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ON THIS MEMORIAL DAY, LET US REMEMBER! | A message from Kevin Williams, CCDC Civil Rights Legal Program Director

As many of us know, Memorial Day (formally known as “Decoration Day”) exists for the purpose of remembering, i.e., memorializing, those brave human beings who have died and fallen in combat to protect true and real liberties of this Great Nation! To all of them, so many of whom returned to our country as people with disabilities, on behalf of CCDC, I say, LET US REMEMBER!

As many of us know, many veterans with disabilities are housed (basically warehoused) in veterans’ homes and are dying from the current pandemic at rates far higher than the general population of humans who have the ability to shelter at home. To those great veterans with disabilities and others warehoused in these institutions without any reprieve, on behalf of CCDC, I say, LET US REMEMBER!

As many of us know, the current pandemic affects everyone in ways that none of us could ever imagine. However, people with disabilities who remain the most vulnerable population across the globe and yet who fight for justice with incredible courage and tenacity, on behalf of CCDC, I say, LET US REMEMBER!

Image of Wade Blank, standing in before an American flag
Wade Blank, crusader for the rights of people with disabilities transitioning from their incarceration in nursing homes to their own homes and creating, alongside people with disabilities, the organization ADAPT

As many of us know, ADAPT, certainly one of the greatest and most powerful leaders in the disability rights community dating back to 1983 in Colorado with its roots dating back to 1973, when 19 young people with disabilities incarcerated in nursing homes for most of their lives, said no more and moved into their own apartments. Once in the community with other human beings, they realized there were many barriers — inaccessible public transportation, restaurants, stores, and so many other places. In discussing ADAPT, we cannot forget Wade Blank, a champion of social justice and social change who worked at Heritage House, the place of incarceration where our 19 friends and colleagues with disabilities (many who are no longer with us) were trapped against their will, who helped them in their insistence that they be in their homes and not nursing homes. On behalf of CCDC, I say, LET US REMEMBER!

As many of us know, so many people who are currently warehoused in nursing homes across this country and those who work in those nursing homes are dying at a rate far higher than the rest of us were able to shelter in our own homes as a result this pandemic and the fact that no assistance appears to be being provided. On behalf of CCDC, I say, LET US REMEMBER!

As many of us know, ADAPT went on to challenge Denver’s Regional Transportation District (“RTD”), the largest “public” bus system now including light rail and commuter rail services in the Denver metropolitan area. Of course, RTD did not think the “public” included people with disabilities. After countless meetings and negotiations between ADAPT members with disabilities and RTD that went nowhere the now-famous “Gang of 19” staged a two-day protest blocking one of the busiest intersections in downtown Denver of Colfax and Broadway, people with disabilities blocked buses with their bodies, getting out of their wheelchairs and lying in the street. This action eventually led to RTD making all of its buses have wheelchair lifts. Denver was the first city in the United States to do so as a direct result of this protest. On behalf of CCDC, I say, LET US REMEMBER!

 

Plaque located at the site where the Gang of 19 protested on Colfax Ave. in Denver, Colorado
Plaque located at the site where the Gang of 19 protested on Colfax Ave. in Denver, Colorado

 

Image of protesters with disabilities who got out of their wheelchairs to block RTD buses in the 1984 “Gang of 19” protest
JUL 5 1978, JUL 6 1978 Demonstrators Sleep On the Job Four demonstrators sleep in the street Thursday morning after spending the night blocking two Regional Transportation District buses near the corner of East Colfax Avenue and Lincoln Street. They were among about 30 persons who maintained an overnight vigil to dramatize the need for greater accessibility to public transportation for the handicapped. The buses stopped and barricaded by about 30 persons early Wednesday, were freed Thursday morning. The barricade has served its purpose, said Wade Blank. Credit: Denver Post (Denver Post via Getty Images)

 

As many of us know, ADAPT and so many people with disabilities, in the great tradition of protest movements for civil rights of Black people, women, the LGTB community and so many other human beings who sought equal treatment and civil rights under the law, those people with disabilities crawled up the United States Capitol steps, many abandoning their wheelchairs behind them in order to demonstrate the struggle of inaccessibility and unequal treatment to get Congress and President George H.W. Bush to enact the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), on behalf of CCDC, I say, LET US REMEMBER!

Picture of eight-year-old Jennifer Keelan leading people with physical disabilities protesting the lack of accessibility on the March 12, “Capitol Crawl” (© AP Images)
Picture of eight-year-old Jennifer Keelan leading people with physical disabilities protesting the lack of accessibility on the March 12, “Capitol Crawl” (© AP Images)
Image of President George H.W. Bush with Evan J. Kemp, Jr., then the chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (pictured next to President Bush seated in his motorized wheelchair) and Justin Whitlock Dart, Jr., often called the “Godfather of the ADA,” an American activist and advocate for people with disabilities and co-founder of the American
Image of President George H.W. Bush with Evan J. Kemp, Jr., then the chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (pictured next to President Bush seated in his motorized wheelchair) and Justin Whitlock Dart, Jr., often called the “Godfather of the ADA,” an American activist and advocate for people with disabilities and co-founder of the American Association of People with Disabilities (also pictured next to President Bush seated in his wheelchair)

 

As many of us know, the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (“CCDC”) was formed by people with disabilities in 1990 bring the promises of the ADA to and ensure they were enforced in Colorado. On behalf of CCDC, I say, LET US REMEMBER!

As many of us know, CCDC, and solidarity with so many like-minded disability rights advocates and activists across the country and worldwide, with its mission to ensure social justice for people with disabilities of all kinds, has made major changes on the impact of the lives of people with disabilities in Colorado and throughout the nation. On behalf of CCDC, I say, LET US REMEMBER!

As many of us know, attorneys across the country and those who work for CCDC’s Civil Rights Legal Program have spent decades of our lives devoted to the simple principle that people with disabilities are people entitled to the same liberty and justice enjoyed by all human beings. It does not always take a village to solve a problem even though that is a good approach; often, unfortunately, it takes a lawsuit! On behalf of CCDC and all of the hundreds and maybe thousands of attorneys who understand that simple principle, once again, I say, LET US REMEMBER!

As many of us know, CCDC in solidarity with disability rights groups throughout the country, are steering people with disabilities and those in power in the right direction, recognizing the humanity and quality of all people to maintain life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the face of this pandemic that is killing us for reasons that make no sense. On behalf of CCDC, once again, I say, LET US REMEMBER!

As many of us know, there are people in this country who seek to take advantage of those accommodations that are necessary in order to provide equality of opportunity for people with disabilities, but we reject and have exposed and stopped your inhumane attempts to do so. The last thing anybody claims they ever want to be is a person with a disability, but so many non-disabled people are willing to try to take advantage of the necessary accommodations people with disabilities need for equality. On behalf of CCDC, once again, I say, LET US REMEMBER!

As many of us know, there people today in this country who claim to have a disability as the reason for not wearing a mask to protect the health and safety of all of us, those with disabilities and those without. There may be legitimate disability-related reasons for not wearing a mask, but to those of you who are doing so illegitimately, we shame you. What you’re doing is despicable and will not be tolerated. On behalf of CCDC, once again, I say, LET US REMEMBER!

"mask loophole" meme that states "I am exempt from ALL REGULATION mandating face mask usage in public. Wearing a face mask poses a health risk to me. Under the ADA and HIPPA, I am NOT required to disclose my medical condition to anyone." The meme goes on to warn of financial penalties for businesses and provides a phone number for the Department of Justice.
ADA and HIPAA “mask loophole” meme

As many of us know, “The economic shutdown related to COVID-19 has complicated the lives of Colorado people with disabilities, who find their routines upset, their jobs at risk and their quest for affordable, accessible housing more difficult.” On behalf of CCDC, once again, I say, LET US REMEMBER!

As many of us know, on this Memorial Day, often-called the unofficial “First Day of Summer,” “This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no foolin’ around!”[Lyrics from “Life During Wartime.”© David Byrne, 1979. Talking Heads, Fear of Music album and featured in the 1984 film Stop Making Sense]  Our friends, our loved ones and our colleagues are dying in large numbers. The death toll in the United States will most likely reach 100,000 as of the end of this hallowed Memorial Day! On behalf of CCDC, once again, I say, LET US REMEMBER!

 

— Kevin W. Williams, Civil Rights Legal Program Director, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition. Memorial Day, May 25, 2020. Permission to share and distribute widely because we need to remember and continue in the proud tradition of disability rights activists all over the world and fix this calamity as soon as possible and save ourselves! We SHALL overcome!

Picture of Kevin W. Williams, CCDC Civil Rights Legal Program Director shown in front of banner that reads, “Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition: Nothing about us without us.”
Picture of Kevin W. Williams, CCDC Civil Rights Legal Program Director shown in front of
a banner that reads, “Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition: Nothing about us without us.”

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