Meet SILC Member Jim Whalen

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. 

Public Input the Key to Effective Policy

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.

Meet SILC Council Member Aaron Andres

Aaron Andres

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.”

Support Available for State Plan Activities

Scholarship Opportunities though SILC Council:

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.

 

 

 

Press Release on Common Disability Agenda Events

Striving to Give People with Disabilities a Louder Voice
MiSILC is hosting a series of Public Input Sessions around the State

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)

April 19—Marquette

 About MiSILC

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. 

Register now for Common Disability Agenda Public Hearings

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

May 9th - Traverse City

May 24th - Jackson

May 24th - Kalamazoo

May 31st - Alpena

June 5th - Caro

June 14 - Ann Arbor

June 23 - Muskegon

Terri Robbins named new Advocacy Coordinator of Michigan SILC

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.”

Robin Bennett Named Chair of Michigan Statewide Independent Living Council

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.  

ABOUT SILC

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/

ABLE Rollout is Here !

Per the ARC Of Michigan and the Developmental Disability Council:

Greetings everyone!!

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.

 

MISILC Seeks Senator Support For Disability Integration Act

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/


 

State Plan for Independent Living Approved

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.

Sincerely,

 

Bob Williams

Deputy Commissioner, Administration on Disabilities

Director, Independent Living Administration.

 

FY 2017-2019 State Plan for Independnet Living

Steve Locke named President/CEO of Disability Network Mid-Michgian

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 Council Members: Robin Bennett

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.  

 

Public Comment on State Plan for Independent Living

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.  

Public Comment on the Draft State Plan for Independent Living

SILC Council Member provides testimony to Michigan Education Committee

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.

 

SILC Chair Public Comment to the DD Council

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.  

SILC Chair Public Comment to the Developmental Disability Council

Draft 2017-2019 State Plan for Independent Living Available for Public Comment

On Friday May 13th the Michigan Statewide Independent Living Council will be conducing a public hearing on the draft 2017-2019 State Plan for Independent Living.  The draft plan is available here.

The public hearing will be held at:

Holiday Inn Gateway Centre, 5353 Gateway Centre, Flint, MI  48507
Time:  11 a.m to 12:45 p.m
Call-In Number:  1-800-582-3014
Conference Code:   96966697
Live CART Link

2017-2019 State Plan for Independent Living (Draft)

If you would like to make comment on the State Plan of Independent Living, you may utilize the Contact Section of this web site.

You may also submit written comment to the following address:

Michigan Statewide Independnet Living Council
2843 East Grand River Ave #283
East Lansing, MI  48823

 

SILC Meets with Lt. Governor Calley

In February the Statewide Independent Living Council sent concerns regarding the Employment First Executive Order to Lt. Governor Brian Calley. This communication prompted the request for a meeting to further discuss the issues. On March 30th, Sara Grivetti, SILC Chair, Rodney Craig, SILC Executive Director and Chris Simmons, Director of Systems Advocacy, met with Lt. Governor Calley for a productive discussion on Employment First, along with other disability policy issues.

We feel confident that Lt. Governor Calley is aligned with our thinking about the importance of inclusion, including in the employment setting. We also feel confident that he has a strong grasp on the issues and challenges that impact the achievement of full community inclusion. While our concerns were centered on the use of the term ‘intermediate facilities’ and the possibility of perpetuating the status quo, it was evident that was not his intention.

We also recommended that a revised Executive Order include the definition of employment to one that is more consistent with other Employment First directives from across the country. He indicated he will take our recommendation under advisement.

While we feel the discussion about Employment First was successful, our bigger success was obtaining his support on CareerACCESS.  CareerACCESS is a national initiative that Michigan’ s SILC and Disability Network/Michigan, in coordination with the National Council on Independent Living and World Institute on Disability,  is working on to seek authorization for a pilot project through the Social Security Administration.  If Federal authorization and appropriation occurs, Michigan could be one of five states to pilot a program for individuals with disabilities ages 18-30. The program consists of intensive wrap-around supports to promote acquisition of a career, and eventual discontinuation of benefits. In the end the individual would achieve financial self-sufficiency due to earning higher wages.

CareerACCESS combined with Employment First are two significant policy initiatives that will lead to increased employment opportunities and wages for people with disabilities.  “We are grateful for the Lt. Governor’s support as we move this effort closer to the finish line. It is exciting to have an individual in the Governor’s Administration so closely aligned and knowledgeable about inclusion and self-determination, “ states Sara Grivetti. 

SILC Meeting with Lt. Governor Calley Press Release

Transcript of WHTC Radio Interview

Monday, February 8, 2016

 

 

Feb. 10 Town Hall for People with Disabilities and Their Families, Advocates

 

Overview: Rodney Craig, executive director of the Michigan Statewide Independent Living Council, talks with reporter Peg McNichol about the Feb. 10 Listening Tour at Loutit District Library in Grand Haven.

 

Peg McNichol: You are Rodney Craig, executive director of the Michigan Statewide Independent Living Council.  What is the Michigan Statewide Independent Living Council?

 

Rodney Craig: Okay.  The Michigan Statewide Independent Living Council is a governors appointed council and it is made up of 15 individuals who are primarily tasked with writing and evaluating the state plan for independent living.  Each state in the nation has a similar arrangement of individuals; and in Michigan we have the 15 people that represent the council.

 

Peg McNichol:  Who are your 15 representatives?  Not by name, but basically what areas do they cover?

 

Rodney Craig: Our 15 representatives cover various areas of the state.  So they represent various geographical areas of the state, as well as urban or rural areas.  In regarding their disability types they are what we consider cross disability individuals.  So we have a wide variety of membership.  Which would include people with visual impairments, and there are all sorts of disabilities.  Independent living is a construct of all those cross disability individuals.

 

Peg McNichol:  Tell me about this listening tour that you’re having.  I know there’s a stop in Grand Haven coming up on February 10th.  How big is this West Michigan Listening Tour and what are you hoping to hear?

 

Rodney Craig: What we’re hoping … right now we’re hoping is the room is set for about 100 to 150 people.  What we are is gathering information for our State Plan for Independent Living.  And one of those things is looking at the independent living philosophy, which we feel that people with disabilities are the best experts on their own needs and are deserving of equal opportunity to decide how to live, work and interact in their own communities.  So it’s with that philosophy and thought process that we’re having that event because we want to hear from the community as to what type of input that they have, what type of barriers that they have to independent living in their communities.  Just what they would like to tell us to go into that State Plan for Independent Living that our council is charged with writing and evaluating.

 

Peg McNichol: So this is at the Loutit District Library in Grand Haven, are you making other stops throughout West Michigan and if so where would those be?

 

Rodney Craig: Currently, we are scheduled to have this one stop in West Michigan and then we’re kind of working more towards the Grand Rapids area and coming east across the state.  We’ve had one event in Traverse City already as well.  We’re also doing these events in collaboration with our Centers for Independent Living.  The event in Grand Haven is in collaboration with Disability Network Lakeshore from Holland, and Disability Network West Michigan in Muskegon.

 

Peg McNichol: And I take it those organizations will do things like they’ll help people get to the library because I would imagine - I know this to be true actually - that for many people with disabilities transportation is a huge barrier for independent living.

 

Rodney Craig: Yes, very much, and that’s some of the information and feedback that we’re already getting.  The centers are assisting with some transportation, and transportation information for individuals, to make it as well to the event.  Again more information that we’d like to hear from people; what do they they experience with transportation and what sort of barriers do they face in their community with that as well.

 

Peg McNichol: How long has the State of Michigan had an Independent Living Plan?  Is this the first one, or is this an update to an existing plan?

 

Rodney Craig: Each year.  We’ve had several State Plans for Independent Living.  They run for about a three year period.  So right now we’re in the third year of our current plan.  Every three years we evaluate the plan, and write a new one.  So we’ve had quite a bit since about 1991.  We’ve had several plans as well.

 

Peg McNichol: And what is it that you think you’ve accomplished by having this plan for people living in the state who live with various disabilities?  What is the value, or the benefit, of having a plan?

 

Rodney Craig: The benefit of having a plan is that each of the Centers for Independent LIving in Michigan utilize that plan to build the work that they do in their individual communities.  It allows them to have a statewide picture of how Independent Living Services are being performed in the State of Michigan.  And then be able to report back to the governor’s office, or others, on the current status of the programs.  It’s a really exciting time for Independent Living because there’s been a lot of changes at the federal level that are going to make this plan much more impactful and powerful.  There’s a lot more consumer control and information coming into this plan that there has been in the past.

 

Peg McNichol: I know just last year there was a huge celebration about the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  I know that’s made some changes for people, but there are still some significant obstacles that people with disabilities face on a day-to-day basis.  Can you talk a little bit about the next big innovation that needs to happen to further independence for people with disabilities?

 

Rodney Craig: I think there’s a lot of things that could happen.  I think one of the primary things that we would advocate for is the full implementation of the current Americans with Disabilities Act that we do have.  For example, our capital building in Lansing, which is the height of state government, still is not what we would consider an accessible building.  So we have a lot of work to do to implement the ADA that we already have.  There are a lot of things in technology with websites that do not have accessibility, websites get designed without accessibility in mind.  So we have a lot of ground that we need to cover still.  Progress has been made but as I said when certain individuals with disabilities cannot even access the state capital, we feel there is a long way to go yet.

 

Peg McNichol:  That’s a huge challenge for designers to understand that someone may be able to get online, but if they’re visually impaired they might need a reader or if they have other issues.  For instance, if they’re hearing impaired they might need a video to be captioned.  What are some of the other things people can do to their websites to make them more accessible to people with disabilities?

 

Rodney Craig: Actually, one of the biggest things, and one of the difficulties we have with state websites, is almost exclusively any documents that you would download via an application to a program or information or meeting minutes where you’re trying to review those is they come in what’s called a PDF format, like what you’d see in Adobe.  THose are very rarely readable by screen readers.  The newer screen readers are better but they’re not perfect.  So a lot of times even the state websites, as you were saying, do not have the ability to even get forms and things in an accessible format.  We would very much advocate that those become text format, which are readable by screen readers and so forth.  As well as you spoke about closed caption, there are some technological advances that have helped with closed captioning, but they have a long way to go.  Things like YouTube and things like that have built in closed captioning.  But it still has a long way to go as far as accuracy and things as to what is being said on the screen.  

 

Peg McNichol: Are there any particular areas of independent living that you’re specifically honing in on that you need to hear about from people?

 

Rodney Craig:  We would like for this to be an open discussion.  We haven’t tried to hone in on any specific area because we want to remain open to what the consumers in that region of the state want to tell us.  So we don’t want to try and direct their conversation.  We want to hear from them as to what they are experiencing in that community and develop the plan based on their voice.

 

Peg McNichol:  If someone can’t make it to the library because they have a transportation issue, or their homebound for some other reason, how can they connect?  Is there going to be a phone line?  SHould they e-mail, or write a letter?  How can they give you guys feedback if they cannot be present?

 

Rodney Craig: Oh thank you, yes.  We have several ways that we would love to hear from you.  On our website at www.misilc.org, we have a survey that anybody can fill out - that’s to put information.  If you have any trouble with that survey you can contact the office at 517-371-4872 and staff will assist you with that.  You can email our office at any time - off our website there’s a contact section.  Or you can email myself at rodney@misilc.org and you can email any comments, questions, or other information you have and we can get your input into the plan through those methods.

 

Peg McNichol: What’s the deadline for the listening tour?  When does it wrap-up?

 

Rodney Craig: The tour itself would wrap-up on the date of the event, which is scheduled for February 10th.  Right now on Wednesday, February 10th.  That’ll be that date.  We also have a Statewide Independent Living Council business meeting which will be on February 12th, which is where we will present the council with the information that we learned at the event.  And then on our website at misilc.org we’ll be listing the next listening tour event for anybody else interested in coming to that event as well.

 

Peg McNichol: When does the plan have to be finalized?

 

Rodney Craig: Our plan has to be finalized and submitted by May 30th of this year 2016.  We currently do have a draft version of the plan available on our website.  But as I said that is a draft plan and it is still in the working phase.  Around May, early May, we don’t have an exact date yet, but around early May we will have a public event in Lansing for people to comment on the draft bill, as well as, the final draft bill.  That will be submitted to the Administration on Community Living in Washington, DC. for federal approval of the plan on June 1st of 2016.

 

Peg McNichol: Is there anything I did ask you Rodney that you want people to know?

 

Rodney Craig: No.  I very much appreciate you taking the time to speak with us.  We are excited to hear from this community.  We’re excited to hear from all the communities.  I believe that the information that we’re getting is vital in building a consumer controlled state plan for the State of Michigan.

 

Peg McNichol: I really appreciate you taking the time with me.  I hope you have a great day, and I hope you get a huge turnout for this listening tour.

 

Rodney Craig: Well thank you.  Again, anybody that has any questions can reach us by the website at misilc.org, or 517-371-4872 is our office phone.      


Recording can be found at: http://whtc.com/podcasts/whtc-news/99/feb-10-town-hall-for-people-with-disabilities-and-their-families-advocates/