During this time of social distancing and isolation, people with differing perspectives and life experiences are coming together for positive change. Greater awareness of the barriers to access brought to light through the COVID-19 quarantine provide an opportunity for a more inclusive tomorrow. How could attention drawn to inequitable practices and situations create a better future for everyone? The Council is working to answer that question.
This article details the organization’s advocacy efforts during this uncertain time, and what you can do to help.
How the Council is Advocating:
During these challenging times, the Council is advocating person-to-person, statewide and nationally.
The Council connects individuals to resources. This is even more important amidst a pandemic. Recently, a man needed medical transportation to a clinic to get tested for COVID-19. When he reached out to his friends for a ride, they were hesitant to transport him and risk their health. Word got to staff at the Council, and the man was connected to his local mobility manager/ADRC and found a medical ride.
State government officials appreciate the Council as a source for insights into practices promoting greater inclusivity in Wisconsin. This recognition comes through being active with other groups working on similar issues. Involvement on the Accessible Voting Advisory Committee and the Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition are prime examples of key relationships raising awareness of voting disparities.
As part of a network of groups representing older adults and people with disabilities, the Council signed onto a letter sent to Governor Evers in late March. The letter listed the voting and election concerns of people with disabilities and the impact of the pandemic on their lives. As a result, Denise Jess, CEO/Executive Director, was invited to sit on a governor task force to ensure accessibility in the 2020 voting process. In Executive Order 73, Gov. Evers states that people with disabilities must be given equal access to voting during elections. It is believed this language came about due to the Council’s involvement with voter advocacy.
Emergency transportation availability and funding are additional issues championed by the Council. People with disabilities need to continue to get groceries, go to medical appointments and access the polls during elections. The Council drafted a letter to Governor Evers laying out these concerns.
Joining more than 75 other groups representing people with disabilities across the nation, the Council signed on to a letter written by the American Council of the Blind (ACB). This letter details voting accessibility concerns for people with disabilities and urges Congress to take action in creating a system where people with disabilities can privately and independently access, mark and submit absentee ballots in federal elections. Because it aligns with the Council’s legislative priorities and represents Wisconsin’s interest in these concerns, the Council saw it necessary and essential to sign onto this advocacy effort.
Did You Know? Maryland offers two types of absentee ballots to voters. One is the traditional mailed print ballot. The other is available on the state’s website. Voters with disabilities can request access to a ballot marking tool to make the ballot accessible to assistive technology, allowing them to complete the ballot independently. The ballot is then printed and mailed to the appropriate authorities. Learn more about Maryland’s accessible absentee voting.
What You Can Do to Help:
The Council urges you to help by sharing your stories through surveys. These experiences are needed to demonstrate inequity and the need for accessibility. You can share your stories in three ways:
Fill out the Council’s Advocacy Survey. Your answers to the questions will provide the data needed to have impactful conversations with legislators and other officials moving forward.
Participate in the Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition’s Voting Experiences Survey. The survey will be open until Friday, May 22. It is important to make sure the survey results are inclusive of all forms of disability from people around the state. Whether you voted absentee, at the polls or didn’t vote because of any barriers, your experience matters; whether positive, negative or neutral.
Take part in the 2020 Census. You can take the Census via mail, phone or online. The census is important because decisions about Medicaid and transportation funding and other services are made based on the number of people who use those services in a given county. Learn more at 2020census.gov.
By working together during this time of isolation, we can raise awareness of issues and work to make things better for everyone. Let’s create a future where people can vote absentee privately and independently, get where they need to go, and lead the best lives possible.