By Laura Ramos, Everyone for Accessible Community Housing Rolls!
"Lady Justice Rolls!” is a painting that embodies the history, discrimination, and despair that people with disabilities in the United States are facing, while at the same time representing the victories people with disabilities have achieved and the power of speaking up and fighting back. She is painted as an elderly woman of color, because elderly women of color are often the most overlooked, neglected, and disadvantaged in our country, and even the lowest-income and most overlooked deserve equal rights. Whether we are older, people of color, mobility-impaired, poor or rich, blind, deaf, or have any other challenges, Lady Justice represents all of us.
My name is Laura Ramos, and I am the president of a very small 501(c)(3) organization Everyone for Accessible Community Housing Rolls! Inc (EACH Rolls!). It was founded in 2001 when three women with disabilities (myself included) were refused downstairs apartments in our building by our landlord. There were ground-floor apartments available, but the landlord did not want to make them available to us. We decided to file a fair housing complaint against the landlord. Eventually, we helped five individuals or families with disabilities move into ground-floor apartments at that complex. Our work did not stop the disability discrimination entirely, but it made a world of difference for those residents!
I painted “Lady Justice Rolls!” in 2014 after my family had been denied the opportunity over and over again to participate in two housing programs for low-income people in New Jersey that would have finally given us the chance to own a wheelchair-accessible home. The organization running the programs told us they would not build a wheelchair-accessible home, only a wheelchair-adaptable one. They told us that we could put in the accessibility features after the home was built, but they could veto any they didn’t want in the home. They never answered our questions: How are we going to get into the home if there’s no ramp? How are we going to have funds to pay for modifications, when all our resources will be tied up in the mortgage? To this day, that organization has not built a fully wheelchair accessible home, except their very first one over 30 years ago.
I painted “Lady Justice Rolls!” to take my despair and make something positive from it – an image that embodied my passion for housing justice and the belief that someday we will overcome and have a wheelchair-accessible home of our own. I painted “Lady Justice Rolls!” so that others might see there is hope even in the darkest hours and that no one is alone. I can be reached at [email protected] or P.O. Box 4905, Clinton, New Jersey 08809. (EACH Rolls! doesn’t have its own website because we haven’t had the resources to make one.) Perhaps others would like to help in our efforts for equal housing opportunity for people with disabilities in New Jersey and beyond!