On Ed Roberts & Creaming in Michigan’s Independent Living Program

Cream. Verb. To advance individuals with the least significant disabilities in order to create the illusion of consumer control without having to do the hard work of affirmative action, workplace accommodation, and confronting ableism in our own spaces.

“Creaming” is a term coined by Ed Roberts, the Father of the Independent Living Movement. Roberts was famously told by vocational rehabilitation (the agency responsible for helping people with disabilities find employment) that he was “too disabled” to work. In response to this blatant discrimination, Ed Roberts started a revolution. He created the first Center for Independent Living, which sparked a nation-wide movement. In Independent Living, people with significant disabilities (consumers) have complete control over the decisions that affect their lives, including the management of Centers for Independent Living – community-based organizations that advance the rights of people with disabilities. Years later, Ed Roberts was appointed Director if California vocational rehabilitation – the very agency that had declared him unemployable.  Continue reading

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How Michigan CILs Became Service Providers Chasing Money and Working for Our Oppressors

By Darma Canter

Independent Living values have disappeared from Michigan’s Centers for Independent Living. We therefore reassert and stand firmly behind the following truths:

  • Independent Living philosophy is grassroots community organizing to confront inequality and exclusion.
  • Centers for Independent Living were created to solve a universal disability dilemma: people with disabilities need supports to be independent, but must become dependent on public systems of care in order to access those supports.
  • The IL movement was conceived by people who rebelled against the myths and misconceptions surrounding people with disabilities. IL was built by and for the individuals who face a daily fight for dignity and self-respect.

Our History: All over the country, communities of people with significant disabilities formed centers focused on self-help in order to share their knowledge and experience, advocate for change, support the empowerment of their peers, and learn skills to manage their individual supports and services. Four “core” services – funded by Congress – describe the disability community working together as agents of change: advocacy, peer support, information and referral, and independent living skills training. CILs are tasked with changing how we feel about our disability identity: No Pity. No Shame. They are tasked with changing the social assumptions about people with disabilities as less than, powerless. In short, disability rights are civil rights.  Continue reading

Muskegon Celebrates First Disability Pride Day by Placing the Voices of the Disability Community Front and Center

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On, May 6, 2016, Peer Action Alliance hosted Muskegon’s first Rally for Disability Pride in Alcoa Square in Downtown Muskegon. About 50 people attended throughout the morning to hear speeches from local advocates and politicians; learn about the priorities of the local disability community; and enjoy free music and cupcakes while building community.  Continue reading

MARO Calls for Solution-Focused Agenda: Disability Community Responds

On May 6, Todd Culver, Executive Director of the Michigan Association of Rehabilitation Organizations (MARO), issued a condescending and paternalistic statement aimed at the disability community aptly titled “Controlling Our Own Story”.

After stating that he does not intend to “dignify” us with a response, Mr. Culver characterizes our advocacy as “cynical and snarky” and urges his audience to disregard the voices of Michiganders with disabilities. Ironically, he then makes a plea for a “solution-focused agenda”.

Therefore, we present:

A Solution-Focused Agenda for MARO Members  Continue reading

An Open Takedown of MARO’s Talking Points on Subminimum Wages

The Michigan Association of Rehabilitation Organizations (MARO) submitted testimony to the Michigan Developmental Disabilities Council on April 1, 2016. We must correct untrue and ableist statements made by MARO Executive Director Todd Culver, who wields a great deal of influence over the lives of Michiganders with disabilities by publicly representing the interests of the businesses exploiting us and by actively lobbying in support of sheltered work and subminimum wages.

Let’s unpack!

MARO Statement: In a manufacturing environment, when a productivity level is not consistent with assigned unit labor costs, it is simply not sustainable as a business practice – this is true for workers with and without disabilities.

Reality Check: Yes, the businesses you represent employ a model that relies on exploitation of the disability community and it is not sustainable. Why is that the disability community’s problem? MARO members have made themselves filthy rich off the backs of our people. We will not put our civil rights on hold for your continued enrichment at our expense.  Continue reading

Independent Living Words of Power: Comments to the ILA

In preparation for the CILs’ administrative move to the the Independent Living Administration at the Administration for Community Living at the Department of Health and Human Services, we wrote expanded definitions of key words used in the Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act. The advocates who created Centers based on IL philosophy would be disturbed at the current “re-interpretation” of their words by Michigan CILs. Please send your comments to add or edit the definitions.

Language: conveyor of philosophy and culture 

Significant Disability: The Act repeatedly says “significant disability” to distinguish it from the broader term “disability” and focuses the services and resources on the individuals who have historically been the most segregated and least independent. They, people with significant disabilities, are the most qualified to direct and deliver IL services, because their lives depend on the same systems, and they have developed a skill set interacting with systems that will empower others.

Consumer: For the purpose of the Rehab Act Title VII, consumer means a person whose ability to be independent in the community, in their home, or at work, is substantially reduced by a mental, physical, sensory, developmental or other significant disability. Consumers with significant disabilities use equipment or other accommodations that support access and participation at home, the community, and employment. Consumers frequently have personal experience utilizing the publicly-funded systems intended to support the Disabled. Systems are often designed to be person-centered, but too frequently keep the Disabled poor and dependent. This knowledge and experience is necessary for the provision and administration of core services.  Continue reading