The following comments where presented to Michigan’s Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) on June 20, 2016, immediately preceding a nearly unanimous vote to approve Michigan’s State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL).
By Darma Canter
I urge the Council to reject the proposed State Plan.
At its heart Independent Living is about individuals having the personal power to act in their own interest; CILs are about supporting and mentoring the individual to be self-determined. The SPIL states its purpose as empowerment and self-determination through the practice of peer support, but there is nothing in the work plan that addresses either empowerment or peer support.
Needing and using services is a constant challenge to our sense of self and the physical and psychological energy to assert our self in opposition to the dictates of the provider systems. Disability services teach us to be dependent because service providers assume they know best, expect us to defer to them and require compliance with their plan. IL as a movement is the answer to dependence because it fosters identity separate from the need for services and the systems that provide our services and supports. IL teaches us that our lives belong to us; not our parents, or our doctors, or our case managers. Our voice is equal to that of every other person on our team of family and professional supporters.
If you don’t know that from personal experience or from meaningful interactions with disabled individuals, you can’t understand the function of IL to contradict the social construct of disability. Independent Living is hard. And what we need most from the network of Centers for Independent Living is support from our peers. We need a community who knows oppression and brings us together to collectively challenge our oppressors.
This State Plan for Independent Living actually partners with the systems that oppress us. Plan has nothing to do with the lived disability experience; this plan separates the disabled from their own IL movement, isolates the voices of advocates with disabilities and reinforces the professionals’ dominance in our lives.
This SPIL is not based on IL history or philosophy and I urge you to reject the plan as written.