How COVID-19 Has Highlighted the Importance of Accessibility – Guest Blog Contribution by Jen Vianney

For most of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted how we go about our daily lives. With hygiene measures being practiced at all times, mandatory mask rules in public places, and social distancing to keep each other safe, these seemingly major changes are a small price to pay to flatten the curve.

While abiding by these rules is easy for able-bodied folks, we’ve forgotten that persons with disabilities need to be included in all aspects of our society to survive the global health crisis. Today, there are 61 million adults in the US who live with a disability, and it’s only correct that we strive to make the world a more accessible place for everyone ⁠— especially during these times of crisis.

One key issue for people with disabilities that has been highlighted by the pandemic is accessibility on the web. As most of us avoid social gatherings to keep ourselves and our families safe, social media and the internet have provided us with a way to remotely connect with the people we love in a safe environment. However, this digital shift is not all-inclusive for people with disabilities. Online, a lot of websites don’t have accessible pages or haven’t adopted accessibility systems to cater to people with disabilities and older folks. For this reason, it can make some individuals with disabilities feel increasingly isolated and lonely in a time when physical socialization is non-existent.

Additionally, many folks with disabilities who need routine medical care may also find it difficult to access such facilities during the pandemic. As healthcare institutions struggle to accommodate the huge influx of people suffering from COVID, some of the procedures and treatments needed by persons with disabilities have been de-prioritized. Furthermore, there is yet another huge gap in the workforce as burnout and stress forced some healthcare workers to put their own health and safety first, temporarily throwing in the towel.

Thankfully, hospitals have started to ramp up their telehealth capabilities to serve non-COVID-19 patients and those who need routine medical care. However, there is still a need for accessible telehealth services for persons with disabilities. As we’ve mentioned, many portals, apps, and websites still lack digital accessibility and can deter vulnerable people from getting the necessary medical care they need.

Aside from making these programs more accessible to those with disabilities, telehealth workers are training to become more digitally oriented so they can serve wider demographics. After all, nurses are key to the telehealth industry. For this reason, modern nursing careers have started incorporating digital strategies so that they can provide care in non-traditional settings. Whether that is through informatics specialists or nurse managers, these healthcare workers are adapting fast to a digital world. As telehealth is becoming the norm, there is a dire need for nursing education that balances human and technological care — learning how to do their tasks such as scheduling patients and monitoring health remotely, too. Through nurses and other healthcare professionals understanding current industry trends and unique patient needs, people with disabilities will be able to understand and assess what care they need.

True enough, the problem with digital platforms not having accessibility features is alarming to say the least. This underlines how crucial it is to include everyone when it comes to digital transformation ⁠— as this can be the only way people with disabilities survive global crises such as the one we’re experiencing now.

Post solely for the use of

By Jen Vianney


Disability Network West Michigan (DNWM) is a non-profit organization that assists individuals with disabilities to gain and maintain independence in everyday living and encourages them to become active members of their communities.  We are currently seeking the role of Communication Manager.

This is being posted as a part-time, non-exempt role, with consideration of full time available for the right candidate.  This position is responsible for raising the awareness of DNWM activities and services through outreach, marketing and resource development plans.  DNWM is committed to the independence and inclusion of people with disabilities and is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

We strongly encourage people with disabilities and minorities to apply.  Additional information about our agency can be found at  Submit a cover letter AND resume by Friday, May 28, 2021.

Communications Manager Job Description


Disability Network West Michigan (DNWM) is a non-profit organization that assists individuals with disabilities to gain and maintain independence in everyday living and encourages them to become active members of their communities.  We are currently seeking the role of Finance Director.

This is a full-time, non-exempt role, responsible for accounting/bookkeeping functions, grant accounting, financial monitoring, ensuring agency is audit ready and general accounting to include but not limited to payroll and budget prep and monitoring.  DNWM is committed to the independence and inclusion of people with disabilities and is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

We strongly encourage people with disabilities and minorities to apply.  Submit a cover letter AND resume by  Sunday, February 28 to

Finance Director Position Description

Meet Stephanie Deible – New MISILC Committee Appointee

Governor Whitmer recently made new appointments to the Michigan Statewide Independent Living Council (MSILC).

We are pleased to introduce one of the newest appointees, Stephanie Deible of Newaygo County to MSILC!

Stephanie L. Deible, of Grant, is the executive director of Ms. Wheelchair America, Inc. She holds a Master of Education in Student Affairs and Leadership from Grand Valley State University.

Ms. Deible is appointed to represent residents of this state, including residents who represent the underserved or tribal communities.

She will serve for a term commencing July 21, 2020 and expiring December 31, 2021.




We may not be able to high five in the hallways or chat at the lockers, but 14-26 year olds can still have a great time learning what they need to make their employment dreams come true! That’s what Danielle Bennett, Youth Transition Specialist at DNWM, does every week. Whether in person or virtual, Danielle facilitates many of our pre-employment transition classes; helping youth get ready to take their futures’ by storm!

Passing of Mike Hamm, DNWM Board Member & Friend

It is with a heavy heart that we share the news that our friend, colleague and long-time board member, Mike Hamm has passed away.

Born with Cerebral Palsy, Mike influenced and challenged our Center for Independent Living in ways that are everlasting while encompassing the epitome of the Independent Living philosophy.  Mike was an incredible advocate, with professional experiences that positively impacted our services and focus on rural communities. In his honor and in recognition of Mike’s love for the outdoors, we have established the Mike Hamm Memorial Fund for Accessible Outdoor Recreation. May his love and passion for the Independent Living movement live on in all that we continue to do and accomplish together.


Learn more about Mike’s life here:


Disability Network West Michigan staff provides Employment Navigation Services to those who qualify through Michigan Rehabilitation Services. While doing a Work Readiness Assessment, Annie had to complete two mock interviews. Typically, these are conducted in our office building among fellow co-workers. During COVID-19, we pivoted to conducting all mock interviews via Zoom, surmising Annie might potentially have to do a “real” interview via Zoom.

Doing the Zoom mock interviews allowed Annie to practice and work on her virtual interviewing skills.  After two successful interviews, Annie posted her new resume online and was contacted by an employer to do a virtual Zoom interview. She called to thank me for having her get out of her comfort zone.

She got the job!

Navigating Change Youth Workshop Series

Are you between the ages of 14-26 or know someone who is? Disability Network West Michigan is pleased to present the Navigating Change Workshop Series! Navigating Change will help youth stay focused on their goals and remain positive during these changing times. For more information please contact Amanda: 616.422.7131 or learn more about the program by clicking HERE.



Last week was a long and tumultuous week for our nation, as voices around the world have come together to denounce the societal impact racism has played in our communities.  Disability Network West Michigan stands as an organization against racism, oppression against marginalized populations, and discrimination.  As a Center for Independent Living (CIL), we have a longstanding value of upholding and working toward justice for all peoples.  We pride ourselves in being a caring community, welcoming and respecting of diversity and working toward social justice locally and across the country. Police brutality and racism must end and we all have a role to play in understanding that racism goes beyond the actions of individuals and is embedded in the very fabric of our society. 

 As an anti-racism organization we vow to purposefully identify, discuss and challenge issues of race and color and the impacts they have on our organization, its systems, and its people.  We will challenge ourselves to understand and correct unveiled inequities and gain a better understanding of ourselves during this purposeful process.  Our first step in this commitment is deploying a 21-day racial equity challenge with our staff, leadership and board of directors, focused on understanding the origins of the concept of race, how it influences us as individuals and as an organization, and how it functions to preserve inequity in our laws, institutions and systems. 

 We hope that you’ll join us in our efforts to develop and implement strategies that dismantle racism.  Access the challenge here and scroll down to Day 1 to get started in a deeper learning opportunity with us; to identify and correct our own shortcomings.

This is just the beginning. 

Warm Regards,

Diane Fleser, CEO & DNWM Board of Directors

Covid-19 and Your Rights as a Person with a Disability

Do you fear you may not receive the same care as those persons without disabilities?
People with disabilities are worried about staying safe and if they can get care if they get sick. Disability Network West Michigan can help answer your questions and help find resources to meet your needs during this scary time. Here are a few things we think you should know:
Disability Network staff are still working – We are here for you. Call us if you need anything, have questions, or just want someone to talk to. The best ways to reach us are:
o   231-722-0088 and leave a message as our phones are monitored daily
o   Our Website at or our Facebook page at
You have a RIGHT to medical care.
You or you families might hear about ‘Medical Rationing’. We hope this doesn’t happen. You should know that every choice about medical care is supposed to made one person at a time. You cannot be denied care just because you have a disability. If someone tells you different, CALL US!
Making decisions about your health care on the basis your disability is ILLEGAL and a violation of your Civil Rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Things are changing fast. Some things we thought were true a few weeks ago, we found out were not true. It’s OK to be confused.
There are a lot of community resources designed to help. If you need food, money, or are worried about your internet getting shut off, or having trouble with any other bills, let us know. We can connect you to these vital resources.
If you want more information about what is happening in Michigan, the latest can be found at:
If you need someone to talk to, call us at 800-782-4160.
There are Crisis Hotlines in every county, too. Find the Crisis Hotline for your county here:
You can also call the National Hotline at 1-800-273-8225 or go to their website:
There is also a HealthCare Hotline called Disability Underground.
If you have a disability and need Covid-19 related medical advocacy or other support you can call 800-626-4959. Remember – You cannot be denied care simply because you have a disability.
Know your rights and call Disability Network if you don’t know what else to do. We are here to help.
Stay healthy. Stay safe. Stay home.