Disability justice groups demand more resources in Detroit’s budget

Two influential disability justice groups have joined forces to launch a campaign calling for “substantial increases” in funding for people with disabilities in Detroit.

The objective of Fund Disabled Detroiters is to persuade Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration and Detroit City Council to devote more resources for people with disabilities.

Detroit Disability Power and Warrior on Wheels are leading the campaign, which runs through April.

A disproportionate number of Detroiters live with disabilities. According to the 2020 American Community Survey, more than 128,000 Detroiters — or one out of five residents — have at least one disability. By contrast, roughly one out of seven Michigan residents live with disabilities.

“Disability is not a niche issue; it’s a universal concern that can affect anyone at any time,” Lawrence Franklin III, lead organizer with Warriors on Wheels, said in a statement Monday. “By prioritizing disability funding, we’re investing in a Detroit where everyone thrives.”

The campaign is running now because the Detroit City Council is beginning to explore Duggan’s annual budget proposal, which goes into effect on July 1.

In previous years, Detroit Disability Power led a campaign to increase the budget of the Office of Disability Affairs to $1.4 million annually. This year’s campaign is different because it’s taking a more comprehensive approach, calling for increases across multiple departments.

Among the key demands are:

• Adding $3 million to the Department of Election to increase physical accessibility and federal compliance at polling locations. Only 16% of the polling locations in metro Detroit are fully accessible, according to the campaign.

• $7.8 million for the Detroit Department of Transportation to improve paratransit and fixed-route accessibility for buses.

• $25 million to the Department of Public Works to repair sidewalks and ensure greater mobility for people using wheelchairs and other mobility devices.

The full list of requests is available online.

“This campaign underscores the importance of recognizing that funding for disability extends beyond the Office of Disability Affairs,” NaJaRee Nixon, lead organizer from Detroit Disability Power, said. “It’s about fostering inclusivity and dismantling ableism in every direction our tax dollars flow.”

People with disabilities are more likely to live in poverty or unable to afford essentials, such as housing, child care, food, transportation, and health care, according to a report from the Michigan Association of United Ways and research hub United for ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed).

As part of the campaign, activists are encouraging residents to participate in a letter-writing initiative to urge the council and mayor to support the budget recommendations.

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