ADAPT is a grassroots United States disability rights organization with chapters in 30 states. It is known for being part of the militant wing of the disability rights movement due to its history of nonviolent direct action in order to bring attention 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. However, ADAPT also 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 nondisabled 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. On July 5 and 6 1978, a Denver intersection was the site of the first demonstration for wheelchair accessible public transportation when nineteen members of the Atlantis Community (known as the Gang of Nineteen) chanting "We Will Ride" blocked buses with their wheelchairs, staying in the streets all night.
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.
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
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.
Today, ADAPT convenes twice a year for national actions in different cities, but most frequently Washington, D.C. ADAPT continues to fight for the passage of MiCASSA, now known as the Community Choice Act. 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.
ADAPT has served a critical role in developing grassroots leaders with disabilities. ADAPT organizers train its new chapter leaders with a curriculum that borrows from the National Training and Information Center's (NTIC) community organizing training, but with a disability rights spin and including insights gained by ADAPTers through over two decades of organized direct action for change.
ADAPT has two current national bases, one in Denver, Colorado and the other in Austin, Texas. 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'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.
In 1992 a plaque was placed in Denver at an intersection stating: "
"WE WILL RIDE"
On July 5 and 6 1978, this intersection was the site of the first demonstration for wheelchair accessible public transportation.
Nineteen members of the Atlantis Community chanting "We Will Ride" blocked buses with their wheelchairs, staying in the streets all night.
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.
The Gang of Nineteen
Mary Ann Sisneros
The Gang of Nineteen demonstrators from 1978 which the plaque commemorates were part of the Atlantis community, which started ADAPT in 1983 after several years of local bus protests.
- 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.
- "Text of Plaque Placed by the City and Dounty of Denver, July 26, 1992". Adapt.org. Retrieved 2015-04-10.
- Official website Atlantiscommunity.org
- "Pelosi delivers speech over screams of health-care activists", video by The Washington Post