On May 12, 1999, ADAPT, a national grassroots disability rights group, held a rally on Capitol Hill. Participating in the rally were Stephanie Thomas and Josie Byzek, two women featured in NOW's new brochure "Together We Will Achieve Disability Rights." The rally was a show of support for the defendants in the U.S. Supreme Court case Olmstead v. LC & EW. This case involves two women from Georgia who sued their state to live in the community rather than in a state institution. The women won, and currently live in the community, with appropriate services. But Georgia's Commissioner of Human Services, Tommy Olmstead, has challenged their victory. The Court heard oral arguments on April 21, but has not yet come to a decision.
The rally's theme "Don't Tread on the ADA [Americans with Disabilties Act]," was reiterated in chants and signs that moved through the crowd. The chant, "Our homes, not nursing homes" resounded throughout the rally and signs proclaiming "Separate will never be equal" were tied onto activists' backs.
The mission of the rally was to remind the courts, states and the community that the ADA is a civil rights law, and its fundamental purpose is integration. Thomas spoke at the rally, reminding the diverse crowd that everyone should have the right to personal space and privacy, to have a family, to have your family with you and to choose what you eat and when to go to bed. She noted that two million disabled people are locked away, as a "crop for the nursing home industry." "This is about our lives," she concluded.
ADAPT was joined at the rally by various allies of the ADA, including the National Council on Independent Living, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.
The NOW brochure on disability rights is now available by calling the National Action Center at 202-331-0066, extension 720.