October is Disability History & Awareness month, a time to recognize and advocate for ongoing struggles for freedom and equality that involve the fates of millions of people. As a recent post in the Wisconsin Gazette puts the matter,
“It is really “our” struggle because any of us — due to injury, illness or quirky chromosomes — can develop a disability at any time.
“Many people are angry about the government shutdown and budget impasse, but among those taking direct action have been members of the kick-ass disability rights group ADAPT.
“ADAPT is a network of activists who engage in direct action to assert the rights of people with disabilities to live in freedom and independence. It focuses on the de-institutionalization of people with disabilities and is incensed at government policies that hinder that process. Its slogan is “Free Our People!”
“On Sept. 30, hundreds of ADAPTers protested at the U.S. Capitol, while 20 stormed the office of House Speaker John Boehner. Their message: Don’t play politics with programs that assist people with disabilities to lead independent lives.
“Sixty activists, many in wheelchairs, were arrested at the White House. They had squeezed through barriers, chained themselves at the gates and refused to move. They were protesting Vice President Joe Biden’s broken campaign promise to meet with them about community living issues and a new regulation proposed by the Department of Labor that ADAPT believes will restrict the hours of home-care attendants and people’s rights to choose their own attendants. The regulation extends overtime pay to home-care workers, a long-overdue pay equity issue, supported by the Service Employees International Union. However, because Medicaid is not increasing reimbursement rates for home care, providers are likely to cut or cap the hours attendants work. This could lead to inadequate home-care services and the shift of some people back to institutional care, which is better covered by Medicaid.
“The failure of government to put more money into home care and community support to enable people with disabilities to live independently is the issue that unites all disability rights groups. It’s financially shortsighted, because the cost of community-based living is half that of 24/7 institutionalization. ADAPT’s slogan of “Free Our People!” is not just rhetorical. Thousands of people with disabilities feel imprisoned due to their lack of resources and the government’s skewed priorities. This is absolutely a freedom movement. Senate Bill 1356 (Workforce Investment Act), reauthorizes the Rehabilitation Act in ways that will realign the patchwork of disability programs spread throughout federal agencies. Central to this is the creation of an Independent Living Administration. The ultimate goals are to strengthen independent living services and employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
“The Americans with Disabilities Act needs defending against those who want to weaken its provisions. The ADA forbids employment discrimination based on disability and has made public venues, transportation and workplaces more accessible to elderly, disabled and non-disabled people alike. To learn more and get involved, go to www.adapt.org and click on the “Join ADAPT” link for Wisconsin contacts. Or call IndependenceFirst at 414-291-7520 and ask about joining one of its advocacy teams.”