I have been thinking about the humble origins of ADAPT. ADAPT still exists and remains on the front lines of the battle for disability rights. In fact ADAPT has been in Washington DC protesting. Arrests have been made. 41 in fact. I would think this is a news worthy event. I recall last year ADAPT made the mainstream news in part thanks to the arrest of the actor Noah Wyle. Since ADAPT arrived in Washington DC a few days ago I have scoured various news outlets for stories. I found a grand total of none. Not one. Google the web: "ADAPT protests Washington DC" and one will find references to last year's arrest of Wyle. Not a word has been written about the actions of ADPT this year. Not one article in the Washington newspapers, Huffington Post, New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, etc. It is as though ADAPT is protesting in a black hole. I find this deeply disturbing. The visuals ADAPT presents are striking. Hundreds of people with every sort of disability one can imagine protesting. Long lines of wheelchairs going down the street. Juxtapose protestors with disabilities against the iconic buildings of Washington DC and one would think this would sell a lot of newspapers and get television viewers to tune in. Um, no. And thus I wonder why. Why is ADAPT being ignored by every major news outlet? I think the complete lack of attention is based on the deeply internalized belief that disability is first and foremost a medical issue. Disability is not about a disenfranchised population of people but rather a highly individualized physical deficit. I have railed against this line of thinking consistently as has ADAPT, Not Dead Yet, the Disability Rights and Education Defense Fund, and many other disability rights groups too numerous to mention.
As I see it, ADPAT actions in Washington primary aim is to galvanize the disability rights movement. I wish this were not the case. In fact I wish the media would give ADAPT the attention they deserve. Disability is a social problem--a point the vast majority of people do not understand. I find it fascinating how disability based bias is acted out. As Mary Johnson, long time editor of the Ragged Edge, pointed out it is not as though people are taught to be biased against people with a disability. People are taught disability is different--again we people with a disability are "special". When we fly on a plane we need to special serves. We get a special education. We have special buses. We have special entrances to buildings. We have special schools. We have special lifts and elevators. None of this is taught. People suck up this idea of special like a sponge. I was think of this when I saw the video below:
As noted on the video the police completely ignored protestors that used a wheelchair. Instead the police go after a bipedal protestor and take him down with force. The police took down this bipedal man who could not hear because it is an ordinary event. The visuals are mundane. The outcome is clear: the man will be arrested and released. Why did the police utterly ignore protestors that used a wheelchair? I am willing to bet they dismissed the protestors that used a wheelchair without thought. This is how deeply ingrained disability bias runs. Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps the police knew all their accessible paddy wagons were in use. Maybe they were instructed wheelchair dumping was not permitted. Wheelchair dumping is a police procedure in which the police come up behind a person using a wheelchair and lift the back of the wheelchair up and dump the person on the ground. This is exactly the sort of imagery that makes the police look bad. You do not dump people out of their wheelchairs. This is socially unacceptable.
The only way to follow ADAPT is via their website and social media. See http://www.adapt.org/ Many people associated with ADAPT have been posting photographs on Facebook. The images are striking and uplifting--note I avoided the word inspiring. ADAPT is uplifting in the sense I am encouraged that so many people are willing to devote their time and energy to a civil rights cause. Many people are willing to travel to Washington and brave the streets where they could be subject to arrest. These people have my utmost respect. In the post 9/11 era I am not willing to take such a risk. While I admire people willing to to dissent and protest, I fear retaliation and arrest given the Patriot Act can be used and abused. I was shaken by the actions of the government in Boston. Martial Law was declared. Tanks and hummers were deployed. Black hawk helicopters flew over people's homes. The excessive show of force was a shock to me. The suspension of civil liberties, such as walking outside your door step, stunning. All this in the name of national security. All this to apprehend a 19 year old man. So yes I fear the national security state and am delighted to know some of my peers are willing to protest.