by Priya Penner
The day started off like every other Saturday on action, with my alarm blaring at 6:00 in the morning and me totally ignoring it for a good 30 minutes. Consequently, my mother, sister, and I were late, as always. But as always, the bus was late in arriving, and so our lateness wasn’t noticed. The bus ride was a long six hours, but not nearly as awful as the bus ride to Arkansas. That evening, the requisite socializing occurred. I always miss my ADAPT family like crazy during the six or so months that I don’t see them.
Like always in the Spring, the Fun*Run happened the afternoon on Sunday. More socializing occurred, but this was a little different than the night before because almost everyone who was going to the action had arrived by then. So, I spent the following few hours talking to everyone.
This action was lovely because not only did the theatre group have their crap together enough to be able to go to bed by 11:30, but we didn’t have to line up earlier than 9:00! It truly was a miracle.
So Monday, we all lined up, and started heading towards our target. The night before, some of the media team, including myself, had gotten together to write the press releases for the following day. Turns out, we were on our way to visit an old friend of ADAPT, the President. We demanded that President Obama supported disability rights by writing an Executive Order that would “pass” a piece of legislation. That day, 53 ADAPTers had gotten arrested. We had plans to go to another target that day, but the police took so long in giving those 53 their ticket and releasing them, that we were forced to turn in a little early… Or at least a little early for ADAPT.
But whatever we didn’t accomplish Monday was more than achieved Tuesday. We started the day off at the Department of Justice (DOJ), demanding that they enforce the Supreme Court Olmstead decision, address the decades-long waiting lists that services to live in the community have, and talk with ADAPT of Texas in raising attendants wages so people with disabilities can keep their attendants and continue living in the community. The Olmstead established that the Americans with Disabilities Act provided persons with disabilities the civil right to live in their own homes and communities. Recognizing that some states might rely on institutional settings in violation of the ADA, the decision also provides states with a defense from lawsuits. This defense involves developing effective plans for ensuring that persons with disabilities can transition from and avoid moving into nursing facilities. Eve Hill, Senior Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at DOJ addressed us on the bullhorn she said DOJ was anxious to move forward on an Olmstead case involving someone in an institution but it needed to be a strong case with an excellent chance of winning. She agreed to work with ADAPT to find such a plaintiff.
We then headed to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). ADAPT was at HHS because the Department of Labor recently promulgated new rules that mandate overtime for in-home attendant care. Without adequate Medicaid reimbursement, critical service hours are being cut and persons with disabilities who live in the community are at risk of being forced into nursing homes. In addition, low wages for attendants are making it increasingly difficult for personswith disabilities to recruit and retain quality attendants. ADAPT demanded that the HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell recognize that inadequate Medicaid rates have driven down attendant wages and use HHS’s authority to ensure that state Medicaid rates are sufficient to secure the workforce needed for community integration. ADAPT also demanded that she instruct the HHS Office for Civil Rights to take a stronger role in enforcement of the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision by implementing a plan to promote community living that complies with the decision. Burwell did not come out to talk with us, but Kathy Greenlee, the Administrator for the Administration of Community Living at HHS. She said that she will give our demand to Burwell and to arrange a meeting that includes ADAPT.
Tired, but not quite done, ADAPT split up into two groups and we headed over to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Republican National Committee (RNC). We asked for their support in the Community Integration Act (CIA), a piece of legislation that would allow people with disabilities to stay in their own home. My group went to the DNC, where we were greeted by Reverend Regina Thomas, the Director of Community Engagemet. She welcomed us, and seemed interested in what we had to say. She also gave the customary, “We will set up a meeting with ADAPT,” but she seemed to mean it a little bit more than most. We’ll see if she actually does it. Since we had finished before the other group, the DNC group headed over to the RNC. That group seemed to be having less success than we had at the DNC, considering the fact they had been greeted with a locked door. But ADAPT was just annoying enough to persuade RNC Communictions Director Sean Spicer to come out and talk with us. He gave the customary. “I’ll pass it on,” and unlike the Reverend at the DNC, Spicer was just saying it to make us go away. At that point we did go away, but you can bet that if they do not follow through, they will get another visit from ADAPT. After an action-packed day, the group gratefully went back to the hotel.
Wednesday was a day of lobbying. We split up into several groups and met with Congressman of both houses. We were trying to get the Congressman to support the CIA. We were met with varying degrees of success.
After yet another action, my love for the movement and for those fighting in the movement has only grown. I had no idea that was possible, but it happened. I always miss my ADAPT family when I go home, but I smile to think that we’ll get to do this all over again in the fall.