We’re Back, with Trophies!

After a brief hiatus, Peer Action Alliance is back online at www.peeractionalliance.com.

Here are a few recent accomplishments:

  • The former Executive Director of Disability Network Blue Water Center for Independent Living (BWCIL) in Port Huron who tried to extort $75,000 from consumers has left or been removed from his position.
  • A convicted embezzler who was serving as the accountant for BWCIL and the Michigan Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) was apprehended and is currently facing new charges of embezzlement.
  • Three SILC Council members were removed from their posts for exceeding their term limits.
  • The federal government informed the SILC that it cannot use its shell corporation to avoid its responsibilities under FOIA and the Open Meetings Act.
  • The former Executive Director of Disability Network West Michigan, which threatened us repeatedly, has left or been removed from her position. Unfortunately, the new Executive Director has chosen the same path and we continue to be excluded from the design and delivery of Independent Living services in Muskegon.
  • The former Executive Director of the SILC has fled to a civil service position within state government. Unfortunately, he will still be able to wreak significant havoc from his new position overseeing Michigan’s Centers for Independent Living at the state level.

We still have significant work to do. We must reform Michigan’s 15 Centers for Independent Living by:

  • Restoring consumer control and making sure every Michigan CIL is closely connected to and driven by the advocacy priorities identified by local disability communities, which are incredibly diverse.
  • Bringing Michigan CILs into full compliance with state and federal law, as well as all taxpayer-funded contract requirements and internal policies and procedures.
  • Ensuring that every Michigan Center for Independent Living is providing Independent Living Plans and the core services required by law, specifically Individual and Systems Advocacy, Peer Support, and Independent Living Skills Training.
  • Educating Michigan CIL staff and board members on Independent Living history and philosophy, as well as state and federal law relating to America’s Independent Living Program.
  • Implementing affirmative action policies as required by federal law.
  • Ensuring that all Michigan CIL board meetings are open to the public.

Yes, the Penguin Project Is Ableist.

This Fall, the Penguin Project is coming to Muskegon. Local children and young adults with disabilities will be cast in a production of the musical “Annie, Jr.” that will run October 14 and 15, 2017 at the Frauenthal.

The Penguin Project describes itself as follows:

“The Penguin Project is a musical theater production that casts children and young adults with disabilities in all roles. All will sing, dance and act in the show. Those individuals (Artists) will get assistance from on-stage peers (Mentors). Who can participate? Artists are children and young adults (ages 10-22) with disabilities. Including (but not limited to) Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, visual impairment, hearing impairment and neurological disorders. Mentors are children and young adults (ages 10-22) who do not have disabilities. They will be matched with an artist of similar age and the two will work side-by-side.”

Text: It's called the Penguin Project because penguins can’t fly. Get it? Image: A confused penguin with a speech bubble that says "I use my wings for swimming and diving. I don’t need to change to meet your arbitrary definition of success.” #saynotoableismWhat is the reason that a person with a disability cannot be a mentor?

The disabled actors will be matched with “mentors,” who are specifically defined as non-disabled people. There is only one reason that people with disabilities cannot be a mentor: ableism.

The Penguin Project defeats its own goal by teaching children with disabilities that non-disabled people are their superiors, not their equals. They are being allowed to participate in an activity as long as they accept their role as a recipient of charity needing to be mentored by non-disabled people. That’s not what we want our kids to learn.  Continue reading

Letter to the Inspector General Calling for An Immediate Audit of the Independent Living Administration

The Honorable Daniel R. Levinson
US Department of Health and Human Services
Office of Inspector General
PO Box 23489
Washington, DC 20026

Dear Inspector General Levinson,

We are writing to request that the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General (OIG) conduct an audit of the Independent Living Program and the legal oversight responsibilities being neglected by the Independent Living Administration (ILA) within the Administration for Community Living (ACL), specifically in regard to contractor and grantee compliance with the laws governing America’s Independent Living Program.  Continue reading

Comments to the National Council on Disability

Save MI CILs - Oversight Now!February 23, 2017

The topic we were asked to address is the connection between disability and poverty. In this state, the connection between disability and poverty is that for every disabled person that stays poor and dependent, someone gets filthy rich.

It’s very important for you to understand the immense power and influence of sheltered workshops in Michigan. Our state government has partnered with the businesses exploiting the disability community. In partnership with Michigan’s sheltered workshops and Michigan Rehabilitation Services, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor have systematically and successfully destroyed and dismantled all consumer-controlled entities in the state.  Continue reading

Fighting for Consumer Control in the Age of Trump

By Darma Canter

After two years of advocating within Michigan’s publicly-funded local and state Independent Living program, I should have been more prepared for the new President, his loose interpretation of history, as well as facts in general, and his presumption of authority. I should have seen the government moving away from the people and public service, and investing power and authority in the service of corporate entities. Still, every day since January 20, I wake up to the unexpected, shocking new reality.

darma-canterI have spent a lot of time, too much time, thinking in the last three months. What is the role of government? What is the fundamental nature of democracy? How are units of government, their programs, policies, practices connected to the people? What is my role and responsibility in a democracy, and what responsibilities does the government have to citizens, to tax payers, and to me?

What is the people’s business? How does the public hold its government accountable to act in the public’s interest? These questions are surprisingly hard to answer. The 2016 election results seem to indicate not everyone agrees on the answers – or even the questions themselves.  Continue reading

On Ed Roberts & Creaming in Michigan’s Independent Living Program

Cream. Verb. To advance individuals with the least significant disabilities in order to create the illusion of consumer control without having to do the hard work of affirmative action, workplace accommodation, and confronting ableism in our own spaces.

“Creaming” is a term coined by Ed Roberts, the Father of the Independent Living Movement. Roberts was famously told by vocational rehabilitation (the agency responsible for helping people with disabilities find employment) that he was “too disabled” to work. In response to this blatant discrimination, Ed Roberts started a revolution. He created the first Center for Independent Living, which sparked a nation-wide movement. In Independent Living, people with significant disabilities (consumers) have complete control over the decisions that affect their lives, including the management of Centers for Independent Living – community-based organizations that advance the rights of people with disabilities. Years later, Ed Roberts was appointed Director if California vocational rehabilitation – the very agency that had declared him unemployable.  Continue reading