to get the same things done. When good legislative work and months of lobbying government halls, visiting governors, legislators, politicians, sitting on board after board with years long commissions fails and one gets fed up with the right way, then one will find ADAPT taking over those offices and boards demanding compliance not years from now but right then and there.
The old way is fine for people who have time but in the meantime our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters are dying horrific deaths in straggled environments debilitating to any livid soul. They need inspiration, inclusion, choice soon to redeem their spirits. If other measures fail to succeed this is where ADAPT steps in unafraid and undaunted. Other measures are what ADAPT is good at.
Those other measures can be simple gatherings, groupings of individuals of like mind, empowering each other and one another to confront and bring awareness to issues of high regard to persons linked intimately to disabilities. This can be done in any state, any city, any town, or any neighborhood if there is one individual that is enough of an outspoken and confident person to gather individuals of similar interests and circumstance, who will familiarize him/herself enough with the basic issues to be a driving force for change; who will bring people together to talk about what to do, and then act upon it, do something about it, and not just have meeting after meeting about what could be done someday.
Go to the people that make the policies and the procedures, and confront them, ask them why it is as it is and then present them with resolutions or at least discuss with them resolutions face to face as a group. If they don't want to have a meeting, go to their office and create a meeting. They are in your office getting paid by your money.
Take with you the support of film either your own or better even, that of the local media. This is key. The media everywhere is usually openly willing to cover civil rights issues. So it isn't even a matter of getting them interested but making them aware of issues as they affect us in discriminating against federally mandated legislation. Usually only a phone call from a well-spoken, well-informed individual will do to spur interest. With the power of film on one's side there is no contested facts of whether violations occur. Documentation on film cannot be falsified or excused away. This can and is the greatest force for change for the continuation of the independent living philosophy.
With the advent of the internet and email anyone can be involved with ADAPT
on a personal level and essentially start ADAPT in any neighborhood great or
small. We are living history and purged headlong, facing the abyss of discrimination
together. Though we have come a long way, the truth is that we are still very
far from the dream of the ADA.