Baltimore Press

Amid Losses, a Civil Rights Celebration

The United States Supreme Court this week decided, in one case, that disabled individuals who can work are not covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. In a second case, it decided that state gov­ernment workers are not pro­tected by the federal civil rights legislation that all other U.S. citizens enjoy in the workplace.

Another overlooked Su­preme Court decision this week reversed the trend.

In Olmstead v. L.C., No. 98- 536, the Court declared that state governments could not dictate the living arraingments of those with serious disabili­ties, either physical or mental. The states now must allow dis­abled individuals to live in group homes, rather than nurs­ing homes, when medically appropriate. In Maryland, as most other states, the bulk of

Celebrating this victory, members of the local chapter of American Disabled for Attended Programs Today (ADAPT) wheeled onto the grounds of Garmatz Federal Building yester­day.

Two ADAPT activists, Crosby King and Gayle Hafner, outlined the Maryland connection to the Supreme Court battle. Maryland had signed onto Olmstead, on the side of states rights, as had 22 other states. On January 14th of this year, ADAPT and sixteen other civil-rights groups vowed to give Governor Parris Glendening a “personal visit” the next day if the state did not remove itself from the case. By noon, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran did just that, said ADAPT representa­tives. Glendening also set up commit­tees, one of which included Hafner as a member, to make recommendations for a placement option plan.

The next step for ADAPT, Hafner said, was to lobby in Washington for the passage of the Medicaid Community Attendant Services and

Supports Act (MiCASSA). According to ADAPT’s Web site,, “MiCASSA estab­lishes a national program of commu­nity-based attendant services and sup­ports for people with disabilities, regardless of age or disability.”

According to Hafner, the bill is gaining support by politicians, and state legislators are considering simi­lar bills in Vermont, Ohio, Texas, and Georgia. A bill is in the works for Maryland, as well.

Ilie story of another activist, Donald “Tex” Wiley, throws light on the plight of the severely handi­capped. In May of 1979, Wiley was a 17 year old kid riding around in a VW Bug. He is the son of a farmer out in York County, Pennsylvania, probably would have become a farmer himself. Another car pushed him off the road, and he crashed. Quadriplegic after the accident, Wiley spent the next seventeen years in nursing homes, three in all. Those years were filled with nothing but television, surrounded by the elderly. He had neither privacy nor freedom in institutions that were designed to monitor the aged, npt to assist the young.

“I am thirty-eight years old, I don’t need to have supervision of my com­ings and going,” he said.

Wiley remembers seeing a couple young, severely handicapped people coming into the nursing home, “they were normal enough, but in six, eight months, they’re just staring out a win­dow. “[The nursing homes] slowly strip away at your dignity.”

In March of 1996, Wiley and the Maryland Center for Independent Living, went to his insurance compa­ny and presented it with a flow chart that showed the cost of his continuing in a nursing home, versus the cost of his being in a private apartment with 24 hour nursing care and an intercom system.

Wiley got his apartment.

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