My very first ADAPT action was in Washington, D.C. in the spring of 2001. I worked in the “home of ADAPT” Atlantis Community, Inc in Denver, Co. but had never been to an ADAPT meeting and had never been on an action. The tradition at that time was Atlantis brought attendants and a nurse to the actions. I was the nurse that trip.
Atlantis/ADAPT traveled by van in those days. We loaded up early Thursday morning, two vans, eight people in wheelchairs, attendants, kids and drivers. Full vans, loaded tight, we were all in great moods as we drove out of town that morning. I was assured that the trip back was always a little different – moods not quite so happy. We drove long distances each day with few stops. We ate breakfast buffet in the mornings and were on the road before nine every morning; lunch was McDonalds or anything else we could find on the road that was quick and we could bring on the van as we continued down the road; dinner we all packed into a restaurant and watched the faces of the staff as they watched one after another wheelchair roll up to the table.
The hotel in D.C. was another revelation. I had worked around and with people in wheelchairs for a couple of years, but I had never seen that many congregated in one place. The halls were full of people in chairs passing one another, blocking one another, filling elevators, restaurants and rooms. The first morning of actions I lined up with everyone else as directed, we were told that we would be moving out “soon” but I couldn’t figure out how it would happen. And then we started to move one after another of us moving forward and I kept looking back to see the entire line of activists moving and chanting, “Our Homes not Nursing Homes”, and with one purpose. I blocked intersections with the others to keep cars from moving into our line, I stood over holes in the street to keep a chair from getting stuck and when someone ignored the cautions I helped push the chair out of the hole.
We arrived… Health and Human Services. We lined up in front, no chanting, just waiting, and then the word came around, move in toward the building, and the chanting began: “Can you hear us on the inside?” And then word came down… cover the doors. After a very short time a group of our people came out of the doors and a mighty cheer came up from the crowd. And before I had any idea of what was going on we were on our way.
The long lines moving through the streets again, the continued chanting, blocking intersections and blocking holes in the street, but things changed a little bit with the arrival of a police escort. Now there were police cars at every intersection, diverting traffic, but every intersection was also blocked by ADAPT nobody was taking any chances.
The long march led us to AHCA, the American Health Care Association, looking for another meeting with their director. There was a confrontation at the door as a group tried to move inside. All the lights were off and the doors were locked, but ADAPT just kept knocking and pretty soon the group was led inside. Lunch arrived, McDonald hamburgers passed out to the crowd surrounding the building and we ate while we chanted and covered the building waiting for an answer. The ADAPTers on the inside appeared with a written commitment for a meeting and we were on the long march home to recoup for another day.
The following day there we were on the sidewalk again early in the morning awaiting word to move out and move we did with police in tow all the way to the White House. ADAPT moved across the sidewalk in front, lined up in front of the fence and settled in for a long wait. Again there were police, Federal agents behind the fence with their briefcases, in case one of those wheelchairs launched over the top, but for the most part they left us alone in the sun enjoying the day and waiting for the group on the inside. And appear they did, leading a White House staffer with promises to ADAPT to issue the Olmstead Executive Order within thirty days.
The next day we were at HUD looking for housing vouchers and things got a little more exciting. Suddenly the crowd surged forward breaking through barriers towards the doors, in the door to be faced with security’s tables upright in the inside door space. The chanting was continuous, and there was continuous pressure against those blockades trying to reach the lobby.
Then, just as suddenly as it started it was over. There was another group of ADAPTers with civilians in tow with new announcements of meetings and we were on our way home. The most obvious thing about each day was the work, hours of work, that had gone before to make these people know ADAPT would not be “handled” but would be taken seriously.