My disability rights activism includes housing issues. Affordable housing gets a lot of attention (no solutions, but attention, at least). Accessible housing, not so much. Like the invisible symptoms of multiple sclerosis, the need for affordable ACCESSIBLE housing remains hidden.
Accessibility needs to be part of the dialogue
I spoke up for mandatory accessible affordable housing at several meetings on the topic during the last few months. Audiences murmured their agreement with my comments and nodded their heads. Speakers acknowledged that lack of accessible housing is a problem, too.
Since I have been speaking up, people have approached me to participate in larger actions. Raising awareness does not solve the problem. There are quite a few groups actively working to get more affordable housing built in my city. Now, we must include accessibility as well.
Collective community activism
In the City for Good, in the Rochester, Minnesota, area, had meetings before I became an activist. I am ready to participate in organized groups now. After I spoke at the public comment period for our city council meeting, a gentleman named Bob recommended I join In the City for Good.
I checked it out. One of its teams focuses on affordable housing. Bob sent me an email and told me the group did not have a team for disability rights. We agreed to start one. We both remain involved in the affordable housing team. (Note to self: Work to change the category name to include accessibility.)
Centers for independent living
Another local group is the Southeastern Minnesota Center for Independent Living, known as SEMCIL. Its website contains pages of links to resources. The SEMCIL group offers programming for people with disabilities. I am now participating in its community leader training program. This is a grant-funded program offered through the University of Kansas, called Community Tool Box.
Topics included in the workbook cover:
- Creating and maintaining coalitions and partnerships
- Advocating for change
- Influencing policy development
The National Center on Independent Living website covers politics and legislation at the national level and disability issues. It has an online newsletter called the Advocacy Monitor. A recent opening page advocates contacting federal legislators to denounce proposed Medicaid cuts.
ADAPT ― American Disabled for Accessible Public Transit (original acronym)
ADAPT began as a community group protesting the lack of accessible buses in Denver, Colorado, in 1983, with earlier roots. It is a national force as well as active on the local levels in chapters nationwide. Members of ADAPT have been protesting at congressional offices in Washington, D.C., and at the state-level offices of congressional representatives.
Its website contains a “museum” album full of images from newspapers of the bus protests and other historically significant actions they have taken over the decades.
ADAPT ― Americans Disabled for Attendant Programs Today
After the battle for wheelchair-accessible buses was won, ADAPT has pursued housing-related disability issues. Personal care attendants are crucial for many disabled people to remain in their homes and live independently. We just need a little help sometimes. Families are smaller and spread all over the country these days.
Social justice requires that there be a safety net to help people live their best possible lives. Medicaid provides support for personal care attendants (among many other things). With the proposed funding cuts, people with disabilities like MS will suffer.
The ADAPT housing platform recognizes that lack of appropriate accessible housing leads to the involuntary institutionalization of people with disabilities.
Future disability activism on accessible housing
As part of the community leadership program, I will be researching sources and resources for accessible affordable housing. The crisis will not be resolved easily or soon. I will keep you posted.
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