Ken Lanphear from WKZO interviewed our own Lewis Whalen & Miranda Grunwell regarding our Disability & Employment workshop series in October. Below is a transcript of the interview, or click the arrow to listen.
WKZO Interview: Disability & Employment Workshop Series
KL: Ken Lanphear, WKZO Host
LW: Lewis Whalen, Disability Network Southwest Michigan, Program Manger
MG: Miranda Grunwell, Disability Network Southwest Michigan, Community Education Coordinator
KL: As we noted, in two weeks it will be October; and October is Disability Employment Awareness Month; and here in the Kalamazoo area, Disability Network Southwest Michigan is offering a series of free workshops during the month of October. Joining us from Disability Network Southwest Michigan we welcome Lewis Whalen and Miranda Grunwell to our studio to tell us more about that. Good morning to both of you.
LW & MG: Good morning.
KL: Lewis, tell us first of all about Disability Network Southwest Michigan and the services it provides.
LW: Sure. Disability Network Southwest Michigan is a Center for Independent Living which is a federally recognized organization. There are over 300 of us over the course of the United States. In Southwest Michigan here, we serve eight counties; so that would be Kalamazoo, Cass, Van Buren, St Joe, Berrien, Branch, Calhoun and Barry. So there’s our eight county service region. Our purpose here in Southwest Michigan is to help people with disabilities live as independent lives is they care to live. Our mission is to educate and connect people with disabilities while advocating for social change. So really that’s a two-part mission, right? So on one side we help people with disabilities achieve what they want to achieve; set their own goals and find the activities and information they need. Then on the other side we work to make the community overall more friendly and accessible for people with disabilities.
KL: And does that involve working with the businesses and local government as well as those with disabilities?
LW: Most definitely, we do a lot of projects with local government, including the City of Kalamazoo, regularly. We work with businesses to make sure they have access to the things they need to make their business as accessible as possible, whether that’s physical accessibility: making their curbs accessible, their parking lots; or that it’s programmatic accessibility: so that’s helping them figure out how to integrate people with disabilities into their daily programs and services they offer.
KL: Well, Miranda, as we mentioned there are some free workshops available during the month of October to commemorate this special month. Tell us about some of the opportunities available to people here in our area.
MG: So, this year we are going to try something new and we are going to offer eight workshops during October, one in each of our service counties. So we’re going to kick it off in Kalamazoo on October 2nd from 3:00 – 4:30 at Disability Network. At these workshops we are going to be helping people with disabilities learn how, when and why to disclose their disability or health condition to an employer. It can be really hard to figure out: Do I have a disability? What accommodations do need? And it’s even scarier to tell your boss about your disability and what you might need. Most accommodations are free and have no cost at all, but employers will think that “well it’s going to cost me a lot of money to employ a person with a disability.” When in reality it doesn’t, so we also talk about that aspect of it too and have some time to practice disclosing your disability so that you are more confident going into that situation with your employer.
KL: And, how do people take advantage of the opportunity to be part of these workshops?
MG: I just ask that you contact me at Disability Network. You can either call or email me. Our phone number at Disability Network is 269-345-1516, I’m extension 120 or you can just ask for Miranda. I like to know that you’re coming so that way I can have enough handouts for you. If you need an accommodation to attend, like maybe you need your handouts in large print, or maybe you need a sign language interpreter, we will provide those if you let us know, as well.
KL: Do you find that people are more forthcoming about disabilities and are employers more accepting these days? Are we making progress in this area at all?
MG: I do. I think we are making good progress and I think it’s that employers are opening up to new ideas and people with disabilities are learning their rights too. The Americans with Disabilities Act has been around for 28 years now. And so, under Title I, that is what allows the employment and accommodations and I think people are learning about it.
KL: Alright, and these are available in all the areas you serve then?
MG: Yup. So we’ll be doing one in Kalamazoo, Hastings, Three Rivers, Coldwater, Battle Creek, Dowagiac, Paw Paw, and the City of St. Joe.
KL: Alright, outstanding. Disability Awareness Month in the month of October and free Disability and Employment workshops available throughout Southwest Michigan through Disability Network Southwest Michigan. Lewis, for more information on what to do and how to take advantage of various services, do you have a website to find out more about these things?
LW: We do, most definitely; you can reach us at www.dnswm.org, your going to find a whole lot of resources there; access to area support groups; our services; what a Center for Independent Living is, and a little bit more about our philosophy about people with disabilities being independent and about, in general, who we are and what we do.
KL: Okay, good. So take advantage of those workshops next month. Lewis Whalen and Miranda Grunwell from Disability Network Southwest Michigan here with us today on WKZO. Thanks so much for coming in and sharing news about this and what you do to serve the people her in Southwest Michigan.
MG: Thank you for having us, Ken.
LW: Thank you.