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Identifier: WH2283


The collection spans 1956-2015 and documents the personal and professional lives of Wade and Molly Blank. The bulk of the material relates to the Blanks’ work founding and organizing Atlantis, Inc. and ADAPT in Denver, Colorado, and with disability rights activism across the country. The materials document the disability rights movement from the struggle for accessible public transportation to the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the emergence for improved attendant care and independent living resources.

Materials include meeting minutes, newspaper clippings, correspondence, brochures and booklets, photographs, press releases, quarterly reports, grant proposals, legal documents, and original protest signs and other ephemera.

SERIES 1 PERSONAL 1959-2015 BOX 1-2

This series documents the lives of Wade, Molly, and Heather Blank, as well as friends of the family, their personal activism and material related to the deaths of Wade, Molly, and Lincoln Blank. The Wade Blank subseries includes résumés, correspondence, photographs, a high school reunion program, seminary papers, ordination programs, articles written by and about Blank, an oral history transcript, and information about the Brown Backers Association. Information about Molly Blank includes résumés, an autobiography, creative writing, correspondence, photographs, articles and newspapers clippings, and legal information. Heather Blank is represented by a school journal and correspondence.

Other material in the series includes information about close friends of the family including Laura Hershey, the Farrar family, and renovation of the Blank’s guest house for Glenn Kopp. Activism material details the lawsuit brought against Denver Public Schools involving the possible contamination of Garden Place Elementary School in Globeville, Colorado, where Lincoln Blank was to attend. The last section of the series deals with the deaths of Wade, Lincoln, and Molly Blank. Materials include a death certificate of Wade Blank, a hotel bill, obituaries, sympathy cards, memorial programs, articles and clippings, tributes, and a memorial ribbon. All subseries are arranged chronologically.


This series details the history and founding of the Atlantis Community from its inception to 2011. The series begins with the history of Heritage House and Wade Blank’s influence on the nursing home, including the programming and job training opportunities he implemented. Materials covering all these issues are arranged chronologically and include administrative documents such as newspaper clippings, press releases, court hearings, correspondence, budget and travel expenses, first drafts of position papers, brochures, flyers, and photographs of some of the founding members of Atlantis Community. The subseries are also arranged chronologically. Atlantis client medical files for Earnest Butts, Wenda Thompson, Kevin Thompson, and Kenneth Hammonds have been restricted.


In this series, the history of ADAPT is organized into subseries to reflect the organization's areas of focus from 1974 to 2012, including administration, transportation, Americans with Disabilities Act, and Independent Living/Healthcare. Materials are arranged chronologically and include correspondence, reports, flyers, resolutions, articles, clippings, brochures, bumper stickers, and lawsuits.

The chapter and protest subseries is arranged chronologically by location and details activism in the United States, Canada, and England. Materials document the planning and coordination of actions as well as chapter activities, including photographs, flyers, newsletters, clippings, articles, meeting agendas, conference programs, protest headband and armband, arrest records, lawsuits, and correspondence.

SERIES 4 OVERSIZE 1992-1993, 2014 OVFF1, OVBOX 1

The oversize series contains an article about Wade Blank's death, a family photograph mounted on foamboard, a protest sign, and a replica of a plaque engraved with the ADAPT slogan "We Will Ride" that was originally dedicated July 26, 1992. This plaque was recreated by the Regional Transportation District in 2014 from the original memorial placed at Colfax Avenue and Broadway in Denver, Colorado, honoring the bus protest that took place July 5-6, 1978.


  • 1956-2015


The collection is open for research. Social Security numbers have been redacted on select material. The Atlantis client medical records (Box 5) have been restricted for life of the person plus 50 years in accordance with the HIPPA Privacy Rule.


Records are the physical property of the Denver Public Library.


All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from material in the collection should be discussed with the appropriate librarian or archivist. Permission for publication may be given on behalf of the Denver Public Library as the owner of the physical item. It is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained by the customer. The Library does not assume any responsibility for infringement of copyright or publication rights of the manuscript held by the writer, heirs, donors, or executors. Reproduction restrictions are decided on a case-by-case basis.


Wade Edwin Blank was born December 4, 1940, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Arthur Benjamin Blank and Ruth Wilma Kniffin. He was raised in Canton, Ohio, and graduated from Perry High School in 1959. His brother, Douglas Arthur Blank, was killed in action on October 5, 1959 while serving in the Navy.

Wade Blank attended Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio, and received a BA in English in 1963. He then attended McCormick Theological Seminary and received a Divinity degree in 1966. He discovered his passion for civil rights when he marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma, Alabama, as a seminary student in 1964. As pastor of a Presbyterian Church in Akron, Ohio, he became involved in the anti-war movement at Kent State University and founded a bookstore/organizing center called "Alice's Restaurant." Wade married Lorena Carol Pfautz on December 10, 1966, in Ohio.

In 1971, he began working as the Recreational Director of the youth wing for Heritage House in Denver, Colorado, a nursing home for people with physical and mental disabilities. Blank became an advocate for disability rights, devoting his time and effort to improving the quality of life for the Heritage House youth. Heritage House administration refused to support Blank’s efforts to help the nursing home patients live independent lives, and he was fired for having what the establishment considered a progressive agenda. Blank then founded Atlantis Community, Inc., in 1975 - an organization dedicated to providing free individualized care, housing, meals, in-home care, and job training for people with disabilities. The mission of the Atlantis Community was, and remains, to provide as many of life’s necessities as possible to people with disabilities.

In 1983, a group of Atlantis residents officially formed an activist group to garner attention for disability rights: ADAPT (American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today, formerly known as the American Disabled for Accessible Public Transit). The members of this militant-style activist group first focused their efforts on the Denver area’s Regional Transportation District (RTD). ADAPT members traveled across the nation to protest the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and various bus companies, such as Greyhound and its lack of wheelchair lifts installed on buses. The second major focus of ADAPT protests targeted Social Security, health care policies, and Medicaid for insufficient government support for attendant care and independent living funding. Eventually, ADAPT began protesting at restaurants, schools, parking lots, post offices, housing communities, casinos, churches, and more. It took Blank and members of ADAPT decades to influence legislation equalizing access to public transit, in addition to providing for wheelchair-accessible public restrooms, airlines, and courthouses. ADAPT's activism contributed to the eventual passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26, 1990.

Lois "Molly" Gutzman was born in Ohio on January 31, 1948. Gutzman and Blank were married in Denver. She was instrumental in the fight for equality for people with disabilities. Her technical writing skills made her the sole grant writer for Atlantis, and she was responsible for securing most of the organization's funding. Wade and Molly had three children: Heather, Molly's daughter from a previous relationship who was born with cerebral palsy; Caitlin; and Lincoln. Molly's efforts to move Heather from the Boettcher School for Crippled Children to a public school led her to meet Wade Blank, who was in the process of urging schools to desegregate disabled students. The Blank family was active in the Disability Rights Movement scene; there are many photographs of Wade with his children by his side during ADAPT protests and marches.

During a family vacation to Baja, California, on February 13, 1993, Wade drowned while trying to save eight-year-old Lincoln from a powerful riptide. Lincoln also died during the tragedy. After 1993, Molly left activist work behind and began working at Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver. Her older daughter, Heather, passed away on December 30, 2002. Molly died January 5, 2015, of ovarian cancer at the age of 65.


11 Boxes

1 oversize folder

1 oversize box

Language of Materials



Molly (Lois) Blank and Cara Jean Reiman donated the collection on January 27, 2014.


The Western History/Genealogy Department has additional collections containing material related to (this collection) including:

Laura Hershey Papers: WH2274


Issues of the ADAPT newsletter Incitement, Incitement, Incitement have been transferred to the Western History Collection.


Number of Boxes: 11 (11 linear feet)

Oversize: 1 OVFF, 1 OVBox




Calli Force

Jamie Seemiller

July 2015


Abby Hoverstock

September 2015
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Denver Public Library, Western History and Genealogy Repository

10 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy
Denver CO 80204 United States