Michigan: Expanding Opportunity for those with Disabilities


Thursday, February 13, 2015
By Alyssa Sturm

A disability should never trump ability.  That was the message on Monday at Governor Snyder’s Business to Business Summit on Disability, where business leaders gathered in Lansing to learn about the importance of eliminating barriers so that Michiganders with disabilities have an opportunity to work and achieve the American Dream.

“There are literally thousands of people out there who have exactly the skills that companies are looking for,” said Lt. Governor Brian Calley, who along with Governor Snyder is leading an effort in state government to hire individuals with disabilities.

X-Games gold medalist Garrett Goodwin was a special guest at the summit and is an outstanding example of an individual who has risen above his disability to achieve great things.

Three years ago, Goodwin -- a successful mechanical engineering student at Grand Valley University -- was involved in a motorcycle accident that left him partially paralyzed. Despite the trials that come with a disability, his love for snowmobiling and racing didn’t end after his accident.

While in the hospital, Garrett utilized his engineering skills and began designing a custom seat for his snowmobile so he could one day race again. Garrett’s determination to ride has made him a leader in the field of snocross, and he took home a gold medal from the 2015 X-Games. 

“My loving and supportive family has been a huge key to staying positive and not giving up on my dreams,” Goodwin told WZZM

Like Goodwin, Michiganders with disabilities can rise above their challenges to be successful.  Not only do they have the determination and dedication, they are smart individuals who have the skills that are required to succeed, given the opportunity.

Calley says there is an untapped pool of talent in Michigan, but that talent is sometimes overlooked because of an individual’s disability. Nearly half of all individuals who have a disability have college experience or a degree. The annual disability summits serve to raise awareness about these  underutilized  talented Michiganders , and previous summits have resulted in the hiring of more than 1,200 workers with disabilities.

Last year, Governor Snyder issued an executive directive requiring state government to adopt a variety of policies and procedures eliminating hurdles faced by people with disabilities as they seek a career in public service.

Snyder also called for increased training for all state employees to raise awareness of disability etiquette and best practices, ensuring every employee is treated with dignity and respect at all times.

By revolutionizing and restructuring the way government does business, we will be able to support Michiganders to lead more productive and successful lives. Today, state government and Michigan businesses are helping people rejoin the River of Opportunity and enter the workforce, helping making a better tomorrow for our families.