Equal Rights Are Not a Budget Item

Bigotry never trumps freedom and freedom is not possible without equal rights.

And so it is that people with disabilities are being told having equal rights depends on the economy, thus relegating them to a budget item.

ADAPT, the country’s most prestigious disability rights organization in this writer’s view, has  launched a Defending Our Freedom campaign to address the carnage being inflicted on the lives of people with disabilities. Across this country state budget cuts are forcing people with disabilities, as well as seniors, back into nursing homes, all this in direct violation of the 11-year-old  United States Supreme Court Olmstead Decision which says Americans with disabilities have the right to live in the most integrated settings.

The Kahrmann Consumer Advocacy Coalition (KCAC)  completely supports the ADAPT campaign.  The KCAC will be seeking to address one of the symptoms of this attack on the rights of people with disabilities when members of its leadership team meet Friday with Mark Kissinger, a deputy commissioner in the New York State Department of Health, and his staff. The state’s DOH has recently issued a directive to providers of services to people with brain injuries living in the community that, if it stands as is, will likely send back into nursing homes and put others at risk.

The survivors themselves have sued the state to stop the carnage.

It is appropriate that this piece is being written on the birthday of Rosa Parks, an extraordinary woman who refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery Alabama and, with that single act of defiance, sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott which led to the end of segregation on the buses and brought Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to national prominence.

Treating any minority, whether it be people with disabilities, people who are Gay or Lesbian, people who are black, Hispanic, Jewish,  Muslim, and so on as if they are less than human, is not only illegal, it is a foolish strategy. Why? Because the bigotry that blinds people to the humanity of others  leads them to underestimate the will and resourcefulness of the very people they are dehumanizing.

We are born with equal rights. They are not something we need to earn or be given as a line item in a budget.


ADAPT Fights Slavery in 2009

The nation’s largest grassroots disability rights organization this week unleashed  24 simultaneous protests at Democrat offices across the country including the Democrat National Committee’s (DNC) office in Washington D.C. and Senator Max Baucus’ office in Missoula, MT. Baucas is the chair of the Senate Finance Committee.

In a very real way, ADAPT is fighting slavery. Federal law requires states to pay for institutionalizing seniors and people with disabilities. However, states have to ask permission! to pay for services that would allow seniors and people with disabilities to live in the community. In other words, the law forces people with disabilities and seniors into institutions and robs them of their freedom.

This is slavery. Hard to believe? I hear you. But it’s true. Consider this; forced institutionalization violates the United Nation’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Article 4 of the UDHR reads: No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

How can we call robbing people of their freedom by forcing them into institutions against their will anything other than slavery?

Lest anyone doubt the power and significance of the UDHR, consider this. It is the most translated document in the world.

ADAPT is rightfully demanding Congress eliminate the Medicaid institutional bias this year as part of healthcare reform or by passing the Community Choice Act. ADAPT protested at Democrat offices largely because the Democrats are in the majority. However, I would urge ADAPT to protest at Republican offices as well. One party may be the warden, but all the jailers have keys.

Over the years I have become more and more convinced that bringing injustice into the light is one of the most effective ways of destroying. Moreover, I know of a man who said, “I expose slavery in this country, because to expose it is to kill it. Slavery is one of those monsters of darkness to whom the light of truth is death.” He also said, “I didn’t know I was a slave until I found out I couldn’t do the things I wanted.”

Now I can’t do much about it if you disagree with my belief that bringing injustice into the light helps destroy it. Nor can the man I quoted do anything about it if you disagree with him. He died many years ago. His name was Frederick Douglass.