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.

DNWM’s Response to COVID-19

“Disability Network West Michigan Announcement: Response to COVID-19”

After much consideration and guidance from state and local partners, our organization will be taking proactive measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 virus in our communities.  As of Monday, March 16, 2020, we will be suspending face-to-face services with customers until Monday, May 4, 2020.  We will also close ALL of our office locations to the public.  We will still be providing services to customers and community members via phone, email and social media.  The three primary ways to reach DNWM regardless of location are as follows:

Phone: 231-722-0088


Facebook: Disability Network of West Michigan


We will work hard to make sure our mission to advocate, educate, empower and provide resources for people with disabilities is accomplished remotely and effectively.  Please reach out if you have ANY questions.  Thank you for your continued support and understanding as we look out for each other, our consumers and our community.

Best Regards,

Diane Fleser, CEO Disability Network West Michigan

Beware of Social Security Phone Scams

Beware of Social Security Phone Scams

Social Security and its Office of the Inspector General (OIG) continue to receive reports about fraudulent phone calls from people falsely claiming to be Social Security employees.  The scammers mislead victims into making cash or gift card payments for help with purported identity theft, or to avoid arrest for bogus Social Security number problems.

People should also be on the lookout for a new version of this scam.  Fraudsters are now emailing fake documents in attempts to get people to comply with their demands.  Victims have received emails with attached letters and reports that appear to be from Social Security or the OIG.  The letters may use official letterhead and government jargon to convince victims they are legitimate; they may also contain misspellings and grammar mistakes.

The new PSA addressing the telephone impersonation scheme is available online at .

Social Security employees do occasionally contact people–generally those who have ongoing business with the agency–by telephone for business purposes.  However, Social Security employees will never threaten a person, or promise a Social Security benefit approval, or increase, in exchange for information or money.  In those cases, the call is fraudulent and people should just hang up.

Generally, the agency mainly calls people who have recently applied for a Social Security benefit, someone who is already receiving payments and requires an update to their record, or a person who has requested a phone call from the agency.  If a person is not in one of these situations, they normally would not receive a call from the agency.

Social Security will not:

  • Tell you that your Social Security number has been suspended.
  • Contact you to demand an immediate payment.
  • Ask you for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • Require a specific means of debt repayment, like a prepaid debit card, a retail gift card, or cash.
  • Demand that you pay a Social Security debt without the ability to appeal the amount you owe.
  • Promise a Social Security benefit approval, or increase, in exchange for information or money.

If there is a problem with a person’s Social Security number or record, in most cases Social Security will mail a letter. If a person needs to submit payments to Social Security, the agency will send a letter with instructions and payment options.  People should never provide information or payment over the phone or Internet unless they are certain of who is receiving it.

Providing Comfort Through Crisis with a Disability

Selfie of Jeffrey VanDyke

By Jeffrey Vandyke, Graphic Design Specialist

Nothing is worse than hearing that someone you love has cancer. It’s even harder when it’s your parent. As children, we typically see our parents as strong and invincible. When they get sick, it’s tough. Your roles may reverse, and you may have to start caring for your parent as they battle this disease. One way this reversal may become even more difficult than typically thought of though is when you, yourself live with a disability which can (or does) prevent you from caring for loved one in the way you hope.

For me, this fear became a reality in December of 2018 when my mother was suddenly diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer. This outcome can not only affect you emotionally, but leave you feeling mentally down as well… feelings of sadness or as if your not doing enough as a whole. All of these thoughts, while negative and untrue, are uncontrollable but I want to provide a little insight on how you can in fact STILL contribute on the front-line of your loved ones battle against cance, even if you can’t help in every way you’d like.

1.Treat them to luxuries:
Helping your parent may be as easy as offering a haircut, manicure/pedicure, massage or getting their favorite meal. Whether it’s done by you or a licensed therapist is up to you. If your mother is the one battling cancer, give her a manicure or pedicure. These small luxuries and the time you spend together will be something you and your parent come to cherish.

2. Be a good note taker
The thought of cancer can be overwhelming and every doctor’s meeting can feel like information overload… designating one person to attend doctor appointments with the patient can help relieve some of this anxiety.

3. Strive to try to be patient with siblings/parent’s significant other
Remember that everyone is different. You and others around you will each cope with the cancer diagnosis and its effects in different ways. Some may keep emotions locked away inside; others will need ways to let emotions out. Rather than cause additional stress on your parent by constantly fighting with your relatives try to be as patient as possible.

4. Read/share stories of support
A parent who has cancer may be very emotional and need the support and inspiration of other cancer patients and survivors. Sit down with your parent and look through blogs and websites that share the amazing stories of other people who are dealing with the same or similar diagnosis.

5. Don’t forget YOU
Once a parent is officially diagnosed… the chain of events can sometimes start to move quickly. Appointments, surgeries, tests, etc. it’s overwhelming. Not just for the patient, but the patient’s inner circle as well. It’s easy to lose yourself in the struggle, but your self-care must be a priority. Remember to brush your teeth, take a shower, go out with friends, and cry if you need too. Parents (parental figures) are always important, but there’s a different vibe when that individual has always been your caregiver. It’s not selfish to wonder or worry about what might happen to you, should the individual’s condition suddenly worsen. Just because a parent becomes ill, does not mean you’re doing something wrong by continuing to live.

Cancer is a terrible, no-good and often mentally exhausting condition, which not only affects the person living with the condition inside of themselves, but everyone else within that environment as well. It’s important if you find yourself on the outside that you remember that just because you cannot contribute to the battle in every way does not mean that you cannot contribute in some way. Your life is just as important to the individual battling Cancer as it always has been… even on those days when it feels like you aren’t. Please take time to remind yourself of this.


Last week Disability Network West Michigan was honored and humbled to celebrate our organization’s 20th Anniversary through our inaugural fundraising luncheon. It was a full house at the Folkert Community Hub and Banquet Center with community supporters, new friends, volunteers and consumers. Our program featured impactful stories from individuals who have increased their independence through our services, along with representatives from the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce recognizing DNWM for our commitment in improving the quality of life for those living along the Lakeshore.

Our delicious menu was catered by Ryke’s Bakery, Catering and Cafe, topped off with amazing cookies provided by Davine Caulkins, at The 490 Bakery and mini 🧁 by Kevin Simons from Goobers Bakery.

We would especially like to thank our table sponsors who not only graciously support our mission and vision, but provide valuable service through their continued involvement in promoting diversity and inclusion within the communities we serve.💕

A HUGE thank you to Andy O’Riley from MuskegonChannel for giving of his valuable time and incredible talent in emceeing our event. He has been an unwavering, staunch supporter of DNWM and our gratitude and appreciation is boundless!

We modeled an accessible and inclusive event for our community: closed captioning services provided by Annette Blough from Q&A Reporting, interpreter services provided by Jennifer Libiran, BA, NIC and a ramp for the stage donated by Air-Caire Home Medical Equipment & Supplies Muskegon.

To all who gave, we truly appreciate your dedication and support in helping us continue our magnificent cause to advocate, educate, empower, and provide resources for persons with disabilities and ensure that accessibility is an accepted civil right.. cheers to another 20 years!