The Disability Network Southwest Michigan
(DNSWM) is excited for this year’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) anniversary celebration, which will take place on Friday, July 28, at the Kalamazoo Farmers Market from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
“We’re often told we’re the best-kept secret in Southwest Michigan,” says Sarah Cagney, the communication and development director for DNSWM. “If you or someone you know is looking for support or resources in any disability-related area, please connect with us, or just come to this free celebration.”
DNSWM is the first stop for people with disabilities in Southwest Michigan.
“Our various programs support people of all ages, with any kind of disability,” says Allison Leece, the organization’s communications and outreach coordinator. “We are unique in that we are an agency that serves people with disabilities, led by people with disabilities. We see the contribution of all staff to be of equally high value.”
Disability Network Southwest Michigan staff members chat during the 2022 ADA Celebration.
The organization services eight counties, including Barry, Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, and Van Buren. Over the past year, DNSWM has focused on its future and how it can best serve those in the communities it serves.
“In the past year, we’ve worked diligently on our strategic plan for the future of the agency,” explains Cagney. “We’ve reexamined our outreach strategies, expanded our presence in the community with regular office hours at settings such as the Kalamazoo Defender’s Office and Ministry with Community, opened a new office in Battle Creek, and brought on several new staff members to expand our capacity.
“We’ve facilitated over 50 presentations spanning 15 topics through our Paving the Way to Self Determination training series, which targets youth with developmental disabilities and their families,” Cagney says. “We’ve collaborated with numerous other organizations across our counties and provided advocacy and other services to 2,777 individuals with disabilities. We also built 46 ramps and conducted 196 Community Education presentations.”
Specific to the upcoming ADA Celebration, Miranda Grunwell, the community education coordinator, has been the driving force behind the planning and preparation for the event. She is supported by an ADA Planning Committee consisting of both staff and board members. This free celebration serves as a reminder of the remarkable progress made over the years and emphasizes the ongoing efforts toward building a fully inclusive society. It aims to honor the significant contributions of individuals who have dedicated themselves to advancing accessibility and promoting independent living.
Attendees of the 2022 ADA Celebration gather to watch the awards ceremony.
“The ADA celebration will be a casual party setting,” shares Leece. “A delicious lunch will be catered by Q It Up Catering, and we will have trivia and yard games for those who want to participate. Three individuals will be recognized as recipients of our Bob Davis Independent Living Award, which recognizes people who have made great strides in their independence, whatever that may look like for them. State Sen. Sean McCann will be accepting a Community Inclusion Award on behalf of the entire disability network.”
The ADA is a civil rights law that came about in 1990 and prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. The law provides protections to individuals with disabilities just like those that exist for people based on race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion.
“The ADA is important because it exists to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else,” says Cagney. “It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications. The ADA not only protects people with disabilities, but also people who may have had a disability in the past (e.g. cancer, a mental health condition, a stroke survivor), or may be perceived to have a disability (e.g. a person with scarring from burns).”
Fun and laid-back
The July 28 celebration aims to be fun and laid-back while recognizing important legislation and giving the organization time to come together with members of the community and other organizations to enjoy each other’s company.
“We commemorate the work of disability advocates before us to advance disability justice, and get excited about continued progress into the future,” says Leece.
The Kalamazoo Farmers Market offers accessible entrances, and free parking will be available for attendees' convenience.
This article is a part of the multi-year series Disability Inclusion, exploring the state of West Michigan’s growing disability community. The series is made possible through a partnership with Centers for Independent Living organizations across West Michigan.
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