Investing in Disability
When we invest in disability, the entire community benefits. Our programs and services reached nearly 8,000 people with disabilities across Southwest Michigan last year. Our investment in disability includes providing Information & Referral services, Independent Living supports, Individual and Systemic Advocacy, Peer Support and Transition services across all ages and disabilities.
Ensuring people with disabilities have the supports they need to live independently, access to the community, advocacy and self-advocacy skills and connections to resources, builds a community that values disability as human diversity, free of attitudinal barriers, where all people benefit with full access and inclusion.
We cannot do this important work without you. Please consider a donation to Disability Network so we can continue to build a diverse and inclusive community.
Telling Our Stories
EVA | Information & Referral
When Eva first came to Disability Network, she was experiencing a lot of stress and anxiety. She was new to the area and was unsure of herself and had experienced a lot of stigma associated with being a person with a mental health condition. Eva was unsure of where to turn for help or how to connect to the services she needed. Once she found Disability Network Southwest Michigan, she worked with our Information & Referral department to connect to the services she needed. She also joined our Women’s Support Group and started attending many of the educational events hosted by our agency.
For Eva, connecting with other people with disabilities and learning more about the disability rights movement gave her confidence in finding her own voice and becoming a strong self-advocate. Soon Eva was volunteering with other agencies and engaging in her community.
Eva said, “I was welcomed by Disability Network who helped me learn about my disability and know that my disabilities are a part of me, not all of me. They helped me make a change to positive self-value, a better, brighter future and helped me fill in the gaps.”
KATHLEEN | Youth in Transition
Kathleen, who is now 25, has a learning disability and dropped out of high school four months before graduation. This was followed by a few hard years—she moved out of her parents’ home and entered into an emotionally abusive relationship and struggled to make good choices for herself. Two years ago Kathleen decided it was time to take control of her life and become more self-sufficient. She started taking classes to get a general education development diploma (GED) and she enrolled at the Community-based Transition Center (CTC) which would prepare her for employment and the successful transition to independent living.
Disability Network Southwest Michigan connected with Kathleen at CTC where our staff provided Kathleen with pre-employment training, including Financial Literacy & Budget Training, Employer Expectation Training and Life Engagement Skills. The employment and life-skills training Kathleen received from Disability Network positioned her to accomplish her next steps in obtaining self-sufficiency. At the completion of our training program Kathleen said, “I’m ready! I am getting older, I graduate CTC soon and it’s time to work and pay my bills because I want to save for a house!”
Kathleen is now living independently, has re-connected with her parents and is working part-time at a job she enjoys while finishing school. Kathleen will graduate from the CTC program this month and is on track to receive her GED!
MARK | Advocacy
Mark needed our help in advocating for his legal rights in what could have been a very scary outcome. Mark has been connected with Disability Network for over three years; he sustained a childhood brain injury which was further complicated by a stroke in his adult life. Mark is a kind, giving man who is easily taken advantage of because of his good nature.
Nearly two years ago, Mark was wrongfully charged with a crime which started a nightmarish chain of events. Due to his brain injury, Mark did not understand his options and followed the advice of a court-appointed attorney which resulted in his being sentenced to jail for a crime he had not committed.
Even a short jail sentence would be emotionally devastating for Mark and would cause him to lose his apartment and benefits. When Mark told staff at Disability Network what was happening our staff helped him work through the court system which resulted in a suspended sentence until Mark could be evaluated. During the ordeal Mark was remanded to a psychiatric hospital which was completely inappropriate – Mark does not have a psychiatric condition, he has a brain injury. During this time his apartment and benefits where again threatened.
Disability Network staff again helped Mark advocate for his rights. Nearly two years after the original charges were filed, the Judge re-evaluated Mark’s case and dropped all charges. Advocacy and Education are one of the core services at Disability Network Southwest Michigan. After two years of fearing he would be wrongfully imprisoned or institutionalized, Mark is once again living in his own apartment and has resumed the peaceful life he previously enjoyed.
SHARON | Peer Support
Sharon has been attending peer support groups at Disability Network for more than twenty years. She enjoys the camaraderie, as well as the opportunity to learn new things, meet people, and attend local outings. Sharon finds the support groups offer a safe and comfortable environment for people to share their experiences. When she was having a difficult time with depression, the support groups gave her a reason to get out of bed and an opportunity to focus on something positive in her life.
Sharon has been an active member of the Brain Injury Survivors Group for many years and joined in celebrating the group’s thirtieth anniversary this year.
MARJORIE | Nursing Facility Transition
Marjorie, age 70, was living in a nursing facility after being hospitalized for an infection. Prior to being hospitalized she wasn’t getting the care she needed or deserved in her home and her finances were being mismanaged, resulting in a foreclosure and loss of her home. After several months in the nursing facility, Marjorie realized that living in a nursing facility was not for her and she wanted to return to community-based living but she was concerned there were too many barriers.
The Nursing Facility Transition staff at Disability Network began working with Marjorie to identify housing options and fill out the appropriate paperwork. Disability Network staff connected Marjorie to agencies in the community that could help her address her financial barriers and establish a representative payee so that she could feel secure that her income would be safe and available for her to use to pay her rent and living expenses. Once housing was secured, Disability Network staff provided furniture, household goods and groceries to get Marjorie settled in her new home.
Marjorie continues to live independently where she “is the boss” and in charge of her own life.
PATRICIA | Independent Living
Patricia has a mobility disability; she can walk very little and usually uses a power chair when she is in the community. Patricia’s house has four steps at the entrance which doesn’t seem like a lot, but if you can’t navigate stairs, four steps presents a significant barrier. Patricia often needed to be carried out of her home, and the lack of access created a significant safety hazard in the event of an emergency.
Disability Network coordinated volunteers from Harbor Habitat for Humanity and funding used from our Ramp Up program and St. Joseph-Benton Harbor Rotary Foundation to build a ramp for Patricia so she can now independently come and go and feel safe in her home.
Disability Network Southwest Michigan is affiliated with The United Way of Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region, the St. Joseph County United Way, and the Van Buren County United Way.