Disability rights activists (ADAPT) campaign for affordable and accessible housing in Chicago, 2007


To send a clear message to HUD, the Governor of Illinois, the nation’s medical community, and Congress that denying affordable, accessible housing to people with disabilities and thus supporting the incarceration of people in institutions for the “crime” of disability will not be tolerated

To get the AMA to endorse the Community Choice Act, to work with ADAPT to get real options for people facing institutionalization, to have the AMA board of Trustees divest from nursing facilities and the develop an AMA ethics policy requiring doctors to disclose if they are invested in a long-term care facility.

To get the Governor of Illinois to close down the Lincoln Developmental Center, have ADAPT at the table for the Illinois Money Follows the Person Project, and meet with ADAPT before October 17.

Time period

10 September, 2007 to 11 September, 2007


United States

Location City/State/Province

Chicago, Illinois
Jump to case narrative

Segment Length

Approximately 8 hours


Cassie James, Anita Cameron, Tom Benzinger, Rahnee Patrick, Barbara Toomer, Bruce Darling


Not known

External allies

Not known

Involvement of social elites

Not known


Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), American Medical Association (AMA), Illinois Governor’s office, and American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not known

Campaigner violence

Not known

Repressive Violence

Many arrests were made


Human Rights



Group characterization

Disability rights activists

Groups in 1st Segment

Americans Disabled for Attendant Programs Today (ADAPT)

Segment Length

Approximately 8 hours

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

4 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


0 out of 3 points

Total points

5 out of 10 points

Database Narrative

In the Spring of 2007, Alphonso Jackson, the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, promised to meet with ADAPT in Chicago in the Fall of 2007 and present a number of vouchers that the HUD had recovered, and then to meet regularly with ADAPT in order to work on eliminating housing discrimination against persons with disabilities. The meeting was held on Sunday, September 9, 2007, but Secretary Jackson did not attend. Instead, Kim Kendricks and Paula Blunt represented him, but did not deliver the promised number of recovered housing subsidies.

The vouchers being discussed were housing subsidy vouchers that HUD had provided in order to help people move out of nursing homes and into the community. However, the program was not handled well and thousands of vouchers were lost, making it impossible for national HUD to know whether or not the vouchers were used as intended. It had been established that many vouchers were lost, but Secretary Jackson had apologized for the situation and promised to recover a number of the lost vouchers. This was the number that he had promised to report to ADAPT at the meeting.

On Monday, September 10, ADAPT shut down the American Medical Association for nearly three hours in order to confront the association about physicians’ practice of steering people with disabilities into institutions. They attempted to get into the building, but were blocked out as the AMA had suspected that ADAPT might have targeted them. The ADAPT group then surrounded the building, blocking the doors and stopping business. In addition, a smaller group of about 35 activists blocked the parking garage.

ADAPT then stated their four-part demand for the AMA: that the AMA endorse the Community Choice Act, work with ADAPT to get real options for people facing institutionalization, have the AMA Board of Trustees divest from nursing facilities, and develop an AMA ethics policy requiring doctors to disclose if they are invested in a long-term care facility. The police as well as the Mayor’s office tried negotiating with the AMA and ADAPT on these demands, but eventually 55 ADAPT members were arrested when the negotiations did not come to a satisfactory resolution.

On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, ADAPT marched to the James R. Thompson Center, a state office complex, where they proceeded to shut down business as they had done at the AMA building the day before. The Chicago police escorted the march, but were not expecting hundreds of ADAPT members to break off from the march and flood the atrium of the state government building. Immediately, the activists blocked the elevators and escalators, limiting the access to the top floors. People were still in the atrium, however, and ADAPT continued their demonstration by chanting, displaying signs, etc.

Meanwhile, four members of Chicago ADAPT had made it up to the Governor’s office by hiding their identities as members of ADAPT, and were successful in forcing a meeting with him.

By 2:00 that day, people were beginning to ignore ADAPT members and their campaign, and so ADAPT decided to force people to pay attention to them by blocking all entrances and exits to the building. Also, Anita Cameron and Tom Benzinger got out of their wheelchairs and laid on the floor in order to stop people from boarding the Blue Line El, the entrance to which was located inside the Thompson building. The Chicago police and public transportation workers tried to allow people into the station, but by 3:00 the police gave up and left the public transit gate because ADAPT had successfully made it impossible for them to keep it open.

ADAPT was about to start blocking the elevators and escalators that lead to the El, when it was announced that successful negotiations had been achieved. ADAPT then reconvened in the atrium for the public announcement that Governor Blagojevich’s office had committed to closing down the Lincoln Developmental Center, having ADAPT at the table for the Illinois Money Follows the Person Project, and meeting with ADAPT before October 17. Matt Summy and Grace Hou, members of the governor’s staff, made the announcement. Following the announcement, Rahnee Patrick of Chicago ADAPT questioned them in order to clarify and solidify the governor’s commitments, and then made a speech of congratulations to ADAPT for a successful campaign.


For more campaigns by ADAPT, see: "Colorado disability rights activists (ADAPT) prevent budget cuts to Medicaid Home-Health Services, 2002"; "U.S. disability rights activists (ADAPT) win support from Governors for Medicaid reform, 2002-2005"; and "U.S. disability activists (ADAPT) campaign against rebuilding of Laguna Honda Hospital, 2001"


Wheat, Tom, “ADAPT Action Reports: Photos, news and commentary from the ADAPT Action in Chicago.” September 2007, http://www.adapt.org/freeourpeople/aar/chicago/report.htm

Ritter, Jim. "Activists block AMA building - Want backing for bill targeting Medicaid." The Chicago Sun-Times, 11 Sep 2007. Accessed through Newsbank.

Parish, Norman and Ritter, Jim. "Disabled protest again - Gov OKs some demands." The Chicago Sun-Times, 12 Sep 2007. Accessed through Newsbank.

Additional Notes

Edited by Max Rennebohm (28/01/2012)

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Hannah-Ruth Miller, 25/04/2010