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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 1975, when Reverend Wade Blank, a non-disabled former nursing home recreational director, assisted several severely disabled nursing home residents to move out and start their own community. In 1978 protests were held in Denver by members of the Atlantis Community, and Blank, against the wheelchair inaccessibility of public buses in that city. These protests included the nation’s first demonstration for wheelchair-accessible public buses, which was on July 5 and 6. At that protest nineteen members of the Atlantis Community (called the Gang of Nineteen) chanted "We will ride" and blocked buses with their wheelchairs, staying in the streets throughout the night. In 1983, the Gang of Nineteen started ADAPT after several years of similar local bus protests.[2][3] 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.[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 part of 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. That year the group changed its name to Americans Disabled Attendant Programs Today.[5]

In 1992 the protest from July 5 and 6, 1978 was commemorated with a plaque at the intersection of Colfax and Broadway (which is where the protest was held); the plaque stated: “"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."[2][6]

However, this plaque was replaced in 2005 to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The current plaque, also placed at the intersection of Colfax and Broadway, reads:

"This bus stop is dedicated by the Regional Transportation District (RTD) in the memory of Reverend Wade Blank.

Reverend Blank and 19 other members of a disability advocacy group blocked a RTD East Colfax Local bus on July 5 and 6, 1978.

The RTD Board of Directors subsequently voted to begin purchasing wheelchair-accessible buses, and by 1985 Denver had become the first major metropolitan area in the United States to provide wheelchair-accessible service on all Local buses.

This site was re-dedicated in 2005 to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act."[7][2][6]

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 (see below), full implementation of the Supreme Court's Olmstead v. L.C. decision, Money Follows the Person legislation, and Medicaid reform other than block grants. The marchers traveled about eight to twelve miles per day.[citation needed]

In May 2017 ADAPT organized a protest in Washington, D.C. against changes to Medicaid as part of 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 were 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.[8]

Internet presence[edit]

ADAPT's website 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 two decades. ADAPT’s most well known visual logo, shown on their website, depicts the international wheelchair symbol, but with the person holding their arms aloft to break the chains that bind them.

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.[8]

MiCASSA/Community Choice Act[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. MiCASSA is now known as the Community Choice Act.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "ADAPT - Free Our People!". ADAPT - Free Our People!. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Michael Rembis (19 July 2019). Disability: A Reference Handbook. ABC-CLIO. pp. 145–. ISBN 978-1-4408-6230-4.
  4. ^ Barnartt, Sharon N.; Scotch, Richard K. (2001). Disability Protests: Contentious Politics 1970-1999. Gallaudet University Press. p. 97. ISBN 1563681129.
  5. ^ Barnartt, Sharon N.; Scotch, Richard K. (2001). Disability Protests: Contentious Politics 1970-1999. Gallaudet University Press. p. 97. ISBN 1563681129.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ "Reverend Wade Blank Memorial - Denver, CO - Colorado Historical Markers on". Retrieved 2020-02-23.
  8. ^ a b "Social Media Paper". Media & Disability Resources. Archived from the original on 2016-03-11. Retrieved 2016-02-11.

External links[edit]