On the Road to Justice – Betrayal

Why .. after spending the last year trying to engage with the City of Muskegon – why did the City Commissioners approve an agreement with Disability Network West Michigan (DNWM) to represent Muskegon residents and visitors with disabilities and to guide the City in meeting the “minimum” requirements in the ADA?

Do you believe corporations are people? Is it possible for a corporation to represent a minority community? Should a non-disabled corporate employee speak for disabled residents? The idea is in conflict with the Independent Living philosophy mandated in DNWN’s federal funding.

Elected officials and public employees often ask why minorities perceive prejudice and discrimination, because in their hearts they believe they are not racist, not sexist, not ableist, not ageist. Even when a person experiencing minority status tells you they experience inequality, you can’t agree with what they are telling you, because you are not an “-ist.” How do you change something you can’t see, feel, hear, touch?

What’s wrong with this picture?

“Muskegon City Commission Worksession Chambers

August 12, 2019, MINUTES (PDF):

Present: Mayor Gawron, Vice-Mayor Hood (arrived 5:36), Commissioners Turnquist, Johnson, and German

Absent: Commissioners Rinsema-Sybenga and Warren

Disability Network of West Michigan – Brad Hastings, Presentation information to the City Commission regarding a proposed cooperation agreement. DNWM will help the City and its customers to meet the minimum requirements of the Construction Coded and the ADA and continue to education and influence toward implementing new best practices that incorporate Universal Design concepts. This will be accomplished by providing training and technical assistance to City staff and its customers. This work is aimed at increasing the inclusiveness and accessibility of our built environment and realizing the ultimate vision of access for all, regardless of ability…”

On the surface this ‘agreement’ sounds like it is a positive for the thousands of disabled residents in Muskegon. But in fact, it is a continuation of the prejudice and discrimination the disability community typically experiences in local government.

  1. DNWM is a corporate actor and Mr. Hastings is NOT a disabled person. He does not experience exclusion or inequality and he is not qualified to represent people who do.
  2. The work itself is important, but is he the most qualified person to do the work? Did the city solicit a proposal from a pre-determined provider, or did they put out a public request for proposals? Was the opportunity to contract with the city fairly offered to qualified people, or did it just go to a corporate representative of the chamber?

Twenty nine years of federal mandates to build disability-friendly cities and yet Muskegon’s central city has been torn down and re-built without the essential accessibility features. Should I be satisfied when the City of Muskegon hires a non-disabled adviser to create disability access? WTF.

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