Michigan Developmental Disabilities Council Storytellers for Change

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The Michigan Storytellers for Change logo. The project title with a green silhouette of the State of Michigan.

Profiles in Inclusion

A screenshot of Jacqueline Cuevas from the interview video.

Denial of Diagnosis and Medical Self-Advocacy

Jacqueline Cuevas talks about the trauma that occurs when family and doctors deny your disability, the self-advocacy it took her to get a correct medical diagnosis and the treatment she needed and her feelings of not having a place, because she was “too abled for the disabled and too disabled for the abled”.

A screenshot of Stephanie Laird from the interview video.


Stephanie Laird deeply values her independence (even when it entails doing the housework). She discusses the stigma and condescension she faces: people assume that because she uses a walker, she has an intellectual disability as well. Though she says that “Transportation is the biggest barrier of all,” she dedicates the majority of her time talking about the significance of her husband to her and the urgency of eliminating marriage penalty.

A screenshot of Jason and Lilah Baker from the interview video.

The Marriage Penalty

“Treat us like people: don’t treat us like we’re different.” (Lilah). Despite being widely known in their community as a couple, Jason and Lilah Baker face the marriage penalty. Additionally they discuss the compensation of their direct support personnel.

A screenshot of Frank Vaca from the interview video.

Sexuality Self-Advocacy

“I feel like this is my calling: to help others with disabilities explore their potential.” Frank Vaca discusses his work on employment and as a sexual self-advocacy trainer.

You can learn more about Green Mountain Self-Advocates at https://gmsavt.org/. You can learn more about the Elevatus Sexuality and Developmental Disabilities Training at https://www.elevatustraining.com/.

A screenshot of Erin Oldaugh from the interview video.

Employment and Faith

Erin Oldaugh discusses the importance of her faith and how much she enjoys her role providing A/V support in her church services. For more information on Erin, see the Fox 2 News profile of her.

A screenshot from the interview with Ceretta Willis and James Wesley

The Marriage Penalty

Ceretta Willis and James Wesley, approaching their 30-year anniversary, talk employment, home ownership, but mostly about the consequences that the marriage penalty has had for them in terms of both financial uncertainty and family relationships.

A screenshot of Kellie Blackwell. She has shoulder-length blond hair and is wearing a scoop-necked floral blouse.

A user and an expert on assistive technology

Kellie Blackwell is the Co-Director of the Michigan Assistive Technology Program and the Assistive Technology Specialist at the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition. She talks about the barriers to inclusion she experiences and the variety of technologies she uses in her own life to circumvent those barriers, as well as the Assistive Technology Act and the technological resources and education Michigan makes available to people with disabilities.

A screenshot of Anna Dusbiber. She is in a power chair and gesturing with her right hand. She is lit against a dark background.

“Don’t leave your choices to someone else”

“Don’t leave your choices to someone else.” Anna Dusbiber, Programs Coordinator with the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living, discusses the difficulties she had in making educators and school administrators understand her vision of an inclusive life for herself when she was a young person. Now that she is an adult working in social services, her mission is to make sure young people with disabilities begin making their own plan for transition early in their education.

A photograph of Holly Hollins. She has high short hair and black glasses and is wearing a red blazer. Behind her is a brick pillar and some greenery outside a window.

From Chinese language student to disability rights advocate

Holly Hollins discusses her journey from living abroad in China to disability rights advocacy. She also discusses the very personal decision of when to disclose your disability to your employer.

A photograph of Izzie Bullock. She has thin-rimed cat-eye glasses and shoulder-length wavy blond hair. She is sitting in a power chair with a blue splash of light behind her.

“Speak up and speak loud.”

“Inclusion means not only having a seat at the table, but everyone at the table having their voice heard.” Izzie Bullock discusses the physical and systematic exclusion she has encountered in her life. Her advice to lawmakers: “Sometimes inclusion is an afterthought. … Now we need to go back and fix it. But when writing a law or passing a law, inclusion should be in the forefront.” As the Employment Program Manager at the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living she discusses the benefits to employers of hiring people with disabilities. Izzy’s parting advice: “Speak up and speak loud.”

A photograph of Sheryl Stumbaugh. She is in a dark room with a light on half of her face while she gestures with both hands to make her point.

“Before you can talk about inclusion, you’ve got to live inclusion.”

“Before you can talk about inclusion, you’ve got to live inclusion. So get out there. Let people know who you are, what you’re doing.” If you are passionate about it, even if you can’t physically do the main activity, find a role for yourself. Sheryl Stumbaugh discusses her passion for adaptive sports and the struggle to remain in her community. Many renters won’t accept Section Eight housing vouchers and have suggested that she live someplace else. But she doesn’t want to live someplace else, because she is a part of that community and her natural supports are there.

A screenshot from the video of Renee Echols. She has grey shoulder-length hair and a blue shirt with a v-neck.

The Importance of State and Local Governments

“On the ground, really, your local and state government are who needs to hear your voice.” Renee Echols, Peer Support and Advocacy Specialist at the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living, discusses advocating for inclusive infrastructure with your state and local government, the major barrier of the lack of funding and the challenges of speaking up when coping with challenges of lifelong trauma and internalized oppression.

A portrait of Sarah Carmany. She has red, curly hair and tortes shell horn-rimmed glasses and a dark floral dress.

Guardianship Strips Away People’s Rights

“I think guardianship is wrong for people with disabilities because it strips away people’s rights.” Sarah Carmany discusses her sense of inclusion owing to her competitive integrated employment, her supported decision-making through her circle of support and her activism through the numerous organizations she works with. “A lot of the time people have a problem with acceptance of people who are different. And I think people who are different should be included in everything.”

A screen capture from the video of Jeanine Rowe.

The Changing Technology of Inclusion

Jeanine Rowe discusses how the Americans with Disabilities Act hasn’t kept pace with technological changes in accessibility, especially the advances in power chairs. “Technology has advanced, so other things need to change with it.”

A screen capture from the video of Kim Rosario.

Real and Fake Inclusion

Kim Rosario discusses drumming in a death meal band, recording music, finding an accepting community among musicians, finding employment and being a parent as well as varieties of faux inclusion.

A screen capture from the video of Catherine Hein.

The Direct Support Professional Crisis

Catherine Hein goes in-depth about the Direct Support Provider crisis. She discusses how the low compensation levels established by the government reduces the availability of support professionals, how wage and benefit competition makes other employment more attractive to potential DSP workers and how DSPs do not receive professional respect consonant with their professional responsibilities – and ultimately how the DSP crisis undermines the independence of people with disabilities.

A screen capture from the video of Angel Irvin. She is an African American woman with short hair wearing a button-up shirt with a collar.

Inclusive Sports

Angel Irvin discusses employment at Walmart, but mostly her passion for triathlons, 5ks and other endurance sports and the Adaptive Sports Club at MSU. A really good support system is the key to inclusion, but transportation short-fallings undermine Angel’s ability to work for Walmart as she and her employer would both like. “Having that freedom to go when you want to go is one of the biggest barriers to inclusion.” (East Lancing, Michigan, 1 November 2021)

A screen capture from the video of Tonneio Graves. He is an African American man with short hair and a slightly longer beard.

Homelessness and Transportation

Tonnieo Graves tells his personal story of homelessness and discusses the difficulty of transportation for people with disabilities. (Saginaw, Michigan, 29 October 2021)

A screen capture of Ronald McGough from the interview.

Physical Barriers Exclude People with Disabilities from Their Communities

Ronald McGough discusses the way that physical barriers to access for people with disabilities excludes people from being a part of their community and the importance of the State of Michigan making sure all locations are accessible.

Portrait of Jake Schaafsma. He has chipmunk cheeks and a light brown beard. He is looking slightly upward and to the right.

Confronting Low Expectations, Stigma and Internalized Ableism

Jake Schaafsma confronts low expectations, stigma and internalized ableism. He contrast that with a discussion of how to be matter-of-fact about disabilities and interact with people with disabilities in ways that treat them with dignity.

A screenshot of Dominick Harper during the interview. A low angle on a young black man with a goatee and rectangular glasses. He is wearing a black sweatshirt.

Dominick Harper on Making Music and the Shortage of Accessible Housing

“The one thing to get people with disabilities into the community is first building up the confidence they have choices about their life.” Dominick Harper talks about making music, working with DisArt and his struggles with finding adequate accessible housing. Check out Dominick’s music at his SoundCloud.

A screen shot from a video of Sharon Hall. She is an older African-American woman. She has glasses and large eyes and is looking slightly up as she thinks about what she is going to say.

Sharon Hall: “We need everybody at the table.”

Sharon Hall of Grand Rapids, Michigan, is a Certified Peer Support Specialist and a member of a number of advisory boards, including for the Community Mental Health Consumer Board and the Development Disability Council. Her main focus is advocating for people with developmental disabilities, mental illness and who are homeless. She discusses invisible disabilities, how underresourced the Community Mental Health system is and her vision of the broadest possible version of inclusion. “We need everybody at the table.”

A screen capture of Ryan Klotz during the interview. He has short dusty hair, glasses and and a big grin. He is sitting in his wheelchair at his keyboard. A bookshelf, kitchen passthrough and dinning table are behind him.

Ryan Klotz’s Internship with the City Government Building and Water Departments

A discussion with Ryan Klotz about his job as a file clerk intern in the Building and Water Departments at the City of Westland, Michigan. He discusses the importance of inclusion in workplaces, the determination and adaptability of people with disabilities, and the positive affect of the presence in the workplace of people with disabilities, both for themselves and their coworkers.

About Michigan Storytellers for Change

A detail from the Michigan Storytellers for Change brochure.

Michigan Storytellers for Change Brochure

Learn more about the Michigan Storytellers for Change project, its mission, methods and what you can do to participate by checking out our brochure here.

Tell Us Your Story

Do you know a Michigan disability story that needs to be told? Let us know at MIStorytellers4Change@tash.org, or by submitting it using the form below:

  • Tell us a little bit about yourself, how you are included in your community and on what issues you advocate.

For news and updates, follow Michigan Storytellers for Change on social media.

Michigan Storytellers for Change is a project of the Michigan Developmental Disabilities Council and TASH.