Two dozen deaf, blind and mentally retarded demonstrators - many of them in wheelchairs - were turned away from the doors of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare yesterday by armed security guards as the group demanded to talk with Secretary Joseph A. Califano Jr.
The protestors, in their third day of demonstrations in Washington, flew here Tuesday from San Francisco where they were among 150 handicapped persons who staged a 17-day sit-in at HEW's regional office.
The demonstration is part of a nationwide campaign by the disabled to pressure Califano into immediately signing regulations to implement a 1973 civil rights law for the handicapped.
The first in a series of protests by the handicapped this week occurred late Tuesday night shortly after the San Francisco group arrived at Dulles Airport. They rented a truck and went to the upper Northwest Washington home of Califano for an all-night vigil and candlelight prayer service. Many of those who attended came in wheel-chairs.
The group, accompanied by several Washington supporters, returned to Califano's home Wednesday night and asked to meet with him. Califano, whose home was guarded by federal officers and Washington police dressed in plainclothes, did not meet with the group.
Thursday, the group conducted a day-long vigil in front of the White House, where many arrived in a rented truck needed to carry wheel-chairs. A small contingent of the group met with President Carter's chief domestic counsel Stuart Eizenstat to request a meeting with the President. However, Carter aides made no commitments for a future meeting.
Judy Heumann, a spokesman for the demonstrators and a fromer worker in President Carter's election campaign, told reporters she is "ashamed I helped Carter get elected" because he has not taken action to force Califano to sign the regulations.
Sen. Alan Cranston D-Calif.), in a letter written Wednesday, urged Califano to issue "touch, effective regulations" immediately.
Cranston, who was a sponsor of the 1973 law, told Califano that the proposed regulations passed on to him by the Ford adminstration "represent years of discussions and negotiations" as to how best to implement the law.
"You are not writing on a clean state," Cranston wrote. "Given this background, I believe you must bear the burden of justifying not only to handicapped Americans, but to all citizens and the Congress, any changes that you make."
On April 5, there were simultaneous protests by the handicapped at HEW headquarters and at the nine regional offices around the nation. The last of 300 demonstrators who crowded into the Califano's reception room on the first day of the protest, finally left after a full day without food.
During that first day of protest, Califano promised the group that he would sign regulations early in May. The regulations prohibit anyone reveiving federal funds from discriminating against the handicapped.
But protest leaders charged that by waiting until May, Califano was only stalling for time to build "loopholes, waivears and exemptions" into the regulations.
Califano maintained that he needed time to review the regulations - which have been developed over the last four years - and possibly make some changes before he signed them.
After yesterday's protest, some members of the group flew back to San Francisco to join demonstrators still conducting a sit-in there. Other members of the group remained in Washington to continue protests here next week.