Many thanks to the Louisiana Developmental Disabilities Council for sponsoring us at their meeting in Baton Rougue, Louisiana. Members spent time viewing the exhibit and talking with photographer, Tom Olin. RTF staff presented an overview of the tour and ongoing efforts in DC addressing ADA restoration. We also met with Matthew Rovira, the executive director of the Louisiana Governor’s Office on Disability Affairs and Kathy Kliebert of the Louisiana Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities. Thanks also to Robert Wilson of the Statewide Independent Living Council.

Jim Ward‘s presentation was delayed by a conference call with Senators and disability representatives in Washington discussing efforts to introduce a bipartisan ADA Restoration Act bill in Congress this year. As always, the main focus was on finding ways mobilize bipartisan support — as was done with the ADA itself — and to educate members about disability rights. Currently, there are 43 members of the U.S. Senate and 69 members of the U.S. House who voted on the ADA. Of these, 1 Senator and 5 House members voted “No” on the ADA. The goal of ADA Restoration, in part, is to get the enforcement of the ADA to reflect the intent of our elected members of Congress rather than the judicial activism of unelected judges.

In Louisiana, as with most of our bus stops, it is clear that folks are not hearing much about either the weakening of ADA in the courts or of the efforts to restore disability rights protections. The interest here is strong and in addition to sharing information we planned ways to strengthen communications between Washington and state and local advocates.

Central to the Road To Freedom tour is the gathering of testimonials regarding people’s experiences with the ADA and disability discrimination. One memorable testimonial concerned the involvement of advocates in relocating residents displaced from New Orleans by Huricane Katrina. We listened to stories about how the NIMB (Not In My Backyard) syndrome came to life at public hearings regarding small group homes. Locals did not hide their prejudice towards people with disabilities moving into their neighborhoods even going so far as calling “those people” “peeping Toms” and worse… We all have plenty of work to do!

Thanks again to Lynette Fontenot, Donna Breaux, Sandee Winchell, David Martin, Kandi Smith and everyone at the Louisiana DD Council