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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 people 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.