Disability Network Wayne County/Detroit has posted the position of Executive Director.
All details are located in the posting. For further information please feel free to contact the Disability Network Wayne County/Detroit. Web Site
Disability Network Wayne County/Detroit has posted the position of Executive Director.
All details are located in the posting. For further information please feel free to contact the Disability Network Wayne County/Detroit. Web Site
Disability Network West Michigan has hired Diane N. Fleser as its new executive director.
In her new role, Fleser will manage day-to-day operations of Disability Network West Michigan, which employs 24 and provides independent living resources for people with disabilities in a five-county area. She will have oversight of strategic planning, employment, finance, grants, partnerships and related administrative duties. Fleser will oversee and implement the organization’s strategy on behalf of the board of directors, ensuring that DNWM builds a diverse board and team that reflects the population it serves.
Fleser brings 16 years of professional experience to her new role, including six years with the Michigan Army National Guard that featured a 12-month deployment to Iraq. Since 2010, she has worked in a variety of roles with area nonprofits, including six years working with vulnerable populations and four years in program development and design.
“Diane presented herself as a passionate, poised and experienced professional,” said John Wahlberg, chair of the DNWM board. “Most importantly, she is experienced in creating and developing strong mission-drive programs within the five counties we serve. She has personal contacts and a history of building hands-on community partnerships.
“Diane demonstrated the drive, focus and skills needed to be a successful leader of Disability Network West Michigan. We are delighted to welcome her to the team.”
Prior to joining DNWM, Fleser served in roles of increasing responsibility with TrueNorth Community Services, most recently as self-sufficiency and community health director. Based in Fremont, TrueNorth provides programming to 64 counties in Michigan that addresses rural poverty, ensures youth thrive, builds vibrant communities and provides innovative rural nonprofit leadership.
During her tenure with TrueNorth, Fleser developed, implemented and grew current and new programs, engaged with stakeholders from local communities to the federal level, managed budgets and grants, led communication and continuous improvement efforts, and embraced the use of technology to support an increasingly mobile workforce. She started at True North in 2010, working directly on case management with vulnerable youth and their families.
Active in the community, Fleser has volunteered with diverse organizations, including Girls on the Run, Muskegon Habitat for Humanity, United Way and others.
Fleser holds a bachelor of arts in sociology from Grand Valley State University and a master’s in science administration from Central Michigan University. She is currently working on her doctorate in interdisciplinary health science from Western Michigan University.
In 2016, Fleser was part of a multidisciplinary team that received the Spectrum Health Synergy Creativity Award for work with individuals and families to improve their wellness and build a healthier community. She also received multiple medals for her military service.
A native of Hart, she currently resides in Whitehall with her husband, Ashley, and daughter, Addison.
About Disability Network West Michigan:
Disability Network West Michigan provides independent living resources for people with disabilities in Muskegon, Oceana, Newaygo, Lake and Mason counties. The mission of the nonprofit organization, which is part of the statewide network of Centers for Independent Living, is to empower, educate, advocate and provide resources for those with disabilities as well as promoting accessible communities.
A new blog entry from the SILC Chair is now available at: http://www.misilc.org/message-from-the-silc-chair/
Hello fellow SILC Members,
I would like to begin this letter that will discuss
1. The recent accomplishments made and independent living's progress through SILC efforts
2. Focus on future growth of SILC business meetings
3. Council member feedback and knowledge sharing
Please share requested feedback with the full council by June 30, or I can share your responses if you prefer.
The structure of SILC business meetings has been a topic for recent discussion. When we reconvene in September, I would like the focus of meetings to be:
Please provide me with any ideas or feedback that you may have for future topics at meetings that speak directly to SPIL goals.
In order to formulate future meetings to reflect these priorities, I would like each member of the council to share with the full group:
Please share answers with the full council by June 30, or I can share your responses if you prefer.
I am looking forward to hearing from you all and will follow up with a call or email in a few weeks.
Thank you all,
SILC Chairperson Robin Bennett
Born legally blind, Jim Whalen said his life parallels the law. “As I grew up so did the law,” said Whalen. “Until about the age of 12, there were no pieces of federal legislation that protected people with disabilities.”
When he was younger, he became connected with the National Library Services for the blind and his material was marked “for the blind and crippled children.” In fact, “I have seen all types of references over the years,” he noted. “It has been an interesting evolution.”
Whalen always knew he had a disability but no adult in his life allowed it to cripple him. “There was always an expectation for me to succeed,” he said. “I attended Catholic school and wasn’t given any special privileges because I was blind. My parents also raised me without accommodations.”
That influenced is what spurred his passion for Independent Living (IL).
Over the years, he has worked in various functions including in state government and at the University setting. “Independent Living is my home and it is where I belong. It incorporates all aspects of community participation,” he said. “Sometimes it is hard to tell that life is more than work.”
Growing up for Whalen meant that—regardless regardless of your challenges—you were to be confident and participate. “Everyone expected me to perform and were engaged in my success,” he said. At school, he was also involved in peer mentoring and was a mentor in math. “I grew up in that Independent Living model,” he said. “It’s been part of my life since the beginning. I was taught those skills by my parents and teachers. It was just sort of a given and that it why it is a big part of my life today.”
Whalen can trace back his involvement in the council to about 40 years ago: “It was then when I had my first real encounter with some real disability advocates who were asking that their rights be respected by the federal government who had created laws they didn't really know how to implement,” he said.
He is currently the director of a center described in the law that created SILCs, and was voted to represent centers on this council. He has also been involved with other SILC council work in Iowa and North Carolina over the past decade and a half.
“The SILC can serve a couple of key functions to the citizens of any state, but I think the most important role we play is promoting and monitoring the services that Centers for Independent Living and our other service providers using public dollars extend to the citizens of the state,” said Whalen. “We are in a legal sense the monitors for the federal government assigned by the governor and it is very important that the services outlined in our state plan get executed.”
It may not sound too flashy but neither is sidewalk grass, noted Whalen. “Sidewalk grass, you ask? Sidewalk grass just keeps showing up doing its job of growing and eventually breaks through concrete to take its place in nature,” he said. “The SILC makes sure the state plan gets done and this plan represents a path to fuller participation for citizens with disabilities. The SILC therefore plays a key role in ultimately making a better state and nation for all.”
As a long-time disabilities advocate, Whalen is proud of SILC’s work. “This is a ‘young’ Council and the laws dictating the actions of SILC have changed slightly,” he said. “I look forward to being part of a team of Council members who have great potential to become a strong, focused group of citizens with disabilities or who understand disability. I look forward to sharing my experiences and I look forward to being a part of the change that is possible.”
Whalen, like many Council members, is advocating for certain issues, including sub-minimum wage and for independent living. “The issue of independent living is probably the best kept secret in the entirety of government and is a great investment for the taxpayer,” he said.
Twenty three percent of Michigan adults live with a disability.* Yet, until recently, the state’s legislation and planning regarding access and independent living has largely been drafted without direct input from the citizens affected by that legislation. The consumer-led Common Disability Agenda, developed by the Michigan Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC), is changing that.
All persons with disabilities should have equal access to public places and services. This may seem like common sense, but the concept gets trickier when you consider that, like many other states, Michigan’s budget doesn’t allow for unlimited spending. So what gets funded, and where do our priorities lie?
The answer to that can only be provided by the people who use the state’s services and programs on a daily basis—or at least would, if they were widely available. It is crucial to not only invite, but actively seek, public input on these priorities.
As director of the Statewide Independent Living Council, it has been my mission to listen to suggestions from the people most affected by our work. This spring, SILC has begun implementation of its Statewide Plan for Independent Living. As we do so, we have traveled all over the state and held public forums requesting input from individuals with disabilities, family members, service providers, and advocates.
We’ve heard from consumers in Traverse City, Saginaw, Muskegon and Marquette. Over the course of the next six to eight months, SILC members will travel to 21 communities from Detroit to the Upper Peninsula. After only a few of these hearings, we’re already drawing key connections between the services available and the need in the communities.
Michiganders with disabilities deserve reliable and affordable access to healthcare, transportation, job opportunities, and other services. Yet all too often, the disconnect between what is needed and what is available widens if we fail to listen to the priorities of those who know them best.
Persons with disabilities in Michigan face even greater challenges in the less-populated areas of the state than they do in the city centers. Access to transportation is often more limited, and many businesses lack the financial resources to update to ADA-compliant structures. Our Council member, Aaron Andres, knows this all too well: when he moved to Marquette in 2012, he found limited accessibility a significant hurdle in his job search. By volunteering for an area Independent Living board, he was able to influence policy statewide and improve access for people with restricted mobility.
Access to health care, too, presents a problem. When Aaron moved from Indiana, switching Medicaid policies was a byzantine nightmare of paperwork, and no one seemed to have the answers he needed. It took determination and patience, but he learned from the experience, and brought that lesson to his work with SILC.
Aaron is not alone in this: of the respondents to the 2013 Michigan Behavioral Risk Factor survey who declared that they were living with disabilities, 46 percent had been in poor physical health on at least 14 days of the previous month. By contrast, only eight percent of those with no reported disability had the same problems.
The same study found that 26 percent of individuals with disabilities had no health care access in the past year due to cost, as opposed to only 12 percent of the non-disabled population.
We can do better. We have to do better. As Michigan’s population ages and its younger citizens move out of state, solving the independent living crisis must become a priority. We need to build the state’s capacity for independent living. It’s been obvious for some time that our state’s infrastructure is failing its most vulnerable citizens. At SILC, the council faces a hefty challenge, but we also have the opportunity to do it right, and to do right by the people who depend on the council’s planning and foresight.
Our council is composed of people with disabilities, their family members, and advocates. The numbers are staggering, and our task is daunting. But already we have received invaluable suggestions from these public input sessions. I’m confident that—if we continue our outreach and listen to our consumers—we can shape policies that provide the services all Michiganders need, regardless of where they are. We don’t have all the answers yet, but at least we’re asking the right questions of the people who can provide those answers.
For a complete list of our public sessions, visit www.misilc.org.
A move from Indiana to Marquette, Michigan proved the change that Council member Aaron Andres needed to jump-start his activism. In 2012, Aaron, then 24 years old, didn’t see enough opportunities for people living with disabilities. So he packed up and move north. Said Andres, “In Indiana there were not a lot of opportunities for disabled individuals, so I need a change of pace.” One of his first stops once he arrived was to the Superior Alliance for Independent Living (SAIL), since, he said, “the people in that club were instrumental in getting me to move to Marquette.”
Once established in Marquette, Andres set out to find winter occupation since, he laughed, “you always want to find something to do in the winters up here since they last 6 months.” And although, he said, “At first, I just Intended to see which programs they had available,” he soon found more than enough to fill his time through the winter and beyond. “I was telling them how I moved up here and how I was dealing with the switchover from Indiana Medicaid to Michigan Medicaid. I asked, ‘what do you do, how do you do it, and how do you pay?’ Apparently those were really good questions, since I walked out with a position and a board application.”
Andres’s first board position was at the very same center, SAIL. Soon after, he was asked to join the statewide Barrier Free Design Board, which makes decisions on building design codes, zoning exemptions and ADA compliance. Andres served on that board from June 2013 to October 2015. Somewhere in there, he managed to find time to return to school. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration from Northern Michigan University in December 2016, and is currently working on a Master’s in the same field.
When he took the SILC appointment in November 2016, Andres knew what areas of disability advocacy he wanted to focus on already. He’s glad to be in the room with lawmakers, he said, because “most of the disabled community doesn’t have the voice that it should. It’s ironic,” he explained, “that if you include seniors, we are the largest community in Michigan, the people with disabilities. But despite that, we have the lowest representation.”
He is also committed to raising the asset limit for the Medicaid Supplemental Income program. The limit, Andres explained, hasn’t been raised since 1974. As it is now, the maximum assets allowable for people on Medicaid is $2,000; if that number were adjusted for inflation from 1974, it would now be more than $8,500.
It’s an uphill battle. Said Andres, “I know we have made several passes to help those with disabilities attempt to work, but with the same statutes in place, there’s no incentive to work. We work and lose our benefits, but we don’t work and keep our benefits. People then see us as second class citizens because they say we’re not working. We shouldn’t have to make that decision. It’s really hard to keep working when you’re having to sacrifice your benefits to do so.”
Despite the setbacks, Andres remains optimist about his prospects, and about his work with the council. “My biggest thing,” he said, “is I can do anything anybody else can do, I just need a little more help. Give me the opportunity and I can do it.”
In order to greater promote and implement the State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL), the SILC council has developed an opportunity by which Centers for Independent Living (CILs) or other entities who provide services outlined in the SPIL can request scholarship opportunities though the council.
Scholarship Examples: Staff training, pilot programs, advocacy efforts, specific activities which promote the implementation of the SPIL.
Who may apply: Centers for independent Living and organizations who provide services and advocacy which align with SPIL Goals, objectives and the Independent Living Philosophy.
What is needed in application: The application for scholarship will need to include the following:
· Amount requested
· Connection to the goals and objectives listed in the State Plan for Independent Living
· Explanation of the request including the background of the organization
· Commitment to present to the SILC on the impact of the scholarship and action undertaken
· Commitment and explanation of how the scholarship and SILC will be promoted through the organizations communication efforts and social media.
Scholarships are contingent upon council approval and available funding.
Interested parties may apply for a scholarship by applying though the SILC web site Contact Section.
Lansing, MI (March 2017) – The Michigan Statewide Independent Living Council (MiSILC) is hosting public input sessions in order to offer direction to Michigan's independent living movement.
“A Common Disability Agenda is being developed to help guide the direction of policy and services for years to come,” said Rodney Craig, executive director. “Individuals with disabilities, family members, service providers, and advocates are welcome to come share their ideas and hopes for the future.”
MiSILC and their partners are responsible for developing a statewide plan that outlines the goals and objectives to improve the lives of people with disabilities in Michigan.
“We want to hear the voices from around the state and make sure their message is heard loud and clear by decision makers throughout Michigan,” said Craig. “The Common Disability Agenda will serve as a guide for shaping policies and will support people across the state.”
The location of the forums will be moving to a variety of locations throughout Michigan dedicated to serving people with disabilities. “All persons with disabilities have an equal right to have their voices heard by the council,” said Craig. “We are traveling to various locations to ensure we hear from as many people as possible.”
Michiganders can learn aboutMiSILC and can register for any of the sessions by visiting the website www.misilc.org. People can also find MiSILC on Facebook.
The first event in the series for 2017 will be held in Saginaw on April 6.
Who: Michigan Statewide Independent Living Council (MiSILC)
What: Public Input Sessions
When: Thursday April 6 from Noon to 3 p.m.
Where: Saginaw ISD Transitions Center, 3860 Fashion Square Blvd, Saginaw, MI 48603.
Other Events will be held at:
April 17—St. Ignace
April 18—Escanaba and Houghton (2 in one day)
The Michigan SILC works in partnership with Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS), Bureau of Services to Blind Persons (BSBP), Disability Network/Michigan, Michigan's statewide network of Centers for Independent Living (CILs) and other partner organizations to prepare the State Plan for Independent Living. www.misilc.org
Find the Resources you need to live independently.
Registration is now available for Public Hearings to generate input into the Common Disability.
Please check back often as additional events will be added soon.
If you require assistance registering for an event, please use the Contact Section of the web site or call Tracy Brown at the SILC office at 517-371-4872.
Follow the events on Twitter: @michiganspil
LANSING, MICH. November 28, 2016—Auburn resident Terri Robbins has been named Advocacy Coordinator of the Michigan Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC).
Robbins is the current board chair for Michigan Disability Rights Coalition (MDRC).
“As the Advocacy Coordinator, my primary focus is on advancing systems advocacy goals, as stated in the current State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL),” said Robbins. “A lot of connecting is necessary to develop and implement effective strategies with individuals with disabilities across Michigan, the Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC), Disability Network/Michigan, and other stakeholders.”
She has a long history working with and for people with disabilities. “In every role, I've supported person-centered approaches and advocated for independent living options,” said Robbins. “I have significant experience with training and love working with collaborative groups. I am a passionate advocate.”
Robbins also worked for a Center for Independent Living for 16 years and a large non-profit social service provider for over a decade prior to that.
The creation of a Common Disability Agenda can offer focus to some of the initiatives developing across the state. “Assuring individuals with disabilities are primary authors is my goal for 2017,” said Robbins. “I envision SILC as being a driving force in systems change and I am proud to support their efforts.”
LANSING, MICH. November 28, 2016--Canton resident Robin Bennett has been named chairperson of the Michigan Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) board.
Robin works as an instructor and blogger with 4th Wall Theatre Company, a theatre company for children and adults with special needs. The Company specializes in creating communication and social skill building while discovering unique talents and inclusion in the arts.
“My top priority (as chair) is transportation,” added Bennett. “With the defeat of the Regional Transportation Authority proposal, we need to get back to the drawing board and come up with new solutions to present to Michigan’s voters. For a disabled person, transportation is everything.”
She was appointed to the SILC board by Governor Snyder in 2012.
“I want to lead the 11-person SILC board to be transformative,” said Bennett. “We want to consider all engaging ideas for the state’s disabled population.”
Born and raised in Michigan, Robin was diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia, a form of muscular dystrophy, at 12-years-old. She has used a wheelchair since she was 14-years-old. She received a Bachelor's of Science in Creative Writing and Theater from Eastern Michigan University in 2009.
The purpose of the Michigan Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) is to promote a philosophy of independent living, defined as the right of all people to make informed choices, to have personal control over their own lives, and to participate to the fullest extent possible in the everyday activities of work, school, home, family, and community. The Council works to maximize the leadership, empowerment, independence, and productivity of individuals with disabilities, and for independent living to become a reality for all people in Michigan. For more information, visit http://www.misilc.org/
Per the ARC Of Michigan and the Developmental Disability Council:
We have great news to share! Michigan MiABLE program will be OPEN FOR ENROLLMENT TUESDAY NOVEMBER 1, 2016. This will allow for people with disabilities to plan for their future by saving and investing up to $100,000 and still qualify for their benefits. If the account reaches levels over $100,000, your benefits will be suspended until the account drops below that figure. Currently, Michigan has the highest level in the nation for ABLE account maximum contribution levels of $500,000.
Please join us on the CAPITOL STEPS for the official press conference with LT. GOVERNOR BRIAN CALLEY Tuesday November 1, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. the Michigan Department of Treasury will have people on hand to help people enroll into the MiABLE program.
People with disabilities deserve choices. The choice to live at home with Long Term Services and Supports should be an option. Yet, that choice can be taken away from individuals with disabilities. Forcing individuals into institutions - such as nursing homes - still happens in 2016.
There is new piece of legislation introduced to the Senate. It is the S.2427, the Disability Integration Act. This act will give people with disabilities supports and options for independent living. The Michigan Statewide Independent Living Council board supports this important piece of legislation.
MISILC sent letters to Senator Debbie Stabenow and Senator Gary Peters asking for co sponsorship of S.2427, the Disability Integration Act. The Disability Integration Act was introduced by Senator Schumer on December 18, 2015.
The bill states:
“The Disability Integration Act (DIA) is civil rights legislation, introduced by Senator Schumer to address the fundamental issue that people who need Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS) are forced into institutions and losing their basic civil rights. The legislation (S.2427) builds on the 25 years of work that ADAPT has done to end the institutional bias and provide seniors and people with disabilities home and community-based services (HCBS) as an alternative to institutionalization. It is the next step in our national advocacy after securing the Community First Choice (CFC) option.”
The bill removes preferences within insurance coverage for supports for persons with disabilities. Instead of providing service in institutional settings, it sets a preference for community-integrated services. The DIA will allow an individual with a disability to remain a connected and positive member of their community. It also allows for services to be provided at a lower cost and with more long-term success.
For more information about the Disability Integration Act, visit http://www.disabilityintegrationact.org/
On Tuesday September 6th the SILC Chair was notified by the Director, Independent Living Administration that the FY 2017-2019 State Plan for Independent Living has been approved by the Administration for Community Living.
The text of the notification is:
Dear Ms. Grivetti:
The Independent Living Administration (ILA) has reviewed and approved the State of Michigan FY 2017-2019 State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL). In accordance with Section 704(a)(1) of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) will approve disbursement of funds available to Michigan for it’s award effective October 1, 2016.
During the SPIL cycle, the Statewide Independent Living Council, the Designated State Entity, and the Centers for Independent Living are responsible for ensuring that the SPIL assurances and activities are implemented in accordance with the SPIL and all applicable federal requirements.
If you have questions related to your State’s SPIL approval, implementation or need for changes, contact your State project officer.
We appreciate your continuing efforts to promote the independent living, empowerment and community integration of individuals with significant disabilities in your state.
Deputy Commissioner, Administration on Disabilities
Director, Independent Living Administration.
For Immediate Release...
Steven Locke has been named President and CEO of Disability Network of Mid-Michigan
One of Disability Network/Michigan's members recently shared some exciting news!
"We conducted a nationwide search with candidates applying from Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Nevada, California and Alaska. It was truly interesting to find out that the person who was far and away the best candidate for the position was right under our noses the whole time. We were blown away by his interview and it is evident that he is ready to step up and be our leader for the future. We couldn't be more pleased," said Norm Donker, Disability Network of Mid-Michigan's (DNMM) President of the Board of Directors.
"As DNMM's new President/CEO and as a person with two hidden disabilities, I am honored and excited to continue building our partnerships throughout mid-Michigan as we engage in the important work of the Independent Living Movement. People with disabilities are not problems to be solved; it's the barriers to full participation in society that we seek to remove. With our mission as our bedrock and our vision as our guiding star, we will continue to be champions of creating fully inclusive and accessible communities for all people with disabilities," said Locke.
Locke graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Saginaw Valley State University. For the past 10 years, he has served as DNMM's Associate Director and more recently as the Interim Executive Director, a key leadership role in the development and expansion of DNMM's programs, operations, and agency oversight.
In 2011, Locke was appointed to the Michigan Statewide Independent Living Council (MiSILC) by Governor Jennifer Granholm for a three-year term. In 2014, he was reappointed to the MiSILC by Governor Rick Snyder to a second three-year term.
With offices located in Midland, Saginaw, and Bay City, Disability Network of Mid-Michigan serves 12 counties and is one of 14 consumer controlled Centers for Independent Living in Michigan.
DNMM's mission is to promote and encourage independence for all people with disabilities. The organization is leading the charge to change societal attitudes about disabilities and foster environments where everyone, regardless of their abilities, can contribute to their communities based on their own interests, skills, and desires. Through a variety of services including advocacy, skill building, information and referral, and support services, DNMM provides assistance to all people with disabilities, their families, and the community.
Upon announcement of Locke's appointment, the staff gave resounding applause and a standing ovation. One staffer noted, "Steven is the type of leader who inspires us to do better for our consumers, our community, and each other."
As a federally funded Center for Independent Living, DNMM is dedicated to building accessible and inclusive communities. For further information, you may reach Disability Network of Mid-Michigan at 1-800-782-4160 or at www.dnmm.org.
Meet Robin Bennett ...
In her free time she likes chocolate, a good book and conversation.
Robin Bennett has been on the Michigan Statewide Independent Living Council for four years. She is from Canton and represents individuals with disabilities.
Born and raised in Michigan, Robin was diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia at 12-years-old. She has used a wheelchair since she was 14-years-old. She received a Bachelor's of Science in Creative Writing and Theater from Eastern Michigan University in 2009.
Robin found a position with AmeriCorps through the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living. She had no experience with the independent living movement but was eager to learn.
"It was an amazing opportunity for me," she said of her time as an AmeriCorps VISTA.
While an AmeriCorps VISTA she served in the capacity of volunteer coordinator. She also helped out with youth programming and blogging for the website. She spent two years working at the Ann Arbor CIL.
Robin accepted a position at Integrated Living Solutions(ILS). ILS was a non-profit at Canton Manor. ILS was a community of seniors and adults with developmental disabilities. The program provided individuals the ability to work and live together with the guidance of live in mentors. Robin was one of five mentors. She helped with programming, grant writing and one-on-one support of residents. It was a new style of independent living, Robin said. The program lasted three years.
Robin joined the MISILC board after a recommendation from a friend, and an appointment by the governor.
"I've enjoyed being on the board," said Robin. "The constant learning about different cross disability issues out there being affected by so many. The learning aspect has been huge for me."
Robin said hearing from different perspectives and viewpoints opened her mind. She didn't realize how one person who has a barrier can affect the state. In her role on the board of MISILC, she finds people with disabilities or their loved ones that never heard of a Center for Independent Living. She is more than happy to share with others about her role and those of CIL's throughout the state.
"The MISILC is important for everyone, disability or not," Robin said. "The most important part of Independent Living is the person speaks for oneself and is respected," she added.
"What they want and what they choose is a huge part of the dignity of one's life. A person is not broken but we need to fix everything else," said Robin.
Currently, Robin works for Charter Township of Canton as a Therapeutic Recreation Program Leader. She helps with camp, dances, parties, and exercise classes for adults with developmental disabilities. She also works with 4th Wall Theatre Company, a theatre company for people of all abilities.
The Statewide Independnet Living Council would like to thank those who provided public and written comment on the current draft of the State Plan for Independnet Living (SPIL).
All received comments have been complied into a single document.
The Chair of the council has called a special meeting on June 20th at 10.a.m to hold a final vote on the SPIL. Changes to the draft document based upon public comment will be posted to the site.
SILC Council Member Dawn Reamer provided testimony to the Michigan Education Committee on restraint and seclusion bills currently before the legislature.
The testimony was as follows:
A word document of the testimony is available here: SILC Member testimony to Education Committee
I would like to thank Representative Price and the Education Committee for taking testimony on the restraint and seclusion bills. I would also like to thank Representative Somerville, as my story relates to his district.
My name is Dawn Reamer and I am a parent of a child that was restrained by his special education teacher. My son is a great kid. He is a Boy Scout, a gymnast, a springboard diver, a swimmer, and an honor roll student. He is also on the autism spectrum. My son was in second grade when he was tied to the chair by his special education teacher. He was just 7 years old. He was not tied to a chair because he was acting out or a safety risk to other students. He was tied to a chair simply because he was in the classroom. There was a paraprofessional in the room along with the teacher and the other adult. They abused my child. By the end of second grade my child was saying that he “didn’t want to be a person anymore”, that he didn’t want to be alive. I didn’t know where his anxiety was coming from. He couldn’t verbalize it like other seven year olds. A parent went to the school principal after observing the incident, but no one told me. I did not find out that this had happened until 2 ½ years later when he was finally able to find the words to tell me what the teacher had done to him. At this time, the parent verified that she had witnessed him being tied to the chair. My son told me it happened at least 10 times. He was in this teacher’s classroom for 3 years. The district has admitted it happened at least once and the school does not think it was a big deal. It was a big deal for my child.
I wish that I could say that I went to the superintendent of the district and that it was handled appropriately. I wish that I could say that somebody cared and was willing to address my concern. Instead, I received confirmation that the incident had happened and that my son never had behaviors that would have justified restraint. I also learned that at least one device used to restrain my son remained in the classroom until last year. This means that other students were likely being restrained. When I asked for the district to take corrective action, none came. They refused to document this incident in the teacher’s file or implement any sort of policy that would prevent such incident from happening again. The District has not even had the decency to apologize to me or my child. Instead, when I appeared before the school board, a member was quick to point out that special education had improved considerably during the last 30 years and completely dismissed the concern.
I reported the concern to the Michigan Department of Education and the Office of Civil Rights. They refused to even look at the concern because I did not report it within a short time period after the incident, which I did not know about, occurred. When I approached Lt. Governor Calley, who I view as a friend to special education students, I was told that what happened to my son was not illegal.
The school district was permitted to abuse my child. When I tried to address my concern at the Individual Education Plan meeting for my child, instead of demonstrating any accountability the director of special education verbally attacked me and accused me of slander in front of the educational team. This was the worst meeting on an Individual Education Plan I have ever experienced. Parents should not have hostility directed at them for trying to address serious concerns involving their child. Following the team meeting, I made a hard decision. My son and I have been living in an apartment in a new district while we prepare our house for sale. Following the team meeting, it was clear that my son has experienced retaliation and that it would continue. I had to move him out of the district or any school that is a part of the special education cooperative for my region.
I would like to call your attention to one more point. In their letter acknowledging the incident, the superintendent says that the device in the room was not used as a restraint. The device in question secured my child to a chair. There was not a prescription issued for the device, it was not ordered for my child, and it was used without my knowledge or consent. He was restrained, regardless of how the superintendent chooses to characterize it. Use of any mechanical restraint, regardless of alleged purpose, should be viewed with disapproval. The district made excuses, but in the end the district admitted that my son was restrained with no remorse, apology, or guarantee that it would never happen again.
I don’t know what is worse. The fact that my child was restrained, the fact that the district refused to recognize what it did as wrong, or the fact that there are likely other things that happened to my child that I still don’t know about.
I am here today because the law needs to change. It is not okay to abuse children simply because they have an Individual Education Plan. The Supreme Court has said that children don’t leave their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse door. The right to life and liberty is the most fundamental of these rights. Laws against assault, battery, false imprisonment, kidnapping, and child abuse should apply to all students. The current situation is dehumanizing to persons with disabilities. Please don’t let any other family have the same experience. Don’t let any school in Michigan continue to harm students.
Thank you for allowing me to testify and for your support of the bills regarding the use of restraint and seclusion in the State of Michigan.
On April 5th 2016, SILC Chair Sara Grivetti provided public comment to the Developmental Disabilities Council. Later in the meeting the DD Council voted to support amending current legislation to prohibit the ability, under the state law, for employers to pay less than the minimum wage to persons with physical or mental disabilities.
Nineteen people either gave written or public comment with the major being against the use of Sub-Minimum wages, with references to 14(c) certificates as being an outdated policy rooted in old stereotypes of people with disabilities as "less productive", and promoting inequality between people with and without disabilities.