Erik McGregor is a New York City based artist, photographer and activist. Erik is a member of the People’s Puppets of Occupy Wall Street and co-writer of the Occupy Wall Street’s Declaration of the Occupation of New York City. As a published freelance photographer, he has documented activist groups actions in NYC since 2011.
Sunday, February 5, 2017
No More Willowbrooks: People with Disabilities Call on Senate to Vote NO on Betsy DeVos
New York, NY – On Sunday February 5th 2017, people with disabilities, parents, caregivers, teachers, and allies gathered at the clock in Grand Central Station to protest the nomination of Betsy Devos as secretary of education. Devos is threatening the most basic civil right of disabled people, many children with disabilities are at risk of losing their right to an education. Devos has said: “That is a matter that is best left to the states.”
DeVos, a billionaire who donated to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, appeared unaware of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) during her confirmation hearing, a law her agency is responsible for promoting and upholding.
DeVos is threatening the most basic civil right of disabled people. We won’t go back.
Protest organizer Jennifer Bartlett has mild cerebral palsy and attended a mainstream school throughout her education. She says, “I had two resources which changed my life. K-10th grade, I had pull-out one on one speech therapy. With my cerebral palsy, I have a speech impediment. Speech therapy was crucial to my education.” Ms. Bartlett continues, “Even though I am still mocked sometimes, my speech is clear enough so that I am a professor, poet and public speaker. In middle school, I had typing lessons. As a consequence, I am able to type well and quickly. I was able to have a job as an administrative assistant when I moved to New York City, and in a career as an educator and writer, my skills have taught me well.”
At this time, two Republican Senators, Murkowski (AK) and Collins (MN) have joined the Democrats, resulting in a 50-50 tie, which would be broken by Vice President Mike Pence. Activists are targeting the following Republican Senators leading up to the final vote, expected no later than Tuesday, February 2nd at noon.
1) Gardner (CO)
2) Fisher (NE)
3) Sullivan (AK)
4) Hoeven (ND)
5) Heller (NV)
6) Flake (AZ)
7) McCain (AZ)
For people with physical or cognitive disabilities, the only option was to be educated at home or put in state funded institutions. One such institution was Willowbrook State School. At Willbrook disabled children and adults were warehoused. They were abused, often kept unclothed and in their own feces. The had illegal hepatitis studies done on them, and they had no access to education. With the help of Geraldo Rivera's reporting, Willowbrook was closed in 1987.