When Rebecca Parten, a licensed master social worker, decided to become a Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) member it was “because it sounded like a great way to become more involved in disability advocacy efforts,” she noted. She had recently graduated with her Master’s of Social Work degree from The University of Michigan and was looking for opportunities to use the knowledge and skills she had gained.
From her perspective, the most important work the council is doing today is writing and monitoring the State Plan for Independent Living, or SPIL. “I really like how we are able to get a snapshot of the services available to and the experiences of people with disabilities across the entire state,” she said.
Born with Multiple Pterygium Syndrome, aka Escobar Syndrome, she describes herself as being on the more severe end of the spectrum. “I have flexion contractures and skin webbing on all of my joints which means I can’t fully straighten them. Another part of this syndrome is severe scoliosis which has greatly impacted the amount of space my lungs have in my chest. Respiratory issues have always been a major thing for me. I use a ventilator at night and when sick via a face mask. I am able to walk short distances but use a power wheelchair most of the time. I also am low vision and wear hearing aids in both ears.”
She graduated with honors from The University of Michigan Dearborn in 2011. While there she majored in Communications, double minored in Political Science and Law and Society, and also founded a student organization related to disability awareness. Parten then went on to attend The University of Michigan’s School of Social Work and obtained her Master’s of Social Work degree. The program enabled her to learn more about things like advocacy, community organizing, and program evaluation.
This ties well into what she feels most passionate about related to the council: their advocacy efforts as well as sharing important information with consumers. “I know from personal experience that it can be confusing trying to navigate the different systems and finding information related to things like transitioning to adulthood, employment, transportation, and living within the community,” she said.
When Parten first joined the council, they were wrapping up the evaluation of the previous SPIL. “It was interesting, but also a little difficult to ‘jump in’ at the end of the process,” she said. “Therefore, I am really excited to have been part of the current SPIL’s creation and look forward to implementing and monitoring it in the coming months. “