Local group raising awareness for those with disabilities during disability awareness month

Posted at 5:24 AM, Mar 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-14 07:00:53-04

Disabilities come in all shapes and sizes and chances are, you know someone living with a disability.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 26% of American adults have some type of challenge. In recognition of National Disabilities Awareness Month, a metro Detroit Nonprofit is encouraging us all to focus and see the good.

Matthew Fritzen has lived with muscular dystrophy his whole life. But he doesn’t let it slow him down. He enjoys spending time with friends, competing in the Michigan Victory games and fighting for the inclusion of Michiganders with disabilities.

"Tell me a little bit about what's next," I asked him.

"Who knows what next? That's what's the beautiful thing about this," Fritzen said.

He recalls his own frustration of being hired in retail and having the demands of the job change and being let go.

"You tell them, 'hey, I have a disability,' ahead of time and they say, 'Oh, that won't be a problem.' Then it becomes a problem later on," he said.

Now, Fritzen is also a peer mentor at Easterseals MORC - a nonprofit that serves Michiganders with physical, cognitive or psychiatric impairments. As part of that mission, Easterseals MORC is encouraging Michiganders to see the best in individuals with disabilities and senior citizens with their see the good campaign.

"It's really important to see the ability first," Dr. Doru Bali said. He's the medical director of the intellectual developmental disability program at Easterseals.

Bali said seeing the good is part of valuing the contribution someone with an impairment can offer.

Dr. Doru Bali is the Medical Director of the Intellectual Developmental Disability Program at Easterseals MORC. He says seeing the good is part of valuing the contribution someone with an impairment can offer.

"Creating opportunities for them to maximize their potential, to cherish their endeavors, and also all their successes in the community and society as a whole," Bali said.

He also said we all have a role to play in creating spaces for Michiganders with disabilities. He said to keep in mind that not all disabilities are visible.

Other things to keep in mind include:

  • Considering accessibility in event planning
  • When talking to someone in a wheelchair, match their eye level
  • It's OK to ask people about their disabilities once you get to know them, and it's OK for that person to decline to discuss it

He also says disabilities are not something that only happens to other people. Fate can change the path of our lives in an instant, like a life-changing stroke or seizure or a traumatic event.

Fritzen says one of the most important aspects of the see the good campaign is the call to treat Michiganders with any kind of challenge with dignity and respect.

"Please, please, please, please keep that in mind," he said.