In a statement for the media, Chicago ADAPT member Justin Cooper said of Governor Rauner and his administration’s policies, “We are furious because he’s neglected the Home Services Program (HSP) and other programs that empower people with disabilities like me to live in our own communities rather than in nursing homes and institutions.”
To magnify that fury and raise awareness with the public, Chicago ADAPT occupied the Thompson Center on April 11. ADAPTers in wheelchairs blocked the escalators and elevators, effectively preventing people from exiting or entering. Their goal was to secure a meeting with Governor Rauner. For five hours, ADAPT maintained their positions, chanting, among other things, “I’d rather go to jail than die in a nursing home.” Their actions prevented members of the public from descending into the basement level food court. The point was to disrupt the lives of everyday people, to give an idea of what it is like for people with disabilities trapped in institutions.
Later in the day, three leaders from ADAPT were allowed to enter Governor Rauner’s office to talk to his senior staff. Eventually, leaders emerged victorious. They had secured a meeting with the governor for Friday, April 14. Scott Nance, a staff member at Access Living and member of Chicago ADAPT, said his dream for the meeting wouldn’t happen. “I am certain the Governor, when introduced to us, will not suddenly jump out of his chair, call a special session of Illinois Congress and pass a state budget honoring the lives of so many previously left out of consideration.” However, he has hope for ADAPT’s goals at the meeting with the Governor. “I want him to know workers in HSP are overwhelmingly good people and next to impossible to find. I want him to know our lives are worth investing in…I want him to know it is never too late to do the right thing. I want him to know we don’t take sides, we only take the side of liberty and the Constitutional right to live in our own homes with dignity and choice, an obligation he swore to uphold in the Oath of Office he took in January, 2015. I want him to know he can save lives or destroy them and we’re there to support him to make the right choice.”
The three-day ADAPT action also secured meetings with the Department of Human Services’ (DHS) Secretary James Dimas and the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) to discuss stronger enforcement and implementation of the Olmstead Supreme Court ruling. On April 12, ADAPT closed out the action with a Unity Rally at Federal Plaza. Congratulations to ADAPT on a successful week!
(Update: The April 14 meeting with the Governor netted a commitment to standing meetings between the Governor’s staff and disability advocates)