On Thursday, March 2nd, 2000, as the Home Builders Association (HBA) was having their Home Solutions 2000 Expo at Denver’s Currigan Hall, ADAPT held its own Home Solutions Expo out front on the first of four days of protest against the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Denver.
ADAPT tried to work with the HBA for about a year to get them to comply with the Fair Housing law and build homes with access. Meetings, letters and committee work were to no avail. It was apparent that the HBA did not want its members building homes with access, and actually wanted the Fair Housing Law repealed! They felt that access should be provided on an as-needed basis, and felt that single-family detached homes, town-homes, and condos should continue to be exempted from accessibility requirements. Something had to be done!
That is why about 80 ADAPT members from Colorado and Kansas were at Currigan Hall on that cold Thursday evening, sending the HBA a strong message. We had great exhibits of our own to show. There was a huge accessible dollhouse, complete with an elevator. We had two doorway frames: one wheelchair accessible, and the other with steps, which we went through to demonstrate the usefulness of one, and uselessness of the other. There were pictures of the buildings that Atlantis Community, a local independent living center, had bought and remodeled for access, as well as educational materials on accessibility. We even had petitions and flyers with ADAPT’s demands–30% of all new homes to be accessible and 30% of all new homes to be visitable, meaning a no-step entrance, doorways at least 36 inches wide, environmental controls at 48 inches high, and an accessible bathroom on the first floor.
We marched, sang, and chanted and several ADAPT members spoke of the need for accessible homes and told stories of being forced to buy inaccessible homes, or even to move out of state due to the lack of accessible housing. The cops came around trying to get us to leave, but there wasn’t much they could do since we were on the sidewalk for the most part.
Friday, we were back with more awesome ADAPT stuff, including some gorgeous Styrofoam steps that Pat King, our wheelchair repair guy had made. After Dawn Russell’s rousing speech, everyone had a chance to tear down the steps with a wooden mallet. Later, we formed a gauntlet in front of the steps to the front doors and passed out flyers. Afterward, we made a human chain chanting “The People United Will Never Be Defeated”.
On Saturday, back again, we saw that the cops had put up barricades which we quickly removed and got down to the business of letting the HBA know that they weren’t going to “turn us around”. Joe Ehman, an ADAPT member who is on one of the HBA committees, did a cool mock up of Roger Reinhardt, the HBA vice-president who had insulted ADAPT in a meeting a few weeks earlier by calling us simple-minded. Several of us gave interviews with the press and some of us paid to get inside the exhibit to speak with the various builders and contractors about access, and pass out a couple of flyers, if we could. There was only one small exhibit out of hundreds that had anything remotely to do with access.
This time, the cops sent out a trained negotiator, Sgt. Daniel O’Shea, to tell us the police wanted ADAPT to stay in this area that they had designated by the barricades. We told him that if he brought Roger Reinhardt out to speak to us, that we would leave. A few minutes later, he brought Roger out, but he had nothing to offer us but the same tired old discriminatory solutions that ADAPT would not accept. We kept our word, though, and left with a warning from the police that if we came back tomorrow, and did not stay within the barricades, that we would be arrested. Little did they know!
On Sunday, we swept in, meaning nothing but business. We quickly sped up the ramps and began blocking and handcuffing ourselves to doors. The cops were there, but not quick enough to stop us. They began yelling out warnings, and soon, the arrests began. When the dust cleared, 17 ADAPT members were arrested and charged with blocking, and refusing to obey a lawful order.
The Home Builders Association’s Tour of Homes was another target of protests in July. After ignoring ADAPT’s call for an accessible house in the Tour of Homes, for which the home builders built a series of new homes, this showcase became an action packed showcase. Crawling into homes, picketing outside and eventually committing civil disobedience, Colorado ADAPT members sent the Home Builders Association a message that access can no longer be blown off. Challenging the Home Builders Association to stop ignoring access to housing for people with disabilities, ADAPT continues our drive to end the excuses.