Disability rights activists stormed the nation’s capital last week, demanding that the federal government do more to deinstitutionalize people with disabilities.
“I was in a nursing home and I have too many brothers and sisters still locked away because they cannot get services to get out,” said Susan Stahl of Rochester ADAPT. “I am going to get arrested today and keep on doing it because this Administration has done nothing to help us live in the community.”
The activists, organized by ADAPT, arrived in the nation’s capital on Saturday, April 9, and held its annual FUN RUN for Disability Rights the following day.
On Monday, the activists marched through the streets of Washington D.C., culminating in the arrest of 52 individuals outside the White House gates.
They called called on the Obama Administration to endorse the Disability Integration Act. This legislation, introduced in December by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), would build on the ADA to more explicitly specify the right of people in need of long-term services and supports to live in community-based, integrated settings.
“(The) DIA makes it illegal for a state and insurance providers that pay for LTSS to fail to provide (home and community based services) by using waiting lists, screening people out, capping services, paying workers too little for services, or the other excuses that have been used to keep people with disabilities from living in freedom,” according to an ADAPT fact sheet. “DIA requires each state to offer community-based services and supports to any individual who is eligible to go into an institution. It also requires states to take active steps to make sure that there is enough affordable, accessible, integrated housing.”
The next day, about 200 activists protested outside the home of Sylvia Burwell, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. They called on the agency to raise reimbursement rates for Medicaid providers, which they argue would increase the supply of providers willing to work with individuals under the federal program, which is by far the largest provider of long-term disability services.
The activists also called on the HHS to impose strict terms in its approval process for state Medicaid plans, to push them toward providing more integrated services, and expand its Olmstead enforcement, referring to the Supreme Court’s 1999 decision upholding the ADA’s integration mandate, which requires states to ensure people are living in the most integrated setting according to their needs.
Sixty-two protesters were arrested that day.
Action reports and photo galleries for each of the day’s protests and events, provided by ADAPT, can be seen here.