Blind Federation Condemns Disabilities Celebration Barricades and Arrest

Source: National Federation of the Blind of Michigan

LANSING – A Michigan State Capitol celebration featuring Lt. Gov. Brian Calley as speaker was marked by protest and the arrest of a blind citizen when demonstrators from the disabilities community were barricaded from the capitol grounds ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) 25th anniversary celebration presentation area.  Demonstrators were protesting the payment of subminimum wages of $2 per hour or less to persons with disabilities by organizers and sponsors of the celebration event.  Continue reading

Leading Organizations of Americans with Disabilities Call for Reform of AbilityOne Program: Organizations Set Forth Seven Reform Principles

Washington, DC (September 15, 2015): Seven leading organizations comprised of Americans with disabilities announced today that they are calling for reform of the AbilityOne Program and set forth seven principles for overhaul of the program, which affects hundreds of thousands of American workers with disabilities. The announcement was made by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), TASH, the National Council for Independent Living (NCIL), the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), the Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE), the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), and the United Spinal Association. The seven principles for reform put forward by the organizations are as follows:  Continue reading

The Road to Freedom ADA Bus Tour Made a U-Turn From Michigan 

September 10, 2015

Contact: Janine Bertram:

The national Road to Freedom Bus Tour joins others in the disability community by canceling its appearance at the Lansing ADA 25 celebration.

Road to Freedom BusThe Lansing event’s primary funders are Peckham and Michigan Association of Rehabilitation Organizations (MARO). Peckham is considered one of the largest and most exploitive industries paying subminimum wages to people with disabilities. It was featured on CNN as part of the SourceAmerica federal contractor investigation for taking federal funds and not hiring a sufficient number of people with disabilities as required under the terms of the federal contract. MARO members include Peckham and other segregated sheltered workshop “providers” that pay people with disabilities (capable of working in integrated settings for minimum or prevailing wage) subminimum wage.  Continue reading

Consumer Control Principles in Independent Living


Consumer control in independent living centers means having a governing body comprised of at least 51 percent of its membership with people with disabilities. It means having people with disabilities in key management roles. It means having direct service staff with disabilities who work with consumers to define their own needs, on their own terms, and with their own solutions. It means having people with disabilities in support and clerical staff positions. It means involving volunteers with disabilities in the center’s daily operations. It means that stakeholders in the process — people with disabilities — play significant roles in deciding the issues and methods for advocacy efforts.  Continue reading

Those Moses Eyes

By Joe Harcz, Michigan Advocate with Disabilities

I did not know the great Justin Dart well. In fact I only met him a few times personally, or encountered him during some ADAPT actions or NFB or other functions. We didn’t always agree on issues when we met though. In fact he was much more to the right of what I was then and decidedly am now. Actually the first or maybe second time I heard him literally speak, though I had aired his tapes on my radio reading service for the blind in Manchester, New Hampshire and read his writings, I thought him a whim compared to Bob Kafka, who was often with Justin in those days and venues. It was not because Justin was lesser than I. Guess it was because Justin was older and slower at the time and Bob was the more dynamic personality. Still Justin always could hold a crowd and even those of the National Federation of the Blind at Washington Seminars were enthralled. I was so, regardless as to pecking orders of radicalism.  Continue reading

Must Watch: Michigan’s Once Proud and Powerful Independent Living Movement

This video contains powerful footage of The EVENT, a Congress of People with Disabilities in Michigan in 1991. This video shows clearly that Michigan’s Independent Living Movement was once a mighty force to be reckoned with.  Continue reading

If You Don’t Know Your History, It Is Like a Leaf that Doesn’t Know It Is Part of a Tree

Comments to the Disability Network West Michigan Board of Directors, December 2014

By Darma Canter

I have always had a disability but it didn’t start controlling my life until I was in my 40s; then it took my money, then my job, and nearly my dignity self-worth. My MRS counselor helped me get a job at the Lakeshore CIL. So, my education in the disability perspective began.

The CIL and my peers in Muskegon transformed my life view and restored my spirit.

As Peter Block expresses it, the disability community created the structure of belonging; belonging gave me respect and dignity and purpose. I’ve spent the last twenty years in a sustaining relationship with this CIL.

My experience is an example of a Center for Independent Living working in its best capacity, building community and empowering individuals with disabilities. That is why I am here, in this fight.  Continue reading

Promoting Self-Direction and Consumer Control

Promoting Self-Direction and Consumer Control in Home-and Community-Based Service Systems

Independent Living Research Utilization

Third of Three Papers on Unlocking the code of effective Systems Change
Prepared by: Michael J. Kendrick, Ph.D., Richard E. Petty, M.B.A., Lee Bezanson, J.D., Darrell L. Jones, M.A., January 2006 ILRU Community Living Partnership, National State-to-State Technical Assistance Center, A National Technical Assistance Program at Independent Living Research Utilization © January 2006

I. Introduction

Over the past several years, staff members and partners of the Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU) team have provided technical assistance, training, publications, and other support to the Real Choice Systems Change initiative of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. As we conducted this important work, we began to observe there were clear distinctions between those programs that achieved (or showed real promise for) enduring change and those programs that failed to realize their full potential.  Continue reading

Channeling of Anger on the Part of the Consumer into Constructive Organizing

Putting Advocacy Rhetoric Into Practice: The Role of the Independent Living Center

By June Isaacson Kailes

This is an except from Putting Advocacy Rhetoric Into Practice: The Role of the Independent Living Center (Word document).

This role is core to the ILC mission and philosophy.  We must militantly guard this dual commitment!”


This monograph is intended to reinforce the importance of both individual and system/community advocacy.  Its emphasis will be on systems advocacy with independent living centers (ILCs).  The major areas to be discussed include:  examination of the importance of advocacy, establishment of an effective advocacy approach, development of new consumer leadership, and identification of advocacy questions needing further attention and debate.

It is no secret that the independent living movement is being criticized by disability rights advocates who charge that:

  • The commitment of center board and staff members to advocacy is waning and ILCs are becoming no different than traditional human service agencies.
  • The fervor for changes in “the system” is being crushed by bureaucratic, administrative, and contractual compliance concerns.
  • ILCs have absorbed and quieted many effective advocates and have played a role in draining the disability rights/independent living movement of advocates.

We in the independent living movement need to ask ourselves if these are valid criticisms.  Are we losing sight of a fact pointed out by Peg Nosek, Justin Dart, and Yoshiko Dart that our society still uses, as it “has traditionally used, an extensive and sophisticated program of psychological, physical, and economic threats, punishments, and barriers combined with rewards that force people with disabilities into segregated situations and subservient roles” (Nosek, Dart, and Dart, 1981)?  It remains critical for ILCs as well as others in the disability rights movement to devote a portion of their financial as well as personnel and volunteer resources to consumer and public education and to consumer and class advocacy in order to abolish these disincentives to independent living.  Given these concerns, it is important to start this discussion with a review of the importance of advocacy. Continue reading

The Reverend Wade Blank, 1940-1993

By Justin Dart, Chairman, President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities

Wade BlankDisability rights leader Wade Blank died on February 15 in rough seas off of a beach at Todos Santos, Mexico. He was trying, unsuccessfully, to save his drowning eight year old son, Lincoln.

It is always a tragedy when great lives are cut short by apparently preventable events. But to dwell on the tragedy of Wades Blank’s death would be a very large disservice to the future. Wade’s life is the message. His existence was a towering triumph that demands to be shouted, to be heard, to be acted on.

Unlike others who participated in the sixties revolution for a rational society, Wade did not give up the struggle when it became unfashionable. In 1974 he founded [the first Center for Independent Living in Colorado,] the Atlantis Community in Denver – a radical program to enable people with severe disabilities to leave the isolation of nursing homes and live in the mainstream. Atlantis was a success. But it soon became apparent that the mainstream itself was polluted by devastating discrimination which prevented people with disabilities from fulfilling their humanity.

ADAPT Protesters Surround a GreyHound Bus

In the tradition of Martin Luther King, Wade made equal access to bus transport the symbol of full equality: “Rosa Parks protested the indignity of being forced to sit in the back of the bus. We can’t get on the bus at all.” On July 5th and 6th, 1978, he and nineteen people with disabilities illegally detained an inaccessible bus at the intersection of Broadway and Colfax in Denver. ADAPT was born – American Disabled for Accessible Public Transit. During the next twelve years hundreds of ADAPT activists blocked buses, streets, hotels and government buildings across North America. They filled the police records of the jails of Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Little Rock, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Reno, Montreal and Washington, DC. Wade, Mike Auberger, Bob Kafka, Mark Johnson, George Roberts, Larry Ruiz, Rick James, Stephanie Thomas and Anita Cameron were arrested 15-30 times each. Molly Blank, Babs Auberger, Frank McComb, Lori Eastwood, Bobby Simpson, Melvin Conrady, Beverly Furnice, Joe Carle, Karen Tarnley, Ann Sawtel, Sue Davis, Diane Coleman and many others were co-heros in the long struggle.

ADAPT protesters Bill Bolte and Randy Horton lie under a bus, blocking the wheel, to demonstrate the frustration felt by people with disabilities who had no access to mainline transportation

In March of 1990, with the fate of the ADA hanging in the balance, Wade organized the historic march of disability rights leaders from the White House to the US Capitol to demand a law that would provide full equality, “with no weakening amendments.”

ADAPT activists protesting for accessible transportation, Philadelphia, 1990 - Signs read I Can’t Even Get to the Back of the Bus and We Will Ride

People with severe disabilities crawled up the Capitol steps and were arrested demonstrating in the rotunda. ADA passed in July – with no weakening amendments. Without the courage and inspiration of Wade Blank and his colleagues, the world would not have its first comprehensive civil rights law for people with disabilities.

After the passage of ADA, knowing that the job of justice was far from completed, Wade and the members of ADAPT refocused their advocacy. They demanded that the federal government provide funds for personal assistance services that would enable persons with disabilities now trapped in nursing homes to live free in their communities. The demonstrations – and the arrests – continue. Progress is being made. President Clinton has promised to form a task force that will create a national program of personal assistance services.

A man lies on the ground, out of his wheelchair with a sign that reads Nursing Homes Kill

Some – mostly those that didn’t know him – have said that Wade’s methods were “extreme.” They said that civil disobedience in the eighties and nineties is “passe,” “obsolete,” “inappropriate.” The same kinds of things were said about Washington, Jefferson, Gandhi and Martin Luther King. What is extreme, what is inappropriate is millions of human beings living with less dignity than we accord to our pet dogs and cats. What is inappropriate is American citizens imprisoned without due process of law in oppressive institutions and rat infested back rooms. What is inappropriate is people with disabilities living and begging in the streets. What is inappropriate, what is unspeakably immoral, is a society that cannot be bothered to make the simple changes necessary to give its own children the opportunity of full humanity.

It has been my privilege to work closely with Wade Blank during the last several years. He demonstrated against a meeting I chaired – when HHS Secretary Louis Sullivan spoke at the 1991 PCEPD annual conference in Dallas. We counseled together by telephone at all hours of the day and night. We served together on the ADA Congressional Task Force and in negotiating ADA with the President of Greyhound. We marched together for equality in San Francisco, Philadelphia and Washington. We were together in the freezing midnight outside the barricaded Department of Transportation in Washington. I never put myself in a position to be arrested. Wade said that was alright, because I could play a positive role within the system. I was never sure in my heart that I was on the right side of the bars. I knew he was.

Wade Blank was a sensitive philosopher of Democracy. He was a superb organizer. He was a mature, sophisticated politician. He had total honesty and total follow through. You could take his promises to the bank. These are rare and good qualities, but they alone would not have enabled him to use an unfashionable method to lead an unfashionable cause to an historic victory.

Wade had a magic sword. It was love. Unlike many with religious labels, he understood and lived the central commandment of his God, “that ye love one another as I have loved you.” He understood that love is not just smiling at nice people, but passionate, lifelong action to preserve and enlarge the joy, the dignity, the quality of every human life. He understood that love does not smother with criticism, care and control; it encourages, emancipates and empowers. He understood that love for all means justice for all.

Wade’s leadership of love made ADAPT the family for those who had no family, the family with justice, with hope, with transcending fulfillment. Wade’s love warmed and empowered us all. It breached the defenses and won the respect of Congresspersons, businesspersons, policepersons, jailers, judges and mayors. Again and again, it lifted my heart and my mind from selfcentered desperation of Washington politics to the dream.

Before he died, Wade planned a series of demonstrations for personal assistance services to be held in Washington, DC, on May 9th, 10th and 11th. These will go forward in his honor. There will be a tribute to him on Sunday, May 9th, at the Lincoln Memorial. Let us join together in memory of Wade – on May 9th, today, tomorrow, as long as life remains – to continue his struggle for a truly human society.

Let us pick up his sword of love and truth and courage, and use it – each in our own way – to cut the chains of all who are slaves to pity, prejudice and paternalism. Let us join in one voice to shout his shout – “free our people.” Let us embrace his golden heritage of responsible action for life, enlarge it in our own lives, and invest it in the lives of all who will come.

Wade, we love you. That’s easy. We will try our best to love each other as you loved us.

– Justin Dart

All photos in this post by Tom Olin, documentarian of the Disability Rights and Independent Living Movements