Disability Network Southwest Michigan quarterly newsletter
January 2018
Winter is Here . . . Time to Shovel Out!

For people with mobility disabilities, cleared sidewalks make the difference between living a full, independent life or becoming a shut-in, isolated from their community.

The ADA requires that public agencies maintain their walkways in an accessible condition which includes reasonable snow removal efforts. Most businesses realize they are responsible for clearing their sidewalks, although timeliness varies greatly from business to business. In residential areas, most jurisdictions require homeowners or landlords to keep their sidewalks cleared.

One barrier to cleared sidewalks in winter is that some people are not physically able to clear their own walks and may not have the financial means to hire someone to do it for them. If you are a person who is unable to maintain your sidewalk in the winter, whether it's a public sidewalk or basic access to your house, you may need to look for local resources to assist you. The best place to start is with good neighbors and sometimes neighborhood associations and local churches can help connect you to resources as well.

Be mindful of access to public services on your street. If you live on a street with fire hydrants, take a look down the street-where is the nearest hydrant and is it clear of snow? Whether it's on your property or not, it will benefit you as well as your neighbors to be sure the hydrant is easily located and accessible in case of emergency. Also, if there is a bus stop on your street, take an extra couple of minutes to clear an area for people to wait for the bus so they don't have to stand in the street. The bottom line is, we all have to take responsibility for safe access in our communities.

Click to read more about the responsibility of snow removal, assistance for people with disabilities and how you can chip in and help your neighborhood while you're at it.
Rise Up! Disability Resistance, History & Pride

Many of us in the disability community are unaware of the depth of our culture and history and feel shame and stigma instead of pride around our disability identities. Join us for a free lunch with discussion and activities that promote knowledge of disability history and support the journey to disability pride. Everyone is welcome! We are offering this workshop in both St.Joseph (January 22) and Kalamazoo (January 23).
Follow this link for details about our Rise Up! Disability Resistance, History & Pride workshop and RSVP for the location & date you'd like to attend.
Ed Roberts Day is January 23

"We are no longer asking for charity.
We are demanding our rights!?"
Ed Roberts is often referred to as the Father of the Independent Living Movement. Join us at our Rise Up! workshop in January to learn more about him and other leaders in the movement.

Andrei: Living the Dream!

Two years ago, Andrei, a young man with cerebral palsy, learned about Disability Network Southwest Michigan's summer internship program, Advocacy Academy. He applied and was accepted, spending two months emerged in learning the skills of advocacy including how to develop and implement an advocacy campaign. Andrei says that his experiences in Advocacy Academy solidified for him the path he wanted to be on which would lead him to Washington DC, and gave him the confidence to know he could make it happen.  

Andrei now lives in Washington and works "on the hill" -- he says he feels like he's "living the dream!" Disability Network is happy to have played a role in helping Andrei build the skills and confidence he needed to make this leap in launching his career. Congratulations, Andrei!

Follow this link to learn more about Andrei's story.

Charting the Course
_Charting the Course_
Advocacy Academy is one way Disability Network helps prepare young adults with disabilities for their path forward. At Disability Network Southwest Michigan, we are helping people with disabilities chart their course to increased independence in a more inclusive community. We cannot do this important work without your support. To learn more about our programs and services, visit our website at www.dnswm.org or find us on Facebook.
Meet our Newest Staff Member

We recently welcomed Maggie Slocum to the Disability Network team as our new Travel Trainer/Transit Outreach Specialist. Maggie is a recent graduate of Western Michigan University with a major in geography with an emphasis in urban planning and a minor in non-profit management.
Beware of Social Security Phone Scams
_Scam Alert__
The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently cautioned that people have been receiving phone calls from scammers threatening that their Social Security benefits will stop immediately unless they provide personal information. Scammers have many ways to lure their victims into providing information and then steal their identities. Sometimes they call under a guise of helping to complete a disability application. Any request from SSA will always come as a written notice first. If a legitimate SSA representatives does call, they always provide a telephone number and extension.

Here are a few clues to watch for. A legitimate SSA representative will NEVER do any of the following:
  • Call to demand an immediate payment;
  • Demand you pay a debt without the ability to appeal the amount due;
  • Require a specific means of payment, such as requiring payment with a pre-paid debit card;
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone;
  • Threaten you with arrest or deportation.
If you receive an SSA scam call, do not provide any information to them. Instead, hang up immediately.
Financial Matters

AT Loan Fund Can Help
The Assistive Technology Loan Fund (ATLF) is available to help people pay for tools for independence. The ATLF is a low interest loan available to people with disabilities and their family members to help purchase items like wheelchair-accessible vehicles, hearing aids, mobility devices, communication devices or adapted recreation equipment. The ATLF can also pay for home modifications, including ramps, to make your home more accessible. For more information, contact Lewis Whalen at whalenl@dnswm.org or (269) 345-1516 x107.

ABLE Account Cap raised to $15,000
ABLE accounts are tax-advantaged savings accounts for individuals with disabilities and their families which have been made possible as a result of the passage of the Stephen Beck Jr., Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, better known as the ABLE Act. The Internal Revenue Service has increased the total annual contribution limit on an ABLE account from $14,000 per tax year to $15,000 per tax year beginning in 2018. According to the ABLE National Resource Center this increase is due to IRS adjustments connected with inflation rates. For more information about ABLE accounts, visit the ABLE National Resource Center at www.ablenrc.org or call our Information & Referral department.

Free Tax Preparation Resources
You may qualify for FREE tax preparation services by an IRS trained volunteer income tax assistance (VITA) or tax counseling for the elderly (TCE) preparer. You must meet certain requirements to be eligible, however if you qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, Medicaid, Food Stamps or any other assistance program, there is a good chance you qualify for free tax help, too. To locate a free tax site near you, dial 2-1-1 or check on the following websites:
The Ballad of Blind Tom

Join us at either our Kalamazoo or St.
Joseph office on Wednesday, February 7, 12:00-1:30 p.m. to discuss The Ballad of Blind Tom by Deirdre O'Connell.

Visit our website for more details about our Lunchtime Book Club.
movie headers
2018 Movie Series

We are hosting a series of disability-themed movies over the next few months. Join us for lunch, watch the movie and discuss the issues afterward. We are offering these events in both our Kalamazoo and St. Joseph Offices. Join us for one, two or all three movies! Select the location and date that works for you and RSVP to Miranda for the event(s) you'd like to attend at (269) 345-1516 x 120 or grunwellm@dnswm.org.

First Up in February . . .
Monica & David explores the marriage of two adults with Down syndrome. Monica and David are in love and want what other adults have-an independent life. While Monica and David are capable beyond expectations, their parents, aware of mainstream rejection of adults with intellectual disabilities, have trouble letting go. Full of humor, romance and everyday family drama, the film uses intimate fly-on-the wall footage to reveal the complexity of their story.
  • In Kalamazoo:    Wednesday, February 21, 12:00 -1:30 p.m.
  • In St. Joseph:    Tuesday, February 27, 12:00-1:30 p.m.
Follow this link to learn more about our upcoming Lunch & Learn Movie Series.
About Disability Network Southwest Michigan
Disability Network Southwest Michigan serves 8 counties in Southwest Michigan: Barry, Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, Van Buren

Office Locations:
Kalamazoo: 517 E. Crosstown Pkwy., Kalamazoo, MI  49001, phone: (269) 345-1516
St. Joseph: 2900 Lakeview Avenue., St. Joseph, MI 49085, phone: (269) 985-0111

For the accessibility and well-being of our employees and visitors, Disability Network Southwest Michigan is a fragrance-free office. Please do not wear perfume, cologne or other scented products when visiting.

Mission Statement:
We educate and connect people with disabilities to resources while advocating social change.

Vision Statement:
Our vision is a community that values disability as human diversity, free of attitudinal barriers, where all people benefit with full access and inclusion.

Our Publications:
The LINK is our quarterly newsletter, available in printed format or emailed in electronic format.
Disability Digest is a monthly e-newsletter focused on Disability Rights issues and upcoming Disability Network happenings. Available in electronic format only.

You can sign up online for our publications at www.dnswm.org, or contact Dale at
abbottd@dnswm.org or (269) 345-1516 x123.Current and past issues of our publications are available on our website at www.dnswm.org.

This newsletter is available in alternative format upon request.

Support Our Work:
You can help support the work we do with a tax-deductible donation to Disability Network. Visit our website to donate online or call Kristen at (269) 345-1516 x119.