Advocates navigate storms to protest disability cuts

Proposed budget threatens independence and rights

Dr. Ayo Maat of IMPRUVE, rallies the crowd in support of affordable transportation for people with disabilities.
(Chicago) Led by Access Living’s Power to the People Coalition, 150 people with disabilities and allies rallied at the Thompson Center on April 9. Wielding signs, shouting chants, and dodging the weather, advocates protested against cuts to the Illinois State Budget. “The cuts are intended to save money,” said Adam Ballard, Access Living’s Advocacy Manager. “But they will be more expensive when people who lose their services are forced into emergency rooms, hospitals, and nursing homes.” Ballard is one of about 30,000 in the Illinois State Home Services Program. Under the program, people with disabilities receive personal assistant services in their own home. Under the proposed budget, 10,000 people would be cut from the program. Without the support of personal assistants, many people would be forced into nursing homes, which cost $17,500 more per person each year compared to community-based supports.

Dr. Ayo Maat, of the transportation group IMPRUVE, spoke about the critical need of people with disabilities for accessible transportation services,( watch testimony from Dr. Maat ). The proposed budget cuts would raise the price of paratransit from $3 a ride to $5 a ride for riders with disabilities. For disabled and non-disabled alike, transportation is a key link to independence. The fare increase would devastate the budget of people on limited incomes, cutting off their link to social, education, and employment opportunity. “How many of you will stand with us?” Dr. Maat shouted in the bullhorn. “We will ride!”

The Community Renewal Society, Chicago ADAPT, TAP, mental health advocates, and the ARC of Illinois also joined the rally, calling on the State and on Governor Rauner to support programs that promote the rights and independence of people with disabilities. “This is about choices that make fiscal sense,” said Ballard. “It’s also about the civil rights of people with disabilities. On the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we are not going to allow anyone to deny our right to receive community based supports and live in integrated communities.”

Toward the end of the rally, a contingent processed through the crowd, delivering a red coffin(symbolizing the potential impact of the cuts) and a stack of testimonials from individuals who are directly impacted by the cuts to the doors of the Thompson Center. Security did not allow the coffin in the building, but a group delivered the letters to the Governor’s office.

crowd of seven or eight people, moving through crowd, carrying red coffin Power to the People is the coalition of Access Living Community Organizing groups that address youth, education, housing, health care, transportation, Latino, and employment issues.

Read Coverage of the rally from Progress Illinois