WMU News

Center gets new name to go along with expanded services

Nov. 16, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- The Center for Developmentally Disabled Adults has ceased to exist at the same time it is expanding its services.

That might sound impossible, but it's not. It's all happening this fall at the center, which has been renamed the Western Michigan University Center for Disability Services.

After one year of discussion, the WMU center, which serves over 150 county residents with disabilities, has switched to a new and easier name that better describes its new directions.

The old name tended to emphasize a person's disabilities rather than their positive attributes, center administrators say.

"Essentially all social agencies now use 'people-first' language, which stresses the fact that all persons have value, though all have distinct differences," says John Coats, a center board member. "Some people happen to have developmental disabilities."

The name change comes after numerous meetings with the center's board of directors. The new name has been approved by the dean of the College of Health and Human Services and the University provost and vice president for academic affairs.

In addition to the new name, many other changes have come about in recent years since the center's founding in 1981.

CDS has continually and actively responded to changing consumer and community needs. For many years, CDS operated as a center-based day program for people with complex disabilities. Since 1990, the center has promoted community alternatives to traditional segregated services.

"We believe people who experience a disability have a valuable contribution to make to the community they live in," says Carol Sundberg, center director. "People with disabilities have a right to the same personal freedoms and opportunities we all enjoy."

"Our purpose is to support people who experience a disability that significantly interferes with activities of everyday living by providing a range of services that contribute meaningfully to the quality of their lives."

The new name better fits the organization's evolution and plans for the future.

"The old name was limiting," says Sue Oole, center administrative assistant. "We were labeled as only serving people with developmental disabilities. Our staff supports people with other disabilities."

Dropping the word "adults" from the center's name shows a commitment to work with people of all ages. The center now will offer respite services to children, as well as professional occupational and physical therapy, and other evaluative services for people with a variety of disabling conditions.

The name change is symbolic of the many changes that have transformed the center into a multi-service agency providing a range of supports and services designed to enhance the well being of children and adults with disabilities. "It's all part of the growth of the agency," Oole says.

Starting this fall, the center will be offering new services through a contract with Kalamazoo Community Mental Health Services, increasing the options for people with disabilities and their families.

These services include:

Respite services: Respite services are available for families seeking day, evening and weekend respite for their children and adults with disabilities. Respite provides the family with a break from their daily responsibilities and gives the person new opportunities to develop greater independence. The service is offered jointly by the center, MRC industries and Residential Opportunities through a partnership between the agencies called the Alliance for Community Supports.

Home-based services: Family skills development is a service for children and their families in which one parent has a developmental disability. The service is designed to provide high-quality, intensive professional support and parent education to promote normal family development and healthy functioning and to support and preserve families.

Professional services: Occupational and physical therapy, as well as speech, hearing and language services, will be available to children and adults with disabilities. Services will include professional assessment and treatment, adaptive equipment and environmental modifications, family education and counseling and pre-admission screening for nursing home admissions. The services are offered both through the center and the WMU Unified Clinics.

For more information about any of these services, call Sundberg at 387-7200.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu


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