More than three dozen protesters arrested at D.C. disability protests

ADAPT held a series of rallies during the past week at the nation’s capitol, including one action consisting of 200 protesters April 21 near the White House gates.

White House
White House

The Metropolitan Police Department arrested an estimated 41 individuals, many of whom protested in wheelchairs, after the activists blocked the east entrance at the White House.

“As we review President Obama’s first term, ADAPT is deeply disappointed by his failure to keep his promises to the Disability Community and make substantive progress supporting the integration of people with disabilities in the community,” ADAPT argued in a news release. “As we look forward into his second term, ADAPT urges the Disability Community to hold him accountable for these failures but also to demand that he address the critical issues we are raising.”

In its Platform for Change, ADAPT expressed frustration with Medicaid’s “institutional bias,” referring to the program’s long-standing practice of funding segregated, institutional, services, while failing to provide comparable community-based services. Under the ADA, states are require to provide services ensuring people with disabilities can live in the most integrated services according to their needs. The Supreme Court affirmed this integration mandate in Olmstead v. L.C..

ADAPT held events in the capitol throughout the week. On Sunday, April 20, ADAPT members met with representatives from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, as well as held their annual Fun Run for Disability Rights.

On April 22, ADAPT protested in front of the Department of the Housing and Urban Develop and the unions SEIU and AFSCME. This rally focused on the HUD recent handling of how it is ending the “companion exception,” which previously exempted in-home workers from being covered by minimum wage laws.

ADAPT agrees with the HUD that in-home workers, many who provide extensive services for people with disabilities, deserve higher wages. However, ADAPT argued that the change must be accompanied by expanded services because the higher wages will likely result in employers hiring fewer in-home workers, thus further reducing services for people with disabilities.

“We don’t oppose our attendants receiving improved pay and benefits, in fact, we support it,” added David Wittie, an organizer for ADAPT of Texas. “And today’s new agreements will go a long way toward securing higher take-home pay for our workers while also protecting the right of folks with disabilities to control who comes in our homes and assists us with the most intimate activities of daily life, all while ensuring that we stay out of costly institutions.”

ADAPT is long-known for its direct action techniques. In April 2012, 74 ADAPT protesters were arrested protesting proposed Medicaid cuts in Washington D.C. In March 2011, almost 100 protesters were handcuffed rallying against Paul Ryan’s plan to blockgrant Medicaid at the Cannon House Office Building.

“We have not and cannot allow the values of independence and community living to be threatened by proposed austerity policies that totally disregard the basic supports that keep millions of people with disabilities thriving in the community,” said David Wittie of ADAPT of Texas in a news release. “We are coming to DC to once again hold public officials accountable to the human rights of people with disabilities, who are often the poorest of the poor.”