40 Years Ago, Denver Became The Birthplace Of The Disability Rights Movement

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Photo: ADAPT Protest In Denver 1997
Protesters Gil Casarez, left, and Michael Auberger, center, block an inbound Greyhound bus from entering the terminal in downtown Denver with the help of Beto Barrera of Chicago on Friday, Aug. 8, 1997. The protest was staged by ADAPT, which stands for American Disabled for Accessible Public Transport, to call attention to Greyhound's failure to equip new buses with lifts.

A protest led by people with disabilities in Denver 40 years ago went on to spark a national movement.

In 1978, activists surrounded RTD buses in their wheelchairs, chanting "We wanna ride!", to demand accessible public transit. The group of protestors who became known as the "Gang of Nineteen" lay down in front of the buses, stopping traffic at Colfax Avenue and Broadway Street for two days.

RTD would become the first public transit district in the country to add wheelchair lifts to buses. The group expanded to become ADAPT, and went on to demonstrate in front of the White House and all across the country.

ADAPT activist Jordan Sibayan talked to Colorado Matters about how he was inspired by the Gang of Nineteen's protests, and about the group's work today.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story misstated the year in which the Gang of Nineteen protest took place. It was 1978.