The Michigan Developmental Disabilities Institute (MI-DDI) at Wayne State University recently established the Jane Vermeulen Leadership Award, which will be presented each year to a person with a disability who exhibits leadership in their local and/or disability community. The award was established in memory of Jane “Janey” Vermeulen, who died in 2022.
Vermeulen was an advocate for disability rights. She was a vibrant, positive person who believed all people with disabilities should be respected and supported to live actively in their communities. Vermeulen was an ardent supporter of self-determination, self-directed services and supports, and community living.
The winner of the inaugural Jane Vermeulen Leadership Award is Alex Kimmel. Also known as “The SelfDeterminator,” Kimmel is a speaker, trainer and advocate for himself and others in the disability community. His core philosophies include supporting inclusion, celebrating neurodiversity, self-determination as a basic human right and having no limits on one’s life regardless of disability.
A selection committee composed of members from the MI-DDI Community Advisory Council — of which Vermeulen was a long-time member — evaluated the applications through an anonymous review process. Selection criteria included how a person exhibits leadership in different areas of their life and work, including living the ideals of self-determination, self-advocacy, person-centered supports, community living, and other leadership qualities.
Kimmel exemplifies these ideals in his life and work. His commitment to leadership and advocacy can be seen in his MI-DDI Possibilities video, in which he was featured. Like Vermeulen, Kimmel has a positive impact on the lives of those he meets. In addition to his community involvement and volunteer work, he provides training to health and human service professionals on the importance of self-determination and assisting individuals with disabilities to lead full, self-directed lives.
Kimmel states that “self-determination is really an inalienable right that all have, with or without disabilities, to have control on how they spend their life." Learn more on his website, alexkimmel.com.
MI-DDI’s mission is to contribute to the development of inclusive communities and quality of life for people with disabilities and their families through a culturally sensitive statewide program of training and education, community support and services, research, and information development and sharing.