Wednesday, May 13, 2009

An Interview with ADAPT Demonstrator Martina Robinson


A disability activist I met on Facebook responded to one of my blog posts about the Community Choice Act of 2009 by telling me she had participated in the ADAPT demonstrations last month in Washington, D.C. Her name is Martina Robinson, and she agreed to answer a few questions about her experience.

  • Why did you go?
I went because I don't think it's fair that people with disabilities who are poor and need services to help them with their daily living activities have to go into a nursing home because that's what Medicaid is required to pay for. Even if you exclude the whole freedom angle, which you shouldn't, home care is cheaper and people are better off.

  • Do you know anyone who needs to be freed by the CCA?
My friend, Margarita, would be able to live at home with her husband if the CCA passed. She can currently get some home support in Massachusetts but it's not enough for her as her disability is really severe. My new friend Bobbi from Rochester went to the demonstration with ADAPT and got arrested twice, like I did, and she had to go back to her nursing home where she still lives currently. She says she going to organize the nursing home residents to advocate for the CCA so they can all go home. I say, "You go girl!" but I wish she didn't have to go back there for even one more hour.

  • How did you participate in Washington?
I participated in all three days of this Action but throughout my life I have been to at least 100 demonstrations for a variety of issues.
  • What was the reaction from crowds and passers-by?
Mostly it was positive but some people, like always, were annoyed because they couldn't get where they wanted to go. Of course, there are also always the tourists who take pictures of us like we're some attraction. This is especially true with people who are not from the U.S. and aren't used to seeing disabled people out on the street.

  • What was the reaction from police and other security?
This time, I think they handled themselves very well. There was no brutality, such as throwing people out of their chairs as there sometimes has been. Once they arrested us, however, they were concerned about our medical status and needs. The first time we got arrested this Action it took about an hour to get everyone processed. The second time, for my group at least, it took eleven hours. I think because they were afraid if they let us out we would just get up to trouble again. Which was very smart on their part because we would have.

  • Do you think Obama himself has failed on his promise to support the CCA into law?
Yes, I think he has and I want, although I know it's impossible, my money and my time that I donated to his campaign back. I was so happy in November that there was going to be a community organizer in the White House but all we got is a liar instead. This kind of behavior is likely to turn me into a bitter person.

  • Or do you think it is simply far down the list of priorities (after the economy, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.)
I think it may be far down on the list of priorities for America as a whole but for the people who need the services is at the forefront. You can't get a job if you live in a nursing home. If you're injured in Iraq or Afghanistan, you shouldn't have to go to a nursing home. If they want to help the economy, we're all going to need to hire people to help us. That creates jobs, so this is all related. The CCA really relates to most issues in America right now.

  • Is the fact that Axelrod's daughter is in a (very nice) institution work against our cause?
Before I researched this question, I didn't even know who Axelrod was. I think the fact that his daughter, or for that matter anyone else, is in an institution hurts our cause because their family members cannot see how much better off they would be in the community, which in 99% of cases, I believe they would. The fact that this person has power alarms me. He is not considering that most of us cannot afford to live in the rich, nicer institutions. Although, I don't care how nice the place is, it's not substitute for being free. Most institutions are not as nice as the one his daughter stays in and those are the ones that Medicaid will pay for.

  • Do you think Obama heard about the demonstration?
I think President Obama is a very smart man and that unless he was living under a rock he knew we were there. We were chained to the White House gates on one occasion. How could he avoid us and knowing what we wanted?

  • Do you think Obama understands how poorly his staff reacted to the demonstration?
I don't think Obama truly understands how insulting his staff people were. While he himself might be progressive I think, like everyone else, he thought he would just say no and we would go away. Unfortunately, he hasn't been in office long enough to learn that we just don't do that. Hopefully he'll get smarter over the next year. I think it is a problem with all beaurocrats and they staffers that they think disabled people are helpless, kind of like Jerry's Kids. You just say no and they leave. In ADAPT's case, we chain ourselves to your office.

  • Do you believe (I do, I think) that this isn't about money so much as it is a class issue? That is, the rich can afford (see Axelrod) the best care (away/at home) while the rest of us are too poor to provoke interest.
I think it is largely an issue of the have's and have not's. If you have money, as with everything, you can simply pay to get what you want or need. If you don't, you have to work for it or go on assistance to get it in some form, which is often not adequate for me.

  • Do you believe that integration of people with disabilities should not be tied to health reform? I do, mainly because I identify myself as "a crip" rather than a person who is ill.
Here, I am going to disagree with you. I think that integration of everyone, not just pwds, will be greatly increased if the CCA is part of healthcare reform. It doesn't say we're sick, it just says we need this and including the healthcare reform is the quickest way to get it because then it can be part of the omnibus motion that is the healthcare reform. We won't have to work as hard to get it passed as we would if it were an individual law. I don't care how we get from A, with no CCA to B, with it. I just care that we do it as fast as possible before more people end up in nursing homes due to lack of services available.
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