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The National Park Service is improving access for disabled visitors to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

The Parks Service recently added a ramp at the Platte River boat launch and an all-terrain wheelchair that goes on trails. They also have beach wheelchairs available.

Sleeping Bear Dunes Park Ranger Merrith Baughman says the parks should be available to everyone.

"Here’s some way that people who would otherwise have trouble getting on the beach can access beautiful parts of the park," she says.

More and more people in northern Michigan are collecting disability checks. 

In some northern Michigan counties, nearly 20 percent of working-age adults are enrolled in disability insurance through Social Security. That’s according to a report published by Bridge Magazine this month. 

Nationwide, the average is about five percent. 

“We have in northern Michigan disability rates that are mainly seen in the deep South and in Appalachia,” says freelance writer Chad Selweski, who reported the piece for Bridge Magazine.


The Next Idea

The thrill of riding a two-wheeled bicycle, clutching the game-winning ball, or making a show-stopping save in soccer are examples of rites of passage that every child should have the opportunity to experience. Unfortunately, many children with disabilities never develop the physical skills or confidence to participate in extracurricular programming like this. Adapted physical education physical education modified to teach fundamental motor skills – is hard to find in Southeast Michigan. And this kind of adapted learning can be a gateway to sports, games, and other physical activity that promotes emotional and physical well-being.

What happens when you're the parent of a child with special needs, and your view of how you want your child to be educated clashes with the school district's?

Peggy McNew gets up close and personal with her watercolor painting. She has cone dystrophy, and uses her lower peripheral vision to see.
Dan Wanschura

Peggy McNew is a painter from Empire, Michigan. There’s nothing unusual about that— there are a lot of painters in Leelanau County. But Peggy is different. She’s legally blind. 

And a question that she’s wrestled with is whether or not that matters in relation to her art.

The Next Idea

Each month, the State of Michigan releases unemployment numbers, which are seen as a major indicator of the state’s economic health. One subset of these numbers is often overlooked — the employment levels for people with disabilities.

Michigan and other states struggle with the challenge of employing people in this group. The discrepancy is significant. As of March 2016, the national unemployment rate for people without disabilities was 4.9%. For people with disabilities, it was more than double that figure. Perhaps even more indicative of the challenge is the gap in the labor force participation rate of nearly 69% for people without disabilities, and almost 20% for people with disabilities.

One of the most profound changes in Michigan has been the way we care for and treat people who are developmentally disabled.

In 1970, there were 14,000 people living in 13 institutions in Michigan. Today, there are no institutions in the state with the last one being closed in 2009.

Aaron Selbig

Many developmentally disabled adults living in group homes in northern Michigan will soon be looking for a new place to live.

Their advocates are protesting new guidelines that could force them out of the homes where they live, work and socialize. But the agency making the changes says that due to budget cuts, their hands are tied.

Federal law guarantees that children with disabilities have equal access to education. But what that actually looks like for Michigan kids very much depends upon where you live.

An investigation by Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project and Bridge Magazine has turned up disparities in the way schools choose which students should be in special education and the actual level of those services. Sarah Alvarez with State of Opportunity joined us, along with Bridge Magazine writer Ron French.

A new report says Michigan lacks enough autism specialists to handle the number of children being diagnosed and treated with the disorder.

The Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation (CHRT) says that means long wait times before many children and their families can get help.

“We actually talked to all of the treatment programs to get a sense of the average waiting time for appointments, and it was anywhere from a month to, in some cases, two years, depending on the particular program,” said CHRT Director Marianne Udow-Phillips.

Monica & David

Thanks to big advances in pediatric heart care, people with Down Syndrome can now expect to live well into adulthood, which raises new issues around the questions of love, marriage and children for developmentally disabled adults.

Thursday at the Traverse City State Theatre, a love story that won a best documentary award at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2010: Monica & David.

The title characters and the film’s director will be in town for a panel discussion following the film, which starts at 5:30pm. IPR talked with them this week.

New rules take effect today which govern the use of sign language interpreters in Michigan.

The state Department of Civil Rights says people who are deaf or hard of hearing need interpreters with specific skills in different settings.

“There’s a significant difference in the communication that is shared between a doctor and a patient versus what might happen in a training at your workplace,” said Leslee Fritz with the Department of Civil Rights.

“Both communications are important. One has life-altering consequences.”

Hunter Gandee will go for a walk this weekend.

That might not seem noteworthy. You might be planning on doing the same.

But starting Saturday morning, the 14-year-old from Temperance plans to walk 40 miles, from his home to the University of Michigan campus, carrying his 7-year-old brother, Braden, on his back the entire way.

Braden has cerebral palsy, and his walker doesn't move well on grass, sandy areas or in crowds.

Hunter isn't walking to raise money, but to focus attention on the problem of mobility for kids with special needs.

*Listen to our conversation with Hunter above.

Paperworks Greeting Card Program Shuts Down

Apr 4, 2014
Peter Payette

  A 20-year legacy of homemade papers and cards has ended, even as the Paperworks Studio line grows in popularity. The program, which employs disabled workers, shuts down immediately in Traverse City.

Fundraising to salvage it didn’t bring in enough money for the nonprofit Grand Traverse Industries to take over the program and try to bring it into black.

The Status Woe / The Status Woe

Last week in Benzie County Circuit Court, Kelli Stapleton pleaded “not guilty” to attempted murder. Police allege she tried to kill her 14-year-old, autistic daughter Isabelle in a murder-suicide attempt.

The case moves slowly though court, but it quickly raised sharp debate among people who live with disabilities like autism.

Monday night at the Traverse City State Theatre, there's a screening of Monica & David. The film is about a pair of lovers who have intellectual disabilities, Down Syndrome.

They do something you might not expect. They get married.

The people who are bringing the movie to town say they want folks to know that people with disabilities have the same hopes and dreams as anyone else.