Disability Network West Michigan is offering Disability Inclusion and Awareness Training.

The one-hour presentation is designed for businesses, nonprofits, churches, service organizations and other groups who interact with and want to learn about people with disabilities. Each session, which is led by the Muskegon-based nonprofit that provides independent living resources for people with disabilities, is designed to correct misconceptions about people with disabilities and facilitate smoother and more comfortable interactions.

“As our population ages and needs to work longer, chances are you are going to work with someone who has a disability – if you don’t already,” said Lisa Sullivan, an information and referral specialist who leads the training sessions for Disability Network West Michigan. “People with disabilities are often treated as ‘other’ by society, who often characterize us by focusing on the disability, not the person.

“Yet people with disabilities are just people with their own unique set of challenges. We take a ‘people first’ approach with our training, which is designed to break down the barriers of thinking in terms of ‘us and them.’ Our goal is to educate so that everyone can be more comfortable when working with, providing service to or interacting with people with disabilities.”

Nationally, the U.S. Census estimates that nearly 20 percent of Americans – or 57 million adults and 5.2 million children – have some type of disability. In Muskegon, approximately 17.2 percent of the population has a disability of some type.

Topics covered by the training include:

  • Brief overview of the history and scope of the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Basic definition of disability as defined by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission
  • Discussion of common stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding people with disabilities, including true stories from the presenter’s experiences
  • Overview of best practices for interacting with people of varying abilities
  • Question-and-answer period

“Some disabilities are hidden, such as a heart condition or asthma, while others are more visible,” Sullivan said. “Not all disabilities are obvious – but all people with a disability want to be respected and treated as people first. We are not inspirations. We are also not from another species.

“At the heart of our training is a simple yet powerful message: Treat someone with a disability the same way you treat everyone else. Those who attend should leave with greater understanding about disabilities – and less fear about dealing with a colleague, customer or friend who has a disability.”

Based in Muskegon, Disability Network West Michigan provides independent living resources for people with disabilities in Muskegon, Oceana, Newaygo, Lake and Mason counties. Along with other members of the statewide Centers for Independent Living network, Disability Network West Michigan offers its training sessions for a modest fee throughout the region.

About Disability Network West Michigan:

Disability Network West Michigan provides independent living resources for people with disabilities in Muskegon, Oceana, Newaygo, Lake and Mason counties. The mission of the nonprofit organization, which is part of the statewide network of Centers for Independent Living, is to empower, educate, advocate, and provide resources for those with disabilities as well as promoting accessible communities.

For more information, call our office at 231-722-0088