Stephanie Thomas

As Interviewed by Bo Wang, March 17, 2019

Stephanie Thomas: In Her Own Words

My name is Stephanie Thomas and I am a disability rights advocate, I have been an activist of disability rights since 1975. I work with a group called ADAPT. Its a group that was started in the early 80’s and it was started by some folks in Denver who felt like there should be lifts on the buses so that anybody could get on or off. They realized that this wasn’t just a problem in Denver, it was a national problem. And so they started to get people from other states. Very early on, my husband Bob and I got involved her in Texas and a friend of ours Jim Parker, and we started the ADAPT here in Texas.

We decided that what needed to happen was that there be more community based attendance services, which are people who help with stuff like dressing and bathing if you can’t do that stuff yourself because of a disability. We decided to try to push for more of that the reason we decided to do that is because a lot of the people that were involved in ADAPT at that time had been put into nursing homes and other institutions because those kind of things weren’t available in the community. And really heavy bias towards the institutional way of dealing with people, just kinda sticking them in there and forget about them, so we decided that we wanted to change that. And we had a goal that we would get 25% of the medicaid funding to fund the people living in the community with disabilities with support services. We have gone about that in a number of different ways. We’ve got something called Money Follows The Person -- and what it is that if you get put into an institution and you want to move out, then there is money to help you move out and back into the community.

We’ve gotten a lot of businesses here that are accessible due to lawsuits or protests. That's a big part of what we are trying to do -- not just take no for an answer. Another big thing that is big to me is working on accessible, affordable, integrated housing so that people who are on very very very low incomes or people who are on disability benefits , they would be able to afford a place to live and the housing would be accessible to them. And it would be not just be people with disabilities living together but its whoever wants to move into the complex because it you get all people with disabilities living together it's kind of like a mini-institution. And we've made a lot of headway there but the thing is this state has a lot of people in it who pay taxes, and things get funded in a lot of ways, and the state has a lot of money so they could do better and they need to do better.