March 29th, 2022
Dear Governor Whitmer, Lt. Governor Gilchrist, and Director Hertel,
Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been more than 2 million cases of COVID-19 in Michigan, resulting in more than 31,000 deaths. As we faced an unknown global pandemic, we saw the world adopt practices of the disability community: wearing masks to protect each other, engaging in caregiving and mutual aid, and joining community events virtually. Wisdom from disabled people has benefited all people, as we’ve collectively grappled with reduced mobility and other logistical challenges due to the pandemic.
Historically, disabled people have been our own champions, advocating for access at every turn. This pandemic is no different. Since 2020, we have advocated for public protections from a virus that disproportionately affects our community, but we have been met by government leadership who lack an in-depth understanding of disability equity at nearly every level.
Detroit Disability Power and other local disability champions have advocated for:
Despite some of our hard fought wins, the State of Michigan has yet to build a sustainable framework for responding to COVID-19 or future pandemics. In February 2022, the CDC updated their masking guidance, easing how risk levels are calculated, in order to appease the nondisabled majority who want to go back to “normal.” This new guidance reflects an ableist attitude in which it is an individual’s responsibility to navigate the pandemic instead of a communal one. Once again, disability communities were told we’re on our own.
However, government leadership has an obligation to protect all Michigan residents. As the fourth surge subsides, now is the time to build a public health infrastructure that benefits us all. We need clear and measurable roadmaps for how our disabled communities are going to be taken care of because we have been left behind time and time again. We deserve to be more than an afterthought. Our lives and, just as importantly, our ability to thrive in our beloved Michigan, depend on having a proactive plan in place.
Therefore, we urge you to release a detailed and measurable plan for:
No matter what we look like, where we live, or what's in our wallets, getting sick reminds us that we’re all human. We can pull through by pulling together, like we have done in the past. This means going all in to ensure everyone has the access and care they need to thrive.
Dessa Cosma, Executive Director, Detroit Disability Power
Vendella M Collins, Executive Director, MI Developmental Disabilities Council
Camile Proctor, Executive Director, The Color of Autism Foundation
Theresa Metzmaker Executive Director, Michigan Disability Rights Coalition
Sherri Boyd, Executive Director, The Arc Michigan
Michelle Roberts, Executive Director, Disability Rights Michigan
Leslynn R. Angel, President & CEO, Michigan United Cerebral Palsy (MI-UCP)
Marianne E. Huff, President and CEO, Mental Health Association in Michigan
Lewis A. Gossage, Executive Director, Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living
Lynn Maginity, Executive Director, New Gateways Inc
Jason Schmidt, Executive Director, New Life Services, Inc.
Lisa M. Nygord, Executive Director, Arc Dearborn
Natasha Abner, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Michigan
Zach Cardinell, Board President, AMORC
Zach Damon, Chairman, The Ann Arbor Commission on Disability Issues
Lisa Franklin, CEO, Warriors on Wheels of Metropolitan Detroit
CC: Chief Medical Executive Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian
Public Health Director Dr. Alexis Travis
Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities Director Allen Jansen
State Hospital Admin, Director Dr. George Mellos
Health & Aging Director Katherine Massey
Medical Services, Director Katherine Massey