Michigan Disability Rights Coalition (MDRC) is a non-profit organization devoted to justice and equity for individuals with disabilities, promoting collaboration, and dismantling obstacles. MDRC focuses on all disabilities (apparent and non-apparent) but places particular emphasis on valuing and including the desires and voices of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. For almost four decades, MDRC has partnered with individuals, families, and organizations to foster disability pride and eliminate oppression.
MDRC believes to our core that true inclusion necessitates addressing all forms of violence and oppression, including racism, classism, heterosexism, sexism sizeism, and many other isms. MDRC upholds its mission with integrity by considering how funds are distributed, how work is executed, and who takes the lead. The foundation of MDRC's relationship with the community is built on representation and inclusivity. The majority of our staff and board members identify as individuals with disabilities, and all of our work is in collaboration with individuals with disabilities. We strive to create a society where individuals with disabilities can thrive without facing discrimination or barriers. Our work encompasses advocacy, education, and support services to support individuals with disabilities to lead self-determined lives. Join us in our mission to promote disability pride, dismantle barriers, and achieve true inclusion for all.
Michigan Disability Rights Coalition is a 37-year-old statewide nonprofit collaborative of people with disabilities including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), individuals without disabilities, and groups committed to building inclusive communities.
We believe inclusion of people with disabilities cannot be fully realized without also ending all forms of violence like: racism, xenophobia, classism, sexism, ageism, transphobia, heterosexism and all other forms of oppression.
In 2006, the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition (MDRC) received a grant from the Michigan Developmental Disabilities Council to implement the Connections for Community Leadership Program (CCL). This program aimed to support individuals with developmental disabilities in becoming leaders in their communities. During their work with the program participants, the CCL staff discovered that many individuals felt a significant amount of internalized shame about their disabilities and did not recognize their own power to create change. Recognizing the importance of addressing this issue, the MDRC staff created an ad hoc committee consisting of social justice leaders, parents of children with disabilities, and individuals with disabilities. The committee came together between 2006 and 2007 to define "disability pride" and "self-empowerment". In April of 2007, the CCL steering committee approved the use of the ad hoc committees' definitions and strategies. The committee believed that if individuals with disabilities could find their own pride, it would strengthen the overall disability movement. MDRC copyrighted these definitions in 2008.
Accepting and honoring our uniqueness and seeing it as a natural and beautiful part of human diversity. Pride comes from celebrating our own heritage, culture, unique experiences, and contributions.
Our definition includes the following data points:
- Disability pride recognizes the power we have to make change.
- Disability pride results when we challenge and ultimately undo the negative beliefs, attitudes, and feelings and systematic oppression that come from the dominant groups’ thinking that there is something wrong with our identity or our disabilities.
- Disability pride rejects shame and the need to “blend in.”
- Disability pride is self-acceptance and validation of our uniqueness.
- Disability pride results in making choices based on the respect for interdependence, accommodations, and creativity.
- Disability pride is the feeling of strong connection with a community of other people.
- Disability pride recognizes that it is our uniqueness that will transform all people and institutions (society).
At the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition, we believe in the power of self-empowerment. We understand that power is often associated with control over others, but we see it differently. The word "power" actually comes from the Latin word "posse," which means "to be able." For us, power means having the ability to make positive choices and changes in our own lives, as well as empowering others and creating significant change within our community.
We choose to use the term "self-empowerment" because it emphasizes the idea that we possess our own power. It eliminates the notion that power is granted to us by someone else. At the heart of self-empowerment is the belief that each individual has the capacity to make a difference and achieve their goals.
Our definition of self-empowerment includes the following elements:
- Pride and Ownership: We encourage individuals with disabilities to take pride in their identity and to claim their full and rightful place in society. We believe in providing personal and institutional support to help individuals navigate their journey towards self-empowerment.
- Skills and Action: We promote the development and utilization of skills that enable individuals to make meaningful changes in their lives. Through education, training, and practice, individuals can gain the confidence and knowledge necessary to create positive transformations.
- Advocacy and Celebration: Self-empowerment is expressed through disability communities protesting discrimination and celebrating disability culture, heritage, and history. We believe in raising awareness, challenging societal norms, and celebrating the unique contributions of individuals with disabilities.
We invite you to reflect on these concepts and ask yourself:
- Have you heard of self-empowerment? How often have you been told someone could empower you? What do you think about “self-empowerment?”
- Have you ever felt a sense of pride? What accomplishments or aspects of your identity made you feel proud?
- Have you ever experienced a sense of personal power? When did you feel powerful?
- How have pride and power influenced your life?
At the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition, we are dedicated to promoting self-empowerment, disability pride and supporting individuals with disabilities in claiming their full potential. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about our organization, please contact us.
MDRC envisions a world where people with disabilities:
Live full lives within the community with equal rights, equity and opportunities.
Are valued as essential and vital members of the community.
Can be their full selves, in all their identities, in all aspects of their lives.
Have space for self-discovery, to cultivate community, and to develop pride.
Our mission is to cultivate disability pride and strengthen the disability movement by recognizing disability as a natural and beautiful part of human diversity while collaborating to dismantle all forms of oppression.
MDRC envisions a world where people
MDRC envisions a world where people
- Build the economic and political capacity of local
groups to effectively participate in communities
of choice and issues advocacy.
- Create a state-wide collaborative technology
infrastructure to foster long term communication
between local disability groups.
- Sponsor events and activities that promote sharing
of best practice, collaborative planning, and the
building of consensus around policy impact goals.
- Find and develop economic and political resources,
independent of the existing government and funding
sources, that can be allocated according to the plans of Michigan's disability community, instead of
- Mold a staff team, with a long term commitment
to Michigan's disability community as a customer
base—a team capable of working anywhere in the
state, focusing on the uncertain and rapidly evolving
disability policy future, and using collaborative
technologies to supplement face-to-face networking.
- Forge a partnership between board, staff and
constituents for strategic development and
- Build the economic and political capacity of local groups to effectively participate in communities of choice and issues advocacy.
- Create a state-wide collaborative technology infrastructure to foster long term communication between local disability groups.
- Sponsor events and activities that promote sharing of best practice, collaborative planning, and the building of consensus around policy impact goals.
- Find and develop economic and political resources, independent of the existing government and funding sources, that can be allocated according to the plans of Michigan's disability community, instead of bureaucratic priorities.
- Mold a staff team, with a long term commitment to Michigan's disability community as a customer base—a team capable of working anywhere in the state, focusing on the uncertain and rapidly evolving disability policy future, and using collaborative technologies to supplement face-to-face networking.
- Forge a partnership between board, staff and constituents for strategic development and strategic priorities.
Michigan Assistive Technology Program
Michigan Assistive Technology Program
The Michigan Assistive Technology Program (MATP) is a program for people with disabilities, by people with disabilities.
The LEAD project provides communities of color with increased access to disability education and resources to account for the significance of institutionalized oppression and white supremacy on their outcomes.
Check out MDRC Events!
Discover more about MDRC's work by checking out our events. All of our free and paid events can be found here.
Meet the Team
Our team shapes the organization by ensuring our work is rooted in deepening our commitment to ending all forms of oppression. From Assistive Technology to Racial Equity, our team has a diverse set of interests that move disability pride forward across the state.