Michiganders with disabilities are pleased to announce that on Friday, November 13 the Michigan Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) agreed to end membership in the Michigan Association of Rehabilitation Organizations (MARO), an association of businesses that exploit the disability community through subminimum wages and segregated employment settings, as of December 31, 2015.
The decision comes after many months of intense advocacy from the disability community. On September 17, advocates were physically barricaded from entering a public celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act on public grounds. One advocate was arrested when he attempted to enter the celebration, which was jointly hosted by the Michigan SILC and Disability Network/Michigan (Michigan’s formal association of Centers for Independent Living).
Disability Network/Michigan has been under intense scrutiny for the past year amid allegations that Michigan’s Centers for Independent Living, and the Network itself, are no longer “consumer controlled,” a phrase the disability community uses to describe the requirement that Independent Living organizations must be staffed and governed by a majority of individuals with significant disabilities.
“Even our beloved mantra, ‘Nothing about us, without us’ fails to capture that we are not only capable of setting policy for our community and monitoring outcomes, but that we are also the only ones capable of doing so from the correct perspective” explains Clark Goodrich of Grand Rapids ADAPT. “The right to own these roles is written into the regulations, but in many places around the country, including Michigan, that right has been perverted and co-opted by pseudo-people-with-disabilities and ‘allies’ who really aren’t on our side at all.”
“We chose this issue because it demonstrates the corruption in Michigan’s Independent Living Program,” said local advocate Eleanor Canter. “The organizations funded to employ people with significant disabilities and protect our community’s civil rights have been overtaken by non-disabled individuals who are pursuing an agenda that is directly at odds with our community’s interests. We must break the stranglehold subminimum wage employers have on Michigan Centers for Independent Living.”
Advocates applaud the SILC’s decision to end MARO membership and hope the SILC’s leadership inspires other Michigan Independent Living organizations to follow suit. “Centers for Independent Living belong to the communities they serve and we encourage Michiganders with disabilities and our true allies to contact the organizations that are financially and morally supporting employment discrimination through membership in MARO – an organization that lobbies for segregated work and subminimum wages,” said Darma Canter of Peer Action Alliance. “Our Centers should be supporting competitive, community-integrated employment.”
Take Action: Your voice can make a difference! Use the links below to contact the following Michigan Independent Living organizations via Facebook, or contact them with a single email. Tell them that you support SILC’s decision to dissociate from MARO and want to see all Michigan CILs do the same. Make sure they know that we want them to act as responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars by ceasing financial support of those who profit by exploiting people with disabilities.
- Disability Network/Michigan (Association representing all of Michigan’s Centers for Independent Living)
- Disability Network West Michigan (Muskegon): firstname.lastname@example.org / 231-722-0088
- Disability Network of Mid-Michigan (Midland): email@example.com / 989-835-4041
- Disability Network of Northern Michigan (Traverse City): firstname.lastname@example.org / 231-922-0903 (ext. 311)
- Capitol Area CIL (Lansing): email@example.com / 517-999-2760
- Disability Network Wayne County/Detroit: firstname.lastname@example.org / 313-923-1655
Photos by Tom Olin.