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LOCAL News :: Civil & Human Rights

Disability and senior advocates rally to protect independence

On June 29, Chicago ADAPT and SEIU Health Care Illinois & Indiana led a protest to stop cuts that threaten community-based services, and the independence of people with disabilities and seniors. The protest started with a rally in Daley Plaza. Before long, 100 disability and senior advocates took to the streets, blocking Randolph and Clark in front of the State of Illinois building, sending a clear message that our communities won't back down until independence is preserved
disability and senior advocates blocking Clark Street in front of State of Illinois Building
(Chicago) -- “The 20th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act is right around the corner, yet our legislative leaders in Springfield seem bent on setting people with disabilities back 40 years by cutting our most indispensible support services,” said Mike Ervin of Chicago ADAPT, a person with a disability who uses a personal assistant through the Home Services Program. On Tuesday morning, June 29, Mike joined more than 100 other disability and senior advocates who rallied in downtown Chicago to protect the independence of people with disabilities and seniors living in their homes with the support of Illinois’ Home Services Program and Community Care Program. The advocates marched up Clark Street to the State of Illinois Building then blocked traffic at Randolph and Clark, demanding Illinois preserve services that enable people with disabilities and seniors to live in their own homes and save money.

The proposed 2011 Illinois State Budget includes cuts that will force people with disabilities and seniors into poverty, out of their homes, and into institutions. On average, institutional care costs three times more than home based care. “It's regressive, it's brutal and it's not even fiscally wise. We will not surrender ourselves to a life of inescapable poverty and institutionalization just because our leaders don't have the courage to demand and pass a responsible budget,” said Ervin.

Under the Department of Human Services Home Services Program, eligible people with disabilities have access to personal assistants. By assisting with day-to-day tasks like cooking, bathing and dressing, personal assistants help people with disabilities live in their own homes. Without adequate personal assistant services, people with disabilities are often forced into institutions.

The current Illinois Budget for 2011 puts service caps on Home Service Hours and also reduces the Asset Limit from $17,500 to $2,000 a year for people eligible for Home Services. With the new service caps, some people with disabilities may lose the support they need to live on their own. The change in asset limit will force new members of the program into poverty.

“As a mother and a home care worker for nearly eight years, I’ve seen the important role home care has in the lives of Illinois families—and how important it is in keeping seniors and people with disabilities independent,” said Flora Johnson, a home care provider through the Home Services Program and a member of SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana. “My son has cerebral palsy. His life depends on the assistance he gets through the state’s home care program. For lawmakers to even consider making deeper cuts to this vital care is heart wrenching.”

The rally was led by the disability rights group Chicago ADAPT and by home care workers represented by SEIU Healthcare Illinois, with support from Access Living, Jane Addams Senior Caucus and Progress Center for Independent Living.

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Cuts to disability and senior services

In addition to service caps and asset limits, the current Illinois budget includes cuts the to Community Care program, which helps senior citizens live in their own homes. On average, cuts in the proposed budget will mean a 20% cut in hours of care for seniors, and reducing eligibility for home care by lowering the asset limit. The cuts will impact 50,000 seniors statewide.

Blocking traffic in front of the State of Illinois Building, disability and senior advocates demonstrated that State cuts will result in increased unemployment, higher rates of unnecessary institutionalization, and the loss of jobs for personal assistants and home care workers, all of which will cost the state more money. For months, people with disabilities, seniors and the rest of Illinois have been waiting for leadership that will strengthen the state financially and will empower thousands of citizens in Illinois with independence. As long as the State leadership continues to make cuts that don't make fiscal sense and are at the expense of the freedom of people with disabilities and seniors, the communities will continue to fight back.

For more information, contact Gary Arnold at 312-640-2199 voice, 773-425-2536 (mobile), garnold (at); or Rachel Siler at 312-479-0220 (voice).

Chicago ADAPT is a grass-roots community that organizes disability rights activists to engage in nonviolent direct action, including civil disobedience, to assure the civil and human rights of people with disabilities to live in freedom

SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana unites more than 85,000 health care, home care, long-term care and child care workers across two states in the fight to raise standards across industries, to strengthen the political voice for working families and for access to quality, affordable care for all families.
Chicago Adapt member Mike Ervin addressing the crowd before taking the streets
debriefing after the action.



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