How Disability Network West Michigan Silences and Sidelines the Voice of the Disability Community

We’re not going to do things behind closed doors anymore. We’re not going to tolerate an organization that claims hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds without any accountability to the community they are required to serve.

Disability Network West Michigan has employed several tactics to silence the voice of the Muskegon disability community. Centers for Independent Living are required by law to be community-based. The Muskegon CIL has abandoned the principles of the Independent Living Movement, as evidenced by the following behavior.

white text on a blue background reads “Disability Network West Michigan: Cut the Crap or Give Our Half a Million Back (Signed) The Muskegon Disability Community

Online: Disability Network West Michigan has removed the review feature from its Facebook page. Although we have been blocked from posting to, commenting on, and tagging Disability Network West Michigan on Facebook, the review feature cannot be moderated. Disability Network West Michigan chose to remove the review feature from their page rather than tolerate the voice of the people they are funded by taxpayer money to serve.

Another tactic they use is making our comments invisible to the public. This tactic is effective because most victims don’t even know that their comment is no longer visible (except to their own Facebook friends). If you’ve been leaving comments on Disability Network West Michigan’s posts and aren’t sure why no one seems to respond, your voice has been silenced – the other participants cannot read your comments. All comments related to disability rights advocacy and the role of Centers for Independent Living (CILs) are removed immediately or moderated to be invisible to the public.

A screenshot of a DNWM inaccessible Facebook post

Even comments that simply explain that graphics need to be captioned to be accessible have been blocked, with no access provided.

Direct Communication: All Board meetings remain closed to the public since January 1, 2015, despite the fact that the organization’s contract with the state requires that Board meetings be “generally open to the public”. The Disability Network West Michigan website has not been updated since early February. Staff and Board have not answered any requests for information or communication from advocates in over five months.

The Board is actively discriminating against any persons with disabilities involved in advocacy (even tangentially). At this point, it should be obvious to everyone that the Board of Disability Network West Michigan – which is controlled by non-disabled people and people with medical diagnoses who do not believe in the Independent Living Movement or identify as members of the disability community – is absolutely unwilling to take any action whatsoever to come into compliance with the law and is in fact willfully acting against the interests of the disability community.

This is exactly the type of behavior we’re not going to tolerate and really exemplifies why we began this campaign in the first place.

We’re not going to do things behind closed doors anymore. We’re not going to tolerate an organization that claims hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds without any accountability to the advocates who fought to win that funding, or to the community they are required to serve.

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