About Disability Network Mid‑Michigan

Man with prosthetic leg cooking

Disability Network Mid-Michigan (DNMM) is leading the charge to change societal attitudes about people with disabilities and to provide an environment where everyone, regardless of their abilities, can contribute to their communities based on their own interests, skills, and desires.

Through a variety of services, DNMM assists people with disabilities, their families, and the community. We determine our impact by the quality of services we provide and by the improved quality of life of individuals we support.

We believe it is not a disability that prevents people from participating in our communities, it is the barriers the community places in front of them. Disability Network Mid-Michigan exists to support the determination of individuals with disabilities to lead dignified, independent lives, and to heighten community awareness of those physical and social barriers which restrict independence.

We empower people to live by the Independent Living Philosophy: people with disabilities are the best experts over their lives, their dreams and goals.

We believe people with disabilities have the same right to participation, the same range of options, degree of freedom, control and self-determination as people without disabilities. Disability is a natural part of the human experience and in no way diminishes the right of individuals to:

Live Independently

Enjoy Self-Determination

Make Personal Choices

Contribute to the Community

Pursue Meaningful Careers

Enjoy Full Inclusion in the Community

Portrait of Kelly PeLong - Executive Director of Disability Network Mid-Michigan

Kelly PeLong

Executive Director

A Message From Our Executive Director

Whether you’re just learning about Disability Network Mid-Michigan for the first time or you’ve been a supporter for years, it’s important for you to know that people with disabilities are part of YOUR community. We want to be included, we want to be noticed, we want opportunities...we want all the things that people without disabilities want.

Midland Center for Independent Living dba Disability Network Mid-Michigan was established in 1990 as a grassroots advocacy organization to offer support and services for people with disabilities. We serve 12 counties in the Mid-Michigan area. As a federally funded Center for Independent Living (CIL) we work to eliminate barriers and create accessible and inclusive communities. At Disability Network Mid-Michigan, we provide five Core services that impact the lives of people with disabilities. We help young people with disabilities build the necessary skills to live and work independently as adults; we help individuals in rural areas gain access to disability resources; we help people living in nursing facilities gain knowledge and support to move back to their communities where they can live self-determined lives; we connect people with their peers; and we advocate for systems change so people with disabilities have a voice at the table.

We are a unique organization in that at least 51% of our employees MUST be people with disabilities and we can serve anyone with any disability. As a person with a disability myself, I strive to represent other people with disabilities in a way that portrays competence and a positive work ethic. I believe that everyone has value, regardless of their skill level. Having had a disability since birth, I have learned to adapt to a world that is not always welcoming to those who are different. I feel strongly in my heart that I have been given the opportunity to experience life from a different perspective for a reason. My personal approach includes finding ways to meet people where they are in life, and I look for ways to lift people up. My philosophy is that we are stronger together than we are as individuals, and we are only as strong as our weakest link so lifting each other up only makes sense. I believe that our efforts to help others become the best versions of themselves start with the understanding of another person’s perspective.

Currently, 1 in 3 families are impacted by disability and we expect that number to go up as our population continues to age. Also, 70% of people with disabilities were not born with a disability but rather acquired it later in life due to an injury, accident, or a change in health. Ed Roberts, the father of the independent living movement, is known for saying that ‘disability is an equal opportunity club’ because it’s the only group that ANYONE can join at ANY time. Chances are you will be impacted by disability at some point in your life if you’re not already. So, the work we do at Disability Network Mid-Michigan not only helps people needing services today, but we’ll be here for you when you need us down the road.

What is a Center for Independent Living?

Centers for Independent Living (CILs) are consumer-controlled, community-based, cross-disability, non-residential, private non-profit agencies that are designed and operated within a local community by individuals with disabilities and provide an array of independent living services.

Disability Network Mid-Michigan (DNMM) is one of 15 Centers for Independent Living (CILs) in the state of Michigan that works to meet the needs of people with disabilities. We provide a variety of services that empower people to live as independently as possible. DNMM promotes and encourages independence for all people with disabilities.

We are part of a greater network of CILs throughout the United States. CILs are run by people who know what it means to have a disability. We know what it means to achieve independence and are willing to share this with others. This is part of the Independent Living Philosophy.

Find the Michigan CIL closest to you.

DNMM is an organization of people with disabilities rather than an agency that serves "them."

The Independent Living Philosophy is a combination of equal rights and self-help empowerment.

Philosophy of Independent Living Service Provision

DNMM exists to support the self-determination of individuals with disabilities to lead dignified, independent lives, and to heighten community awareness of physical and social barriers, which restrict independence.

As a cross-disability organization, DNMM provides services to people with physical, cognitive, and multiple disabilities.

DNMM makes every effort to meet the accommodation needs of those served and to ensure that people with different types of significant disabilities have equal access to all DNMM’s services, programs, activities, resources, and/or facilities, whether publicly or privately funded.

If, for whatever reason, DNMM cannot immediately meet a person’s accessibility or accommodation needs (whether physical, psychological, or environmental), DNMM staff will arrange to meet the person at a place and time and with supports that meet their needs.

We reject the notion that able-bodied professionals and “experts” are needed to “fix” people with disabilities or to tell people with disabilities how they ought to live. DNMM staff, most of whom have a disability themselves, are committed to the concept of peer mentoring and function as peer role models to others with disabilities. We promote the development of peer relationships and peer role models among people we support, both in terms of peer support groups, and individual peer mentoring.

Using the concepts of self-help and self-advocacy, DNMM staff seek to empower persons served to take control of their own lives. We call this “self-determination.” By keeping our ideas and personal values consistent with the Independent Living Philosophy, we fulfill our requirement as staff members to provide services in a way that encourages people to take direct and active control and strive for self-determination.

By modeling and teaching self-advocacy skills, DNMM staff seek to empower people with disabilities to access community resources, services, and organizations on their own. It is the primary goal of DNMM staff to teach, enable, and empower people to develop the knowledge and skills necessary for them to advocate for themselves.

We encourage people to take as much responsibility and control of their lives as possible, with DNMM staff assisting as needed. Thus, fundamentally, all Independent Living services are primarily about empowerment and the teaching of self-advocacy skills, and only secondarily about providing direct services. DNMM will decline to provide any service that runs counter to the IL Philosophy or disempowers others.

Man with one leg wall climbing successfully and confidently in an indoor facility

Statement of Inclusion

At Disability Network Mid-Michigan, inclusion is a universal human right for all people, regardless of race, age, gender, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or any other discernible quality. To be inclusive is to promote a sense of belonging, respect, and value for who you are as a person. It is about equal access and opportunities for everyone. Inclusion is an integral part of our Independent Living Philosophy and of our agency's vision of "Accessible and Inclusive communities that provide opportunities for individual choice."

In the twelve counties we serve in Mid-Michigan, Disability Network offices have been, and continue to be, places of solace, understanding, and information for all. We are committed to promoting and protecting diversity and inclusion, within our offices, among our community partners, and throughout the 15 Centers for Independent Living in Michigan.