Breaking Down Barriers For Those With Disabilities
with Lori Hill-Sanders, Executive Director of the Disability Network for Wayne County-Detroit
Disability Network Wayne County-Detroit was founded in 2002 with five employees at Wayne State University. The Disability Network moved to the Samaritan Center 2004 and extended services to employ up to twenty employees. Originally, the training was offered to persons with disabilities in all of Wayne County were four key services were provided, which later expanded to five core services being; Advocacy, Independent Living Skills, Information and Referrals, Transition, and Peer Counseling. In addition to Core Services the following programs and services available are: Assistive Technology, Nursing Home Transition, ADA technical Assistance Programs, Outreach, Independent Living Workshops, Housing Referrals, and Volunteer Programs. Disability Network- Wayne County Detroit’s goal is to research, educate, inform, and place all persons with disabilities who are in need of adequate independent living skills and services. We Partner with community agencies, schools, and various
community locations. According to MDHHS, the number of adults with disabilities is projected to increase by nearly one quarter million from 2,147, 000 in 2011 to 2,392,000 in 2030. The proportions of the population with disabilities increases with age are higher for females than males, and declines as education and household income increase. There are 700,000 working age individuals in Michigan with disabilities and nearly all of them have abilities that can add value to workplace and the communities they reside. Unfortunately, too often these individuals face employment barriers and a culture that does not appreciate the skills they can bring to a job and community. Michigan has launched statewide initiatives to address the needs of specific populations facing barriers to employment, and the WIOA partners will identify effective practices and resources to address the employment needs of youth with disabilities. Disability Network Wayne-Detroit seeks to change this culture supporting individuals with disabilities in overcoming the very real barriers in learning work related skills and helping employers navigate the disjointed and complicated vocational rehabilitation system. It is critical that individuals with disabilities receive assistance and supports to help them on their path of gaining employment and independence. Disability Network recognizes that even if an individual with disabilities wishes to enter or reenter the workforce, that that person may need skill development, social skills and specific employment areas. Disability Network advocates for the incorporation of a “dual customer approach” into Michigan’s service delivery system that will work with both the individual and the employer to identify what training is needed and how to provide specific training or referrals for training. Disability Network will work diligently to address the employment gap for persons with disabilities. This will be done by outreach, recruitment, strategic individualized planning, mentoring, vocational training, and arts training, and other supportive services. Disability Network provides Employment Navigation Services program that helps people with disabilities develop an Independent Living Plan it provides vocational readiness (including basic computer skills) for adults and high school students. Currently, Disability Network serves 5000 consumers. The Disability Network is one of the few non- profit organizations in the metro Detroit area that provides the resources and services we do more importantly, Disability Network is the only local provider respected, trusted, and consulted on all matters of disability.