53 disability activists arrested outside the White House

crowd of ADAPT protesters in wheelchairs assemble on street
ADAPT Protesters Take a Stand for Community Living (photo used with permission)

ADAPT staged protests last week throughout Washington D.C., demanding that the federal government increase its efforts to expand home and community based services for people with disabilities.

More than 150 activists, many of whom were in wheelchairs, stormed the White House fence April 20, leading to 53 arrests.

“Too many of our people with disabilities have lived and died without ever experiencing the rights and responsibilities of full citizenship and recognition of our common humanity,” Elaine Kolb, a disability rights activist since prior to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, said in an ADAPT news release.

The disability advocacy group, long known for its direct action techniques, is promoting new legislation, not yet introduced, titled the “Community Integration Act,” which builds on the Community First Choice Option.

The CFCO, launched in 2012 as part of the Affordable Care Act, authorizes the federal government to provide a six percent increase in federal matching funds to state Medicaid programs that meet certain guidelines, demonstrating that they are working to reduce the institutional bias in their services.

Despite the program’s promise, only four states – California, Oregon, Maryland and Texas – have qualified and accepted the funding.

The CIA would add a new section to the ADA, explicitly stating that “No individual … shall be denied community-based long term services and supports so the individual can live in the community and lead an independent life.”

Under the proposal, the federal government would be allowed to reduce state’s funding for institutional services by 10 percent if they fail to come forward with a satisfactory integration plan. Unlike the CFCO, all states would be obliged to participate.

In addition, enforcement of the CIA would be placed under the Administration for Community Living, which would have the effect of expanding its reach beyond just Medicaid.

“There is an institutional bias in our funding streams. The bias is that if somebody ceases to be able to function as they used to, the bias is to throw them into a nursing home rather than assisting them in managing their services,” said C. Jean Grover, who works with the Regional Center for Independent Living in Rochester and attended the protests, told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

To start off this year’s annual week of action, ADAPT held a fun run at Upper Senate Park on Sunday, April 19, which included former Sen. Tom Harkin, the author of the ADA, among its participants.

The White House protests were the focal point of Monday’s action.

The next day activists rallied outside the Department of Justice, pushing for increased ADA enforcement of current state integration policies. Later in the day, they protested outside the Department of Health and Human Services, where they rallied for increased Medicaid funding to compensate for the anticipated costs of complying with the Department of Labor’s new in-home worker protections regulations.

The day ended with protests outside the Republican and Democratic National Headquarters.

“Disabled people have the same rights as everyone else to live in their own homes with freedom of choice,” said Jasia, who attended the protests from Brighton, England.

Photos from the week and daily action reports can be viewed on ADAPT’s website.

Photo used with permission from ADAPT, taken from ADAPT Action Report.