At the Ann Arbor CIL, every consumer, volunteer, and staff member is an advocate. Led by Carolyn Grawi, Executive Director & CEO, our advocacy efforts span local, state and national issues to stand up for what people with disabilities need and improve our quality of life. In everything we do, we seek increased equality of opportunity for people with disabilities and full participation in all of life’s activities. Our goal is to create livable communities that are truly inclusive for everyone.
Livable and disability-friendly communities maximize our independence, assure our safety and security, promote our inclusiveness, and provide us with choices.
“The biggest barrier we face is attitudes,” Grawi says. “We try to get people to open their eyes to see possibilities. What we ask for is to be included. When people see the possibilities, they’re usually willing to change. And when they get it, they share it with others.”
When the Michigan Legislature was considering a bill to expand the accessibility of homes built with state dollars, the Ann Arbor CIL, along with other CILs and disability rights organizations across the state, got involved to let Lansing know what people with disabilities needed.
“Our advocacy efforts in this area were a huge success,” Grawi says. “We wanted ‘visit-ability’ – the right to be able to get in the doorway and use a bathroom. We got so much more.”
Passed in 2006 the Inclusive Home Design Act sets new requirements for homes built using funds from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. It requires that new homes have at least one zero-step entry that is 36-inches wide, a fully accessible bedroom and bathroom, and hallways wide enough to maneuver a wheelchair.
Increasing Voter Access
“It’s our Constitutional right to be able to vote,” CIL Advocacy Director Carolyn Grawi says. “Yet too often, people with disabilities don’t have the same opportunities to exercise this right.” Many people with disabilities have never been able to independently cast a ballot. Since Congress passed the Help America Vote Act in 2002, our advocacy team has been involved in making sure Michigan has a fully-accessible ballot-marking machine in every precinct to enable people with disabilities to cast their ballots independently, privately, verifiably, and accurately.
When Michigan was deciding which ballot-marking device to purchase, Ann Arbor CIL advocacy team members helped test the options. The machine needed to be able to read the ballot out loud for individuals with vision impairments or who have difficulty reading. It needed to provide a “sip-puff” input option to allow voters with mobility impairments to cast ballot choices using their breath. It needed to offer a variety of other input options, including a touch screen, a foot pedal, large print, high contrast, and word highlighting to assist people with a wide array of disability characteristics. After extensive testing, the AutoMark fit the bill.
Once the AutoMark was selected, the Ann Arbor CIL, along with the Ann Arbor Commission on Disability Issues and the Voter Access Coalition of Washtenaw County, began actively training poll workers, election officials, and voters on how to use the AutoMark and how to accommodate individuals using it.
“I am greatly pleased with having this method of voting, because it allows me to vote in complete privacy and with total autonomy. While I always have felt responsible as a voter, having this machine raises my interest to new heights. As a clinical psychologist I am glad to know there are people like Carolyn who are working on the important community concerns that impact people with disabilities.” –Robert A. DeYoung, Ph.D., and individual who is blind.
Improving Our Local Community
Increasing Curb Ramp and Sidewalk Safety
Since 2002, the Ann Arbor CIL and the law firm of Heberle and Finnegan have been representing concerned citizens with disabilities in an effort to make sure that curb ramps and side walks in the cities of Ann Arbor, Monroe, and Ypsilanti comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Michigan’s Barrier Free Design standards. Many curb ramps were too steep, did not have level landings, and often directed people with vision impairments into the middle of intersections.
Since our work began, each city has made great strides in improving the accessibility of city sidewalks for people with disabilities. People with disabilities faced hundreds of dangerous curb ramps that were causing them to fall out of their wheelchairs, trip while crossing the street, or encounter safety hazards at busy intersections. Today non-compliant curb ramps are being replaced on an annual basis and compliant curb ramps are required whenever roads are resurfaced or new construction takes place.
“We now talk openly with city departments and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority about these things,” Grawi says. “Local officials want it to be right. We’ve helped them to understand the issues and see that doing the right thing doesn’t have to cost a lot of extra money.”
Our work has also made an impact on state-wide policy. The Michigan Department of Transportation is now evaluating all MDOT curb ramps across the state and is training staff, local officials and contractors on how to install ADA-compliant curb ramps.
The Ann Arbor CIL is also working to:
- Increase the availability of accessible regional public transportation.
- Improve the accessibility of our public schools.
- Ensure that parks and recreation areas are safer and more accessible.
- Provide disability etiquette and awareness presentations at schools, businesses, colleges and universities.
Training & Consulting on Disability Issues
The Ann Arbor CIL is a trusted and valued name in providing businesses, entertainment venues, schools, colleges & universities, and healthcare providers throughout Southeast Michigan with education, training, and resources on disability issues.
We offer a variety of training and consulting services to help you make your business more disability-friendly, so that you can make your place of business more welcoming for individuals with disabilities. We can also help you navigate technical requirements of the ADA and better understand the law to keep your business or organization in compliance.
People with disabilities are the fastest growing minority in the country, and the need for our assistance is ever increasing. As people with disabilities ourselves, we know first-hand what it means to live and work with a disability. Contact Carolyn Grawi for more information about our services and how we can help you achieve your goals.
Disability Awareness & Sensitivity Trainings
People with disabilities may have more difficulty than other people walking, moving, talking, learning, breathing, seeing, or hearing, but we are remarkably like everyone else.
We pass, we fail. We succeed, we have hard times. We have fun, and we can be pains in the neck. Most of all, we are part of our community.
Whether you serve customers, have employees, or perhaps are not aware of hidden disabilities among your clientele, this training is for you!
We offer our Disability Awareness & Sensitivity Training presentations to groups large and small. In our dynamic and fun presentation, learn how to better serve constituents with disabilities and make sure your business is disability-friendly. Through real-life story-telling and multi-media training, learn how to:
- Understand visible and invisible disabilities
- Anticipate disability issues
- Appropriately interact with people with disabilities
- Speak and write correctly about people with disabilities
- Recognize architectural barriers that prevent people with disabilities from using or enjoying your business.
We also discuss the Americans with Disabilities Act and how it affects you, so that you can have a strong understanding of disability rights and be a part of implementing the goals of inclusion.
The presentations are fun, informative, and filled with practical solutions for everyday circumstances. Most of all, they help to dispel common myths people have about people with disabilities and reduce attitudinal and architectural barriers that continue to exist in today’s society.
Our Disability Awareness Etiquette Information Sheet provides a small sampling of some of the things we share through our presentations. To learn more about how you can get more connected with a major population of your business, contact Carolyn Grawi.
Navigating the rules of the American’s with Disabilities Act can seem daunting and overwhelming. Especially with recent changes to this landmark law, getting in touch with the right information is important.
Through our in-depth knowledge of the ADA and what it means for businesses and facilities that serve the public, we can help you make sure your place of business is disability-friendly. We work closely with you to make sure you understand what the ADA means for your organization, and we help you figure out how to take the right steps to improve the usability of your place of business.
Our philosophy is that improving facilities for people with disabilities is not about doing what’s mandated by the law, it’s about doing what makes the most sense for people both with and without disabilities who use your facility. We show how implementing small, disability-friendly changes at your place of business can improve things for everyone, and ultimate improve your bottom line.
We also offer training and consulting on a variety of other needs to suit your business, including:
Service Animal Awareness and Guidelines
Learn how to appropriately act around service animals and welcome them as a part of your business.
Reporting and Writing about People with Disabilities
Learn how to speak appropriately about people with disabilities to foster a straightforward, positive view of people with disabilities and avoid an insensitive portrayal that reinforces common myths and is a form of discrimination. Learn about appropriate terminology and learn overall do’s and don’ts for writing about people with disabilities. For some helpful guidelines, check out this Guidebook compiled by the University of Kansas.
Please contact Carolyn Grawi for more information.