For Chairperson of the Board Robin Bennett, a realistic and results-driven campaign is the way forward for SILC. Bennett was appointed Chair in November 2017 and anticipates working with the Council in the coming months to shape policy statewide. “I definitely want the average person in MI who has a disability to feel that the state has made progress to things that affect them in their everyday lives,” Bennett said.
Born and raised in Michigan, Bennett 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. After college, Bennett found a position as volunteer coordinator with AmeriCorps VISTA, an experience, she said, that opened her eyes to the experiences of people of all abilities, not just her own.
Currently, Bennett 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 Fourth Wall Theatre Company, a theatre company for people of all abilities. The company specializes in creating communication and social skill building while discovering unique talents and inclusion in the arts.
Transportation reform is Bennett’s first priority for MISILC. Said 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.”
“Transportation seems to be this linking factor that brings several things together,” she explained. “Of course we want employment initiatives and advancements in education, but transportation brings all of that together. What’s the point of making all these things great if people can’t get there?”
So far Bennett sees hope that the state is making great strides. “The state has made changes in all areas of the lives of people who have disabilities,” she said, “in transportation, education and advocacy.” Important to the mission, she said, is a realistic approach to the Council’s goals, to “see how they can realistically be applied across the state so they really affect people across the state—at levels where people are actually living their life.”
With practical planning and careful monitoring of results, Bennett believes the SILC can make a real difference in the lives of its constituents. At the end of the day, she noted, “I definitely want the average person in Michigan who has a disability to feel that the state has made progress to things that affect them in their everyday lives.”