A Life of Autonomy and Choice—A CEDAM Member Feature

Michigan Disability Rights Coalition Mission: MDRC cultivates disability pride and strengthens the disability movement by recognizing disability as a natural and beautiful part of human diversity while collaborating to dismantle all forms of oppression.

Full disclosure: Nate Wardell, who passed away in May 2016, was the brother of Chris Wardell, CEDAM’s administrative assistant.

CEDAM member Michigan Disability Rights Coalition (MDRC) is a nonprofit advocacy organization focused on supporting disability activists and public policy that expands the possibilities of life as a person with a disability.  

“We work toward our mission through helping small and large groups embrace and make real the values of personal autonomy and choice through grants, policy impact work, training and a message pointing to community as the most important guarantee of a full life,” said Norm Delisle, special project coordinator for the MDRC.

My brother, Nate, taught me just how complex we have made what should be a simple mission. His life struggles, most especially with the system of long term supports in Michigan and nationally, eventually led to his death. The failure of the long term support system to embrace the values of autonomy and choice so crushed his spirit and constrained the possibilities of his life that his end proved unavoidable.

I want Nate’s legacy to be a powerful and relentless activity to make sure others don’t have to struggle with the systemic barriers that Nate faced in his everyday life.

Last year, the MDRC and I took a first step toward making Nate’s legacy a force for real change. Night for Nate was a fundraiser to educate and entertain our community, while helping to bring funding to the complex policy issues and the bureaucratic miasma that any genuinely supportive long term support currently entails. It was successful and showed that our larger community is willing to engage in building a real support system for every one of its members.


We will build on that success with Night for Nate II on Sunday, August 19 from 3-7pm at Moriarty’s Pub, located at 802 E Michigan Ave, Lansing, Michigan 48912.

Along with the staff of MDRC, I hope to see you there to share some fun and engage with one another on this critical issue. An issue that one that will eventually affect all of our families.

For more information, visit the FB Event Post for Night for Nate II.

By Chris Wardell, CEDAM administrative assistant and Norm Delisle, special project coordinator for the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition (MDRC)