Action Report: Protest at Pere Marquette Boardwalk for Consumer Control at Disability Network West Michigan

At Pere Marquette, Advocates distribute flyers hold signs supporting consumer control at Disability Network West Michigan - signs say "Independent Living is for Every Body," "We believe in Disability Pride," etc.At 10:30 a.m. on June 20, 2015, advocates arrived at Pere Marquette with flyers and signs supporting consumer control at Disability Network West Michigan, the Muskegon Center for Independent Living.

  • Consumer control means CILs are required by law to be staffed and directed by a majority of people with significant disabilities.

The first thing we noticed was that the “new” boardwalk was built at the end of the old boardwalk, rendering it inaccessible to the disability community. The same safety and access issues identified in the photos June 7 still exist. The boardwalk is not ADA compliant.

The boardwalk, which is constructed of flimsy panels that are molded to look like boards. The pictures show where the panels do not line up with one another, creating access issues and safety hazards. The metal border on the panels is coming off in several places along the edge of the boardwalkThose attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony walked past the group of protesters to get to the ceremony at the end of the boardwalk. At first most of them thought that we were collecting donations for the boardwalk, so they took our flyers and thanked us. Only Mike Hamm, DNWM Board President, stopped to tell us that we know nothing about consumer control.

The ribbon cutting, appeal for further donations, and photo opportunity was completed without interruption. At one point, DNWM posed the group and asked everyone to say “MONEY!” as the photo was snapped.

As the group began the walk back to the cement area, we began our chant: “What do we want? Consumer Control! When do we want it? Now!” At that point, several DNWM supporters began confronting us. One man started yelling and trying to provoke us by getting in our faces and calling us liars. Another told me that I have no right to complain that the boardwalk isn’t ADA compliant because I only use a walker and could get down it if I tried.

One of several gaps between boardwalk panelsThe wheelchair users present struggled to get up the inaccessible ramp. After the melee died down and the crowd began to disperse, the last DNWM supporter present, Board Member John Wahlberg said as he passed “Thanks for trying to ruin something good”. I wasn’t thinking quickly enough, but I wish that I had told him that he is the one ruining something good. They have our Center or Independent Living, and until it is back in the hands of the disability community, we will continue to see outcomes just like this inaccessible boardwalk.

If you donated to this project, or if you are an ally to the Muskegon disability community, please call them at 231-722-0088 (ask for Tamera Collier) and tell them that this outcome is unacceptable and it’s time to work with the disability community instead of against us. You can also contact them on Facebook. Additionally, if you know any of the following members of the Board of Directors, please contact them as well. They have not responded to advocates in over six months!

  • Tamera Collier (Executive Director)
  • John Wahlberg (Board Member)
  • Frank Hollister (Board Member)
  • Renica Minott (Board Member)
  • Jan Thom (Board Member)
  • Mike Hamm (Board Member)
  • Tracy Knight (Board Member)
  • Sandy Baker (Board Member)
  • Joe Doyle (Board Member)

Protest Sign - Independent Living is for Every Body - We want a real CIL - DNWM - No more excuses - consumer control nowOne DNWM supporter desperately wanted us to understand that the inaccessible portion of the boardwalk belongs to the City and is its responsibility to maintain. We completely agree. That’s why this project should have been accomplished through advocacy – not charity. Centers for Independent Living are required by law to lead consumer-driven disability rights advocacy efforts, not to be a charity. The disability community knows all too well that when we rely on charity, we lose. When we rely on charity, we have to take what they give us. Through consumer-led advocacy, we could have created a fully accessible boardwalk (with water access!) without sacrificing our dignity and values (especially with $26,000).

What we got instead is a boondoggle no one is willing to accept responsibility for. We can only hope that this will serve as a wake up call to Disability Network West Michigan.

Additional Resources:

  • Open our flyer in PDF
  • Flyer in plain text: We are not anti-boardwalk. We are people with * significant disabilities * opposed to Disability Network West Michigan’s blatant disregard for the law and the values of the disability community. We will no longer tolerate our Center for Independent Living – funded by taxpayers – to exclude, silence, and sideline the voice of the disability community. Centers for Independent Living are required by law to be staffed and directed by a majority of people with significant disabilities. Disability Network West Michigan says we have a difference of opinion on the meaning of disability. They’re damn right we do. * We believe in Disability Pride and the power of the disability community * We believe that we can create sweeping change through consumer-driven disability rights advocacy * We believe that our community is made stronger by the voices of people with all types of disabilities * We will not be silent until our CIL agrees to work with the local disability community instead of against it. It’s right and it’s the law. Please support the Muskegon disability community by urging Disability Network West Michigan to commit to consumer control at our Center for Independent Living.
  • Tamera Collier (Executive Director)
  • John Wahlberg (Board Member)
  • Frank Hollister (Board Member)
  • Renica Minott (Board Member)
  • Jan Thom (Board Member)
  • Mike Hamm (Board Member)
  • Tracy Knight (Board Member)
  • Sandy Baker (Board Member)
  • Joe Doyle (Board Member)

Call Them at: 231-722-0088. More info @facebook.com/PeerActionAlliance.

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2 thoughts on “Action Report: Protest at Pere Marquette Boardwalk for Consumer Control at Disability Network West Michigan

  1. Pingback: Draft: Muskegon Disability Community Top 10 Advocacy Priorities 2015 | Peer Action Alliance

  2. Pingback: Draft: Muskegon Disability Community Top 10 Advocacy Priorities 2015 | Peer Action Alliance

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