Michigan CILs are scrambling to demonstrate that their organizations are staffed and directed by a majority of people with significant disabilities.
In response to Peer Action Alliance’s advocacy to bring consumer control to Michigan’s Independent Living Program, state regulators at Michigan Rehabilitation Services have begun an administrative review of Michigan Centers for Independent Living (CILs).
Instead of making good faith efforts to recruit, hire, and promote people with significant disabilities as required by law, Michigan CILs have decided to fabricate the illusion of compliance by asking non-disabled individuals to identify any diagnosis that might legitimize them as members of the disability community.
Tamera Collier, Executive Director of Disability Network West Michigan, has repeatedly confirmed to local advocates that she is not a person with a disability.
“This is a tremendous insult to our intelligence,” said local Independent Living Advocate Eleanor Canter. “Are we to understand that she’s had a recent epiphany, seemingly inspired by nothing but an attempt to shield herself from criticism?
“The solution to a lack of consumer control isn’t to convince non-disabled people that they are disabled. That solves nothing. The solution is to hire and appoint people with significant disabilities to control our CILs. Disability Network West Michigan has learned to talk the talk but they cannot walk the walk until they begin recruiting, hiring, and promoting people with significant disabilities to lead the organization – as required by law.
“Ms. Collier will be welcomed as a member of the disability community when she begins to work as an ally instead of an adversary. Appropriating disability identity as an excuse to continue excluding people with significant disabilities from our Center for Independent Living will not be tolerated.”
Diagnosis is not the same as disability. The Rehabilitation Act defines significant disability for the purpose of consumer control in Centers for Independent Living:
“This refers to an individual with a severe physical, mental, cognitive or sensory impairment whose ability to function independently in the family or community or whose ability to obtain, maintain, or advance in employment is substantially limited and for whom the delivery of IL services will improve the ability to function, continue functioning, or move toward functioning independently in the family or community or to continue in employment.”
We will know that Muskegon’s CIL is consumer controlled when people with significant disabilities are welcomed into the organization. We demand that Disability Network West Michigan:
- End discrimination against people with significant disabilities in employment,
- Allow members of the disability community to apply to sit on the Board of Directors,
- Post job openings publicly where people with disabilities can find them,
- Work with Muskegon’s disability community to establish advocacy priorities and address our significant concerns about misuse of state and federal dollars reserved for organizations controlled by local disability communities.
Local advocates pledge to continue the campaign for consumer control until our Center for Independent Living comes into full compliance with the law. We will not be fooled by this pathetic mockery of Independent Living principles.