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Disability activists protest at White House over institutions

Most people would agree that they would rather live at home as long as possible as they get older, or when a disability limits their ability to care for themselves. Living in even the most comfortable nursing home or institution can mean a loss of privacy and dignity, and a sense of isolation from the rest of the world.

Fighting for the right to be part of society was what motivated a series of demonstrations in Washington by around 200 disability rights activists recently. A total of 52 of the protesters were fined for demonstrating on the sidewalk outside the White House. Others gathered at the U.S. Department of Justice and at the home of the head of that agency’s Civil Rights Division.

The protestors, a group called ADAPT, had two messages for the Obama administration, both related to disabled Americans’ living situations. They urged the president to introduce legislation that would shift America’s severely disabled population into private housing and away from institutions. ADAPT also wanted Obama to introduce legislation enforcing the integration mandate in the Americans with Disabilities Act, in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision calling unnecessary institutional segregation an ADA violation.

U.S. Park Police cited the White House demonstrators for blocking passage, a $50 fine. None of the protesters was taken into police custody.

An ADAPT organizer told Disability Scoop that the Obama administration is ignoring the “most fundamental and inalienable rights” of disabled Americans living in nursing homes and institutions. Officials at the White House said the president is committed to “expanding opportunities” for disabled people, without going into specifics.

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