Author’s note: Last month I introduced readers to ADAPT and announced the formation of a local chapter (“Receiving the Torch,” Dec. 2007.) This month I’m answering some of the most frequently asked questions about ADAPT. If you have questions that aren’t answered here, you can contact us at [email protected] or call me at 651-792-6395.
What is ADAPT?
ADAPT is a 25-year-old grassroots disability activism organization.
Who is ADAPT?
ADAPT is a cross-disability organization that includes people with all kinds of disabilities and our allies. The systems have been set up to divide us according to our disability category and make us fight among ourselves for what we need. In ADAPT we are united by our common experience of ableism, and we fight for issues that will strengthen our community.
What is the history of ADAPT?
In 1978 nineteen young people with disabilities held the first protest for accessible public transit in Denver, Colorado. They blocked busses and stayed on the streets all night. Five years later the Colorado activists joined with others from around the country formed ADAPT and began a national campaign for accessible public transit. For seven years ADAPT blocked buses in cities across the US to demonstrate the need for access to public transit. Many went to jail for the right to ride.
ADAPT played a major role in gaining passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Passage of this bill has meant victory for ADAPT in our struggle for lifts on buses.
Once the transit issue was won and access was begun to be guaranteed, ADAPT felt that attendant services must be our next issue. In July 1990, ADAPT targeted the reallocation of one quarter of the federal and state Medicaid dollars from institutional programs to consumer-controlled community-based programs.
How is ADAPT organized?
From the national to the local level ADAPT has an informal structure. There is a national leadership group of veteran ADAPT organizers that works together to plan the strategy and logistics of the national actions that happen twice a year. Local chapters organize themselves in whatever way works best for the group, with most decisions made by consensus.
How does ADAPT approach issues?
ADAPT uses a strategy we call the “Pitchfork Approach to Advocacy” (see picture). Each prong of the pitchfork is made more powerful by all of the other prongs working together.
Why do we need ADAPT when we have so many other disability organizations?
While many disability advocacy groups are very good at using legal, political, systems or media strategies very few include direct action. ADAPT is able to demonstrate the power of our community through nonviolent direct action in a way that few other groups can.
What is direct action?
Nonviolent direct action can take many forms. Sometimes direct actions include some level of civil disobedience, but not always. Examples of direct action include sit-ins, street theater, marches and demonstrations. Direct action works best when used as part of a multi-prong strategy.
Why use direct action? Isn’t negotiation a better path?
Martin Luther King Jr. addressed this very question in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail:” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.
Is ADAPT scary and radical?
Demanding our rights is no more radical than voting. It is an essential part of what makes our democracy function. It can feel scary to fight for your rights when you’re all alone but when you have the people power of ADAPT behind you, you quickly learn that those people who are denying our rights have much more to fear than we do.
Will I get arrested if I join ADAPT?
You won’t get arrested for coming to an ADAPT meeting. Sometimes ADAPT chooses to engage in civil disobedience that can result in arrest, particularly in actions at the national level. In all cases, each individual is free to make their own choice about what level of civil disobedience they engage in and whether or not they are willing and/or able to risk arrest.
Do I have to pay dues to join ADAPT?
ADAPT does not collect money dues but members do pay dues of time and energy. ADAPT chapters raise money through grassroots fundraising such as selling items made by members or taking advantage of other local fundraising opportunities.
What’s in it for me?
There are lots of things you, as an individual, will get out of being involved in ADAPT but most of all you will come to understand that ADAPT is not about “you” or “me” but about US. What we will get out of ADAPT is a stronger community, a sense of our own power, and the rights we deserve.
How can I get involved with ADAPT Twin Cities?
ADAPT Twin Cities is just in the process of being formed. To express your interest, e-mail [email protected] or call Galen at 651-792-6395. We’re planning a three-day ADAPT training soon, so stay tuned for more details!