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DISABLED PROTEST AT  EMBASSY SUITES 
We were quite a sight- about thirty disabled people, many in  wheelchairs,   
confronting the hotel manager, chanting “access is a  civil right”. Not what 
you’d expect in the lobby of a Hilton hotel.  But  there we were, in full view 
of guests arriving at the Hilton-owned Embassy  Suites Hotel in Linthicum, 
Maryland.  Also, in full view were a  half  dozen county police officers who 
were threatening us with arrest. This is how it  all happened and how I got 
there... . 

I am disabled. I  joined ADAPT.  because I heard that they defended  the 
rights of the  disabled...ADAPT is one of the national groups which belong to the  
Cross  Disability Rights Coalition.  I applied to attend a CDRC conference 
which  was held at Embassy Suites. I was glad that I was  accepted.   I  wanted 
to learn about the movement of the disabled. I did. 
Each day of the conference was filled with speakers, workshops and  
discussions of the history, philosophy, and tactical approach of the  movement..  
Significantly, among the materials provided to conference  participants was “ Six 
Steps for Nonviolent Social Change” from the King Center  in Atlanta, Georgia. 
As the conference proceeded, it became clearer to me how  current politics and 
economics limit the  healthcare disabled people get..  For example, present 
federal programs refuse to fund a power wheelchair for a  disabled person who 
can get by with a manual chair inside his home but is too  weak to operate a 
manual chair outside. Keeping a disabled person housebound is  worth saving the 
cost of a battery powered wheelchair to both Republicans and  Democrats. 
Neither party opposes the current policy. This is how what they call  
bi-partisanship impacts on disabled people. It is a lesson we must learn... 
As we began our conference, we observed that the public bathrooms on the  
main floor where our conference was held were not accessible. The stalls were  
too small to get a wheelchair in and still be able to close .the stall door .So, 
 for people in wheelchairs, whatever you went to the bathroom to do, had to 
be  done publicly.. This was both unacceptable to us and in violation of the 
federal  Americans with Disabilities Act
Monday  was the last day of the conference. We shelved the scheduled  
workshops to free up time to confront the hotel management.about their  inaccessible 
facilities. We went into the lobby and asked to speak to the  manager. We 
informed him in writing of the lack of accessibility of the  bathrooms. . We 
requested  a letter from the hotel chain acknowledging the  violations and stating 
their schedule for making their restrooms suitably  accessible. The manager 
hemmed, hawed, and asked us to leave the lobby. We  agreed to leave as soon as 
we got the letter.  The manager then called the  police who quickly arrived to 
protect “private property” from  the  disabled.  The protest was underway.

I expected ADAPT demonstrations to be well-organized.  The reality  surpassed 
my expectation.  There was a unity of purpose shared by all of  us. We were 
militant, disciplined and organized,  We were prepared.  .  When the police 
arrived, they and the manager negotiated with two of our  leaders. I was close 
enough to hear some of the discussion.  The police  threatened to arrest us. 
They spoke in a threatening  tone familiar to  anyone who has ever faced arrest.  
Our leaders calmly responded. without  giving up anything.  They  would not be
intimidated.   

The  final result was only a partial victory. The manager promised a response 
which  he only partially delivered.  ADAPT and CDRC will not give up. But how 
can  we be more effective?   There are many examples throughout history  
which prove that militancy and dedication to a just cause are no guarantee of  
success.   Also, and, to our credit, our goals are hardly modest. Nor  should 
they be.   There is so much to be done. There are tens of  thousands of eople 
whom we want to rescue from the misery of nursing homes.  There are thousands of 
public enterprises with inaccessible  facilities.   Basically, although we do 
not state it as such, our  program is to bring about conditions to allow  the 
full and equal  development of disabled people. There are many millions of 
people who are not  disabled who are fighting for their full and equal 
development just as we  are.   Many trade unions and welfare rights organizations are  
examples. We should  recognize that we are too small to win by ourselves  just 
as they are..  We should try to unite with them. An independent  political 
party such as the Labor Party is trying to become would be a natural  form for 
such association of independent organizations. We should consider  it.