FwD  is a  501 (c) 3 non-profit Community Benefit Organization, (CBO).


Fall Is Here!
We are excited for the end of the year festivities and the arrival of the New Year.

We recently returned from a beautiful Princess Cruise on the Detroit River, as well as an exciting college football game where we watched the WMU Broncos.

To our partners, donors, and volunteers, we say, THANK YOU, nothing happens without your generous support.

The needs and growth of Friends with Disabilities this past year pushed the board to focus on capacity development as we move forward into 2022. Capacity is shaped by adapting to and reacting to external factors.

Capacity development is the ability of people and organizations to manage plans for their affairs successfully.

Friends with Disabilities is looking for new board members from the Kalamazoo area who understand the mission, who can be active decision makers and be engaged in the work of the organization.

If you know of someone, please let us know and we will follow-up with the contact, application process and much more.

We are continuing to build capacity as we reach out into our growing community of individuals with disabilities.

As the holidays are rapidly approaching, please be safe, be well, and remember…. INCLUSION STARTS with YOU!

Sharmese D. Anderson

Highlights from 2020

FwD Podcasts began.
Two episodes are available.

FwD New Website was launched.

5/19 Meet & Greet via Zoom COVID-19 zoom resource Series

6/2 I asked the therapist with Dr. Bernice Patterson
6/9 adapting to the new normal
6/16 Community resource sharing
6/23 staying safe

7/28 how to register to vote and the 2020 census via zoom

8/25 Lakeview park included games and catered lunch

9/11 LIVE Entertainment w/ FwD featuring DJ short-e
and comedian, Don Mayfield
9/29 how to make healthy meals with pantry staples
partnered with community health, equity and inclusion department
at Bronson wellness Center

10/13 Bowling (15) attended
10/29 Galesburg- Ziplining, nature trail bonfire ( Cancellation) COVID 19

11/17 Board Of Directors Meeting appointed
new Vice President, Charmise Knox, and new secretary , Holly Dunigan

12/11 – Holiday Celebration ( ZOOM) (Edye Hyde Evans- Jazz Singer)
(23 attended)


“Inclusion Starts With You”


To reach out to the community of individuals with disabilities in order to educate and promote inclusion.


Individuals over the  age of 18 with a physical disability!

A disability is a natural part of the human condition, a state we can move in and out of as our life progresses. Disability is something people experience, not something they are. People experience disability on a continuum, from mild and temporary, to severe and lifelong.  Many people who experience disability might not consider themselves ‘disabled.’  For these reasons, we describe disability as a functional limitation, rather than a specific diagnosis. One in four Michigan residents has such limitations.  There is currently a disparity, or inequality, in health status between people who have disabilities, and people who don’t.

For example:

  • Nearly half of people with disabilities describe their health as fair or poor. Only 8% of people without disabilities describe their health this way.
  • People with disabilities acquire many chronic conditions (like diabetes, heart disease, and depression) at about three times the rate of people who do not have disabilities.
  • People with disabilities report significantly higher rates of obesity, smoking, and physical inactivity.

These disparities exist in part because there are barriers for people with disabilities in obtaining the information, activities and services that are necessary to achieve and maintain good health.

(Michigan Dept of Human Services (MDHS)- Strategic Plan2016-2018)

Resource Based:

FwD will provide a resource base that will create an atmosphere  where everyone will feel comfortable and cared for. The overall goal is to provide an opportunity for individuals with disabilities to live a gainful life while struggling through daily challenges.



  • CREATE an overall positive and exciting environment through activities and events.
  • LEARN more about disability issues.
  • TEACH the greater community proper etiquette when dealing with special populations.
  • BUILD connections and support systems that will foster life-long relationships.

Community Resources

1.  If you are in need of food and delivery please call: Loaves & Fishes
(269) 343-3663

2.  Kalamazoo Mental Health Assistance (medicaid and/or Medicare)
(269) 373-6000

3. (Now accepts EBT)
For Food pick-up & delivery  1-800-925-6278

Highlight for the month of November - Dysphagia

What is dysphagia?

Dysphagia is when somebody has difficulty swallowing. It can also refer to difficulty chewing.

A person with dysphagia may struggle with swallowing certain textures or ingredients, or find the whole process of chewing and swallowing food and drink challenging.

What causes dysphagia?

Swallowing is done by the passage from your mouth to your stomach, called the esophagus or gullet. There are various reasons why the esophagus may not be able to function properly, and older people are more prone to dysphagia.

Symptoms of dysphagia

Symptoms of dysphagia can include:

  • Aspiration. Usually when we swallow, the windpipe is blocked off to stop food or liquid going into the lungs. Aspiration is when this function fails and food or liquid go down the windpipe. Frequent aspiration can lead to aspiration pneumonia
  • Finding it difficult to swallow food or feeling like it is getting stuck in the gullet
  • Coughing, choking or gagging when eating
  • Acid reflux and heartburn
  • A change in voice such as it becoming hoarse or very soft
  • Dribbling

Safe swallowing with dysphagia

Certain techniques can help you to swallow properly if you have mild dysphagia.

These include:

  • Sitting up straight, either with your chin level with the table or tucked slightly into your chest
  • Taking small bites and chewing thoroughly
  • Eating slowly and making sure you’ve completely swallowed the last mouthful before taking the next
  • Clearing your throat between mouthfuls
  • Sipping drinks slowly
  • Using a drink thickening agent
  • Chewing with your mouth closed and not talking while you chew
  • Avoiding dry food
  • Eating smaller, more frequent meals and snacks

Treatments for dysphagia

Change of diet

Dysphagia can lead to malnutrition or dehydration. Working with a nutritionist can help people to find ways to meet their nutritional requirements by finding foods that they can swallow. Simply pureeing food works for many people. Others use supplements and drink thickener to help them get the nutrients they need.


If the dysphagia is caused by cysts, a tumor or a narrowed esophagus, surgery can improve or solve the issue.

For people whose dysphagia is caused by an inoperable cancerous tumor, a stent can be inserted into the esophagus. This is a small tube that keeps the pipe open. It is fitted into the area where the blockage is, to prevent the esophagus from closing up as the tumor grows. Unfortunately, solid food won’t pass through a stent, so patients need to follow a liquid diet.

Another commonly used surgery is endoscopic dilation, when a balloon is inflated in the gullet to stretch the pipe and allow food to pass through more easily.

Tube feeding is also an option for some people, with a tube being inserted through the nose or fitted into the stomach through the abdomen.


Speech and language therapists can often help people to address what they find difficult about chewing and swallowing and find ways to overcome the issues. This could be practicing exercises to strengthen the esophagus and tongue, or addressing psychological issues, such as a fear of choking.


Sometimes medication can address the cause of dysphagia. Medicines such as muscle relaxants, antacids and corticosteroids are sometimes used. They can be particularly helpful if the dysphagia is caused by problems with digestion or esophageal scarring.

If you take medication for other conditions, you may have difficulty swallowing the pills. Doctors may find alternative ways to ensure you get the medication you need, such as liquid medicines. It is inadvisable to crush your tablets, as this can affect their efficacy.

What is dysphagia?

Dysphagia is when somebody has difficulty swallowing food. It can be a side effect of other problems, but if left untreated or unmanaged, dysphagia can lead to malnutrition and dehydration. Sometimes people who have difficulty chewing are also described as having dysphagia.

What causes dysphagia?

Dysphagia can have a number of causes. Physical damage to the gullet from injury, an eating disorder or alcohol abuse can cause scarring that narrows the esophagus. Tumors and cysts can also block or narrow it. Neurological conditions including dementia, strokes and brain injuries can affect the control a person has over their swallowing.

What are the symptoms of dysphagia?

Symptoms of dysphagia include coughing, choking or gagging when eating, or feeling like food is stuck in the throat. Aspiration, when food goes down the windpipe rather than the esophagus, is another symptom, along with acid reflux, dribbling or a change in voice.

How to swallow safely with dysphagia?

Certain techniques can help you to swallow if your symptoms are mild. These include sitting up straight when you eat, taking smaller mouthfuls, fully chewing and swallowing each mouthful before taking another, and avoiding dry food. You can also use thickening agents for drinks to make them easier to swallow.

Are there any treatments for dysphagia?

Surgery can help with dysphagia if it has a physical cause, such as by removing a tumor or widening the gullet. Other treatments can include medication, botox and speech and language therapy, as speech and language therapists can teach techniques to swallow safely and overcome psychological problems with swallowing.


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5047 West Main Street #110
Kalamazoo, Michigan 49009