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American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today (ADAPT) is a grassroots United States disability rights organization with chapters in 30 states.[1] It is part of the militant wing of the disability rights movement due to its use of nonviolent direct action in order to bring attention and awareness to the lack of civil rights the disability community has. ADAPT strategies include using civil disobedience if necessary as a tool to gain public attention, so that they can change laws, policies, and services affecting persons with disabilities. ADAPT also now practices legislative policy advocacy, grassroots education and mobilization, and individual members may engage in legal advocacy, as in the case of individual ADAPT members suing the Chicago Transit Authority in the 1980s.


The Atlantis Community was started in Denver, Colorado, in 1974 by the Reverend Wade Blank, a non-disabled former nursing home recreational director who assisted several residents to move out and start their own community. The Atlantis Community started ADAPT in 1983 after several years of local bus protests. Originally, ADAPT's name was an acronym that stood for Americans Disabled for Accessible Public Transit, since the group's initial issue was to get wheelchair accessible lifts on buses. It was later changed to Americans Disabled Attendant Programs Today in 1990.[2] On July 5 and 6 1978, a historic protest was led for wheelchair accessibility on buses. It took place at a Denver intersection and was later commemorated with a plaque.[3][4]

Throughout the 1980s, the campaign for bus lifts expanded out from Denver to cities nationwide. ADAPTers became well known for their tactic of immobilizing buses to draw attention to the need for lifts. Wheelchair users would stop a bus in front and back, and others would get out of their chairs and crawl up the steps of an inaccessible bus to dramatize the issue. Not only city buses but interstate bus services like Greyhound were targeted.

By the end of the decade, after protests and lawsuits, ADAPT finally saw bus lifts required by law as passed by the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. At that time, the group began looking for the next logical step in disability rights advocacy, while ensuring follow-through of transportation provisions in the ADA.

Denver Plaque Commemoration[edit]

In 1978 protests by a group of demonstrators referred to as The Gang of Nineteen, were members from the Atlantis Community. In 1983, they started ADAPT after several years of local bus protests.[3] The intersection where the plaque is placed was the site of the first demonstration for wheelchair accessible public transportation, on July 5 and 6, 1978. Nineteen members of the Atlantis Community chanted "We Will Ride" and blocked buses with their wheelchairs, staying in the streets all night.

The plaque was placed at the Denver intersection stating: "WE WILL RIDE"

The Gang of Nineteen

  • Linda Chism-Andre
  • Renate Rabe-Conrad
  • Willy Cornelison
  • Mary Ann Sisneros
  • Carolyn Finnell
  • George Roberts
  • Mel Conrardy
  • Bobby Simpson
  • Debbie Tracy
  • Jeannie Joyce
  • Kerry Schott
  • Jim Lundvall
  • Lori Heezen
  • Glenn Kopp
  • Bob Conrad
  • Larry Ruiz
  • Cindy Dunn
  • Paul Brady
  • Terri Fowler

Placed by the City and County of Denver, July 26, 1992." [3][4]

Twelve years later the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed by the United States Congress and signed by the President on July 26, 1990, ordering all public buses wheelchair accessible.

In 1993, Wade Blank died. In 1991, ADAPT had decided to make community supports for people with disabilities its major issue. Many members of ADAPT had struggled for years to leave nursing homes and institutions where they had been warehoused. They felt it was important to work to free other people with disabilities unable to get out.

MiCASSA and Community Choice Act campaign[edit]

ADAPT developed MiCASSA, which stands for Medicaid Community Attendant Services and Supports Act, which is intended to help people with disabilities on Medicaid choose whether to spend their support services money on nursing homes or on personal care attendants. According to ADAPT, community supports are far cheaper than nursing homes, and MiCASSA, if passed, will begin easing the significant burden of health care costs for the United States government. In 2003, health care for the first time outpaced education as the single largest spending item for the US government, and will continue to grow as the nation deals with the Baby Boom. Also in 2003 it was the fourth time that MiCASSA was introduced in Congress.

MiCASSA is now known as the Community Choice Act. The Community Choice Act provides alternatives to people with disabilities on Medicaid who are institutionalized a choice of where to live. In addition, ADAPTers in the states are working to ensure that states receive funds from Money Follows the Person, and ADAPTers are also working on Access Across America, a campaign to ensure safe, affordable, accessible, integrated housing for people with disabilities.

The Free Our People March[edit]

On September 17, 2003, The Free Our People March (involving ADAPT members) ended, with marchers arriving in the nation's capitol from Pennsylvania, to advocate for MiCASSA, full implementation of the Supreme Court's Olmstead v. L.C. decision, Money Following the Person legislation, and Medicaid reform other than block grants. The marchers traveled about 8 to 12 miles per day while taking time to stop for food and sleep.

ADAPT Community Olmsted Ruling[5][edit]

10 years after the Olmsted Ruling components of a comprehensive plan. What to look for:

  • Commitment of Governor /State Agency(s) Directors
  • Statement of support of the ADA "most integrated setting"
  • Includes nursing facilities, ICF-MR’s and all other institutions Identifies all affected populations - physical/cognitive/mental Children, young adults, older folks
  • Identifies lead agency – Olmstead Plan coordination
  • Identifies funding to implement plan Federal Money follow the Person (MFP) request State MFP process and/or policy Budget request(s) to State Legislature for transitioning folks
  • Provides for input from people with disabilities/older folks

Plan development Plan implementation Oversight

  • Data Collection

Number in nursing facilities, ICF-MR’s and other institutions Number in waivers, Personal Care Option, Home Health, State funded programs Number on all waiting lists Number of people who have transitioned out

  • Development of Identification Process

State request for Data Use Agreement from HHS/CMS Use of Community Based Organizations Identifies all populations - public/private Interest Assessment - Service Coordination Dispute Resolution

  • Community Integration Assessment/Plan

Assess what community services are currently available Identifies community services/infrastructure needed to relocate or divert Identification of barriers to community integration (Nurse Practices Act, licensing, housing, funding transportation, employment, medical equipment, etc.) Support Services needed to move/stay in community Timelines for moving to the community Number of people to transition each year

  • Review/Monitoring of Community Integration

Medicaid Protests and Social Media Campaign[edit]

In May 2017 ADAPT organized a protest in Washington, D.C. against changes to Medicaid as part of US Representative Paul Ryan's budget proposal that would have cut Medicaid funding and given more control of the program to the states. Around 100 disability protesters were arrested in D.C., and similar protests led by local ADAPT groups all around the country. Throughout these protests, ADAPT used their Twitter and Facebook feeds to share photos and links to the media to cover the event, which included images of protesters being arrested, to gain and mobilize support from the broader community.[6]


ADAPT's web site provides information on its issues and actions. The site also archives photos and reports from past national actions. Most of the pictures posted are by the photographer Tom Olin, who has taken ADAPT photos for over twenty years. ADAPT publishes a quarterly newsletter, Incitement.

ADAPT also has a YouTube account which features short videos directly posted by ADAPT activists, documenting their support of the organization. ADAPT has a social media presence in the form of a Twitter and Facebook feed, both with over 1600 followers. This helps them connect to their followers and other activists, and to increase their public visibility.[6]

ADAPT's most well known visual logo depicts the international wheelchair symbol, but with the person holding his/her arms aloft to break the chains that bind them.

ADAPT UTAH, DRAC - Disabled Rights Action Committee, active in Salt Lake City, Utah, with Barbara Toomer, Jerry Costley, Cindy Stephens, and Michael Marble.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "ADAPT - Free Our People!". ADAPT - Free Our People!. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  2. ^ Barnartt, Sharon N.; Scotch, Richard K. (2001). Disability Protests: Contentious Politics 1970-1999. Gallaudet University Press. p. 97. ISBN 1563681129.
  3. ^ a b c Joseph P. Shapiro (1994). No Pity: People With Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement. Times Books. pp. 360–. ISBN 978-0-8129-2412-1.
  4. ^ a b "Text of Plaque Placed by the City and Dounty of Denver, July 26, 1992". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-04-10.
  5. ^ "Olmstead: Community Integration for Everyone -- Home Page". Retrieved 2016-02-11.
  6. ^ a b "Social Media Paper". Media & Disability Resources. Archived from the original on 2016-03-11. Retrieved 2016-02-11.

External links[edit]