Volume 22 No. 7 / A Publication of ADAPT / Winter 2008
ADAPT Celebrates 25 Years of Disability Rights Activism

In 1983, Rev. Wade Blank, and Mike Auberger, Co-Directors of the Atlantis Community, a Denver Center for Independent Living, proclaimed their intent to take their local activism, which used direct action to bring about positive changes in the Denver community, to a national level.
Looking at the rag-tag group of two dozen people with disabilities that had shown up for a protest to make Denver mainline buses accessible, nationally renown organizer Shel Trapp shook his head and said "It will never happen." Yet, over the next 7 years, these three men and that ragtag group, along with dozens more that came to join with them each year, achieved exactly that outcome by forming ADAPT, then known as Americans Disabled for Accessible Public Transit.
Over the next 25 years ADAPT's humble beginnings grew into a national grassroots activist movement that has changed the face of the disability rights movement.
From April 26 to May 2, 2007, hundreds of members of ADAPT from all over the country and their and supporters participated in a variety of events to remember ADAPT's humble beginnings, celebrate the growth and progress of the disability rights movement during the ensuing years, and set the stage for continuing activism for the future.

ADAPTers enjoy the FUN*RUN. Photo by Kevin Siek
/ From April 26 to May 2, 2007, hundreds of members of ADAPT from all over the country and their and supporters participated in a variety of events to remember ADAPT's humble beginnings, celebrate the growth and progress of the disability rights movement during the ensuing years, and set the stage for continuing activism for the future.
ADAPT kicked things off, on Sunday April 27th, with the ADAPT FUN RUN. Over 500 activists in bright orange vests lit the drizzly, grey Washington, DC, day as ADAPT members from across America did fundraising laps around Upper Senate Park.
The next morning, Monday, April 28, 2008, the rainy weather did not deter 500 ADAPT activists from their mission to close off all access to the Hubert H. Humphrey Building, headquarters for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and keep it closed until HHS Sec. Michael Leavitt agreed to meet with ADAPT on the multiple policies that force people into nursing homes and other institutions, and prevent them from moving back to their own homes and communities.
Energized by the morning’s victory at HHS, ADAPT marched to the plaza of the Hall of the States building, which is home to the National Governors Association (NGA), on Monday, April 28, 2008. At the press conference ADAPT announced the 2008 Ten Best and Ten Worst States in the delivery of home and community services to people with disabilities and older Americans. (read the complete list online at:;&sort=D) /
After a six hour standoff, Philo Hall, Counselor to Sec. Leavitt, committed to Leavitt meeting with ADAPT within 30 days as he addressed the crowd in the pouring rain. Photo by Kevin Siek
On Tuesday, April 29, 2008, ADAPT paid a visit to the offices of Sen. John McCain and the Republican National Committee (RNC) to garner their support for the Community Choice Act (S799, HR1621, which would give people on Medicaid the choice of getting the long term services and supports they need in their own homes, instead of a nursing facility or similar institution.
About 250 ADAPT activists filled Sen. McCain's and the halls just outside, but rather than listen to ADAPT’s demands McCain’s staff summoned the police who arrested over 50 of the activists. Simultaneously, a few blocks away another 250 ADAPT activists stormed the offices of the Republican National Committee (RNC) where a nine hour standoff into the night ensued.
ADAPT took their campaign to drum up support for the Community Choice Act to Capitol Hill on Wednesday, May 01, 2008. ADAPT members paid a visit to the offices of every member of /
Randy Alexander & LaTonya Reeves address the crowd. Photo by Kevin Siek

Capitol Police struggle to extricate ADAPT activists from the RNC. Photo by Kevin Siek.
/ Congress to thank the Senators and Representatives who were current co-sponsors of the bill for their support and to encourage those who weren’t yet co-sponsors to sign on the CCA.
Thursday, May 02, 2008, was a day of celebration. To commemorate ADAPT’s 25th Anniversary the staff of the Capitol Holiday Inn hosted a barbeque luncheon in the hotel’s courtyard. Various organizations were honored for their support of ADAPT and inside the hotel ADAPT memorabilia was on display along with “I Was There” personal accounts documenting everyone national ADAPT action for the past 25 years. ADAPT members spent the afternoon relaxing and reminiscing in anticipation of the evening’s festivities.
A dinner banquet that evening was followed by the “I Am ADAPT” Ceremony were members of the ADAPT family shared personal reflections of their experiences over 25 years of grassroots disability rights advocacy. Many memories and remembrances, both humorous and poignant, were shared including the original “Gang of Nineteen” (who blocked the first buses in Denver), the children of ADAPT, Gremie, Wade Blank and our attendants. The event climaxed with a “balloon drop’ of beach balls with the 25th Anniversary logo imprinted on them.
Additional coverage of ADAPT’s 25th Anniversary activities can be seen online at: /
The ceremony was hosted by Philadelphia’s own, Jimmi Shrode, who gave what many will recall as the quintessential impersonation of the great Bette Davis. Photo by Kevin Siek.
Babs Johnson Remembers Wade Blank, from her speech at the “I Am ADAPT” Ceremony at the 25th Anniversary Celebration, May 2, 2008
…. I met Wade through a very dear, mutual friend named Art Waidmann—who I hope is here tonight. I was an attendant and trying to push awareness for disability rights in Wyoming. A couple of years later it was time for Tisha and I to move to Denver.
Wade found us a house to rent, an attendant job and the Atlantis family. We soon became good friends. When Art moved all the way back to Ohio, we both grieved. Wade got me involved in the protests before I even started my job! I had participated in rallies before in Wyoming, but never civil disobedience.
It wasn’t long until we went to the mayor’s office to protest cutting funds for Denver General Hospital. That was my first arrest. I watched Wade and was carried out like him. But when they got us outside they dropped us on the cement! That hurt like hell! They only arrested people without disabilities so our lawyer (the one that you saw in the movie last night); John Holland got the charges dropped because of discrimination!
So, here I was doing things that in my wildest dreams I never thought that I would do! But I loved it! I knew that this was what I was looking for. This is where I belonged.
Wade would call at night and say “Let’s have a protest at RTD in the morning” and I would call the attendants to get everyone up early. One of us would get the van and shuttle people to the protest. Then afterwards we would all go out to eat.
Then Wade brought Shel Trapp to town to teach us organizing. Wade had been an intern with him and wanted him to train us to organize nationally.
Now we began to have more fun - ADAPT was created. …
… Now I have the great honor and privilege tonight to talk about two of my greatest friends and mentors in my life. The first one is Shel Trapp. For those of you that don’t know Shel, he is a nationally known community organizer from Chicago. Trapp, as he prefers to be called, could certainly be your worst enemy, but you would have a hard time finding a more caring, loyal friend. He was a Methodist minister. …
… Trapp feels like he has lived out the gospel according to Trapp more as an organizer than he ever did as a minister. That gospel is that “We are put on this earth not to screw each other” That’s what he told Mike Ervin in an article in the Chicago Tribune. He wakes up angry because people are getting screwed by other people. ….
… He says one of the scariest times was when that kid that was his intern called him to come to Denver! He compared us to his first church about how much we taught him! No matter what he says he is responsible for where we are today. I only wish that he and his wife could have been here tonight. He would have loved it!
The other great friend and mentor that I get to talk about tonight is Wade Blank, The Founder of the Atlantis Community which is the Mother of ADAPT.
Let me give you a little history. In 1964 while in college, Wade went to Montgomery to join Dr. King on his march to Selma. Wade said that was the beginning. It was the first step into the water of empowering people.
He fought for civil rights. On Xmas Eve he found a very pregnant black woman and a white guy and a burro! They all went to the Holiday Inn for a room! The clerk was a fast thinker and gave them a room. They got national press out of it! …
… He fought against the war while at Kent State. He and Art had an underground book store called Alice’s Restaurant. They ran an underground railroad every Wed. night. He washed semi’s during the day to make money. But the shootings at Kent State were too much.
He went back to seminary. He disciplined himself for a year to take the civil rights, the anti war, the counter culture and the feminist experiences to create this utopian community that he had written about in his thesis called the ELECTRIC TOOTHBRUSH: A COMMUNITY TO PREVENT THE DECAY OF HUMAN LIFE.
Wade created a community that became empowered. A community that was very diverse and still is today. It’s because other people who are disenfranchised have seen the liberation process here and plugged into it. So we represent all aspects of other movements in many ways.
I would like to quote a few lines from a speech of Justin Dart’s. Wade was a sensitive philosopher of Democracy. He was a superb organizer. He was a mature, sophisticated politician. He had total honestly and total follow through. You could take his promises to the bank.
Wade had a magic sword. It was love. He understood that love was not just smiling at people, but passionate, lifelong action to preserve and enlarge the joy, the dignity, the quality of every human life. He understood that love does not smother with criticism, care, and control; it encourages, emancipates, and empowers. He understood love all for means justice for all. Wade’s leadership of love made ADAPT the family for those who had no family, the family with justice, with hope, with transcending fulfillment. Wade’s love warmed and empowered us all.
The spirit of Wade is the message here tonight. …
You can read more personal rememberances of past ADAPT actions online at:
ADAPT’s DUH City Highlights the Need for Community Choice and Affordable, Accessible, Integrated Housing

A composite of photos shows a panorama of DUH City. Photos by Kevin Siek.
Over 500 ADAPT disability rights activists descended upon our nation’s capitol from September 13-18, 2008 to erect DUH City, on September 15, 2008, in the plaza in front of the Robert C. Weaver Federal Building, home to the offices of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, to dramatize the need for community choice and affordable, accessible, integrated housing for people with disabilities. DUH is HUD spelled backwards, which is ADAPT’s way of pointing out the backward direction our country is headed in addressing the housing crisis for people with disabilities because HUD, Congress and the Administration have broken promises, cut funding for housing stock and housing subsidies and enforcement of anti-discrimination housing laws, and simply ignored the nation's low-income people with disabilities altogether.
To address America's longstanding and still growing crisis in the availability of affordable, accessible integrated housing ADAPT has put together a National Housing Platform. (Read the complete platform online at: .
DUH City consisted of seven large tent-like structures, made of pvc pipe and blue tarps, and numerous other structures made from large painted cardboard boxes. ADAPT members would stay at DUH City round the clock through Wednesday, September 17, 2008 to illustrate the extreme measures that low income Americans must sometimes resort to in order to obtain housing the their communities.
Once they had erected DUH City ADAPT wasted no time challenging multiple policymakers on the
housing crisis. After setting up a tent city at HUD headquarters breakfast was served and a press conference was held.

Folks gather outside “Alice’s Restaurant” for breakfast in downtown DUH City. Photo by Kevin Siek.

Outside Senator McCain’s Office. Photo by Tom Olin.
/ Following the press conference ADAPT sent 100 activists to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) offices and another hundred to a Sen. John McCain campaign office. All three entities were presented with the ADAPT platform for affordable, accessible housing.

Mike Oxford gets a new set of “bracelets” outside Sen. Shelby’s Office. Photo by Kevin Siek
The following morning, September 16, 2008 groups of ADAPT activists fanned out from their base at “DUH City” to Capitol Hill to visit congressional leaders who serve in leadership positions on Congressional housing committees. ADAPT wanted to meet with these leaders to share their housing platform and discuss ways to address the housing crisis for low income people with disabilities.