The Council is pleased to announce findings from the 2020 Advocacy Survey, which ran from February through June 2020. The survey asked questions about transportation, employment, education, voting and healthcare/vision services. All five of these issues align with the Council’s legislative priorities. Here are the top takeaways from the survey, and how the data will be used going forward.
Forty-four people took this survey, which is on par with the amount of responses seen when the wider community of people with disabilities is surveyed. Participants ranged in age from 18-86, and 90% of them were blind or visually impaired.
Survey respondents live in various types of communities throughout Wisconsin:
Thirteen counties are represented in the data. Here is the number of people from each:
- Dane County: 15
- Rock County: 3
- Sauk County: 3
- Milwaukee County: 3
- Brown County: 2
- La Crosse County: 2
- Marathon County: 2
- Barron County: 1
- Eau Claire County: 1
- Marquette County: 1
- Pierce County: 1
- Walworth County: 1
- Winnebago County: 1
Transportation is one of the Council’s main legislative priorities. A significant finding throughout the results is that a lack of affordable, accessible transportation is an obstacle in many areas of life. Eighty percent of the survey respondents do not drive. We asked how a lack of transportation impacted peoples’ ability to vote, spend time with family and friends and more.
Transportation is a Barrier to:
“Public transportation in our county is lacking. There is nothing after workday hours or on weekends. I am not able to go out for dinner, to church or to my kids’ school activities without help/rides from others. It is very frustrating.” – Survey Respondent
Barriers to Employment:
More than 60% of respondents said they face employment inequities related to their blindness or visual impairment. When asked to rank the challenges they face from most impactful to least impactful, nearly half ranked transportation as the main barrier to getting and keeping a job.
“I had to turn down a job with a school district because there was no effective, accessible transportation option. I experienced difficulty with transportation to a job that was off a bus route, and immediately off an interstate.”
For nearly 30% of survey respondents, employer bias was the number one impediment to getting hired. For more than three-quarters of respondents, lack of employer accommodations posed a challenge at work. This data will help the Council when talking with other groups about the legislative priority of employment, since sustainable employment is linked to economic security and upward economic mobility.
Voting Behaviors and Access:
When asked about their voting behaviors, three-quarters said they vote in most elections and nearly 10% said they never vote. About a third said they have faced barriers in the voting process, and over 70% said they have not. Of those who faced obstacles when voting, almost half said that accessible voting equipment was either not available or not functional at their polling place. Transportation was cited by nearly 42% as a barrier to voting when they were asked to elaborate on their voting experiences.
“It was only by chance that I learned of a free transportation program that would take me to & from my polling location. There needs to be more effort regarding raising awareness of such programs.” – Survey Respondent
The Council believes that voting is a fundamental right. That is why voting is a large part of the Council’s ADA/civil liberties legislative priority area. This data will be used in conversations with the Wisconsin Elections Commission and other officials when advocating for greater voter accessibility for people who are blind or visually impaired.
In addition to making sure people who are blind or visually impaired have equal access to education, the Council strives to educate the general public about issues important to people who are blind or visually impaired. One of the ways the Council does this is by promoting awareness of the White Cane Law.
When asked “In your experience, how aware are people in your community of the White Cane Law with one being not at all aware and 5 being very aware?” Here are the rankings:
Increased White Cane Law awareness leads to improved pedestrian safety for all Wisconsin residents. The Council will use data from this survey to mold our educational efforts going forward so we can continue raising awareness in the general public.
Inequity in Healthcare:
Healthcare is an important arena for people who are blind or visually impaired. Data from this survey will be used in conversations with medical staff and health agencies about the needs of people who are blind or visually impaired. Almost a quarter of survey participants said that if they needed support services to help them live with vision loss, they would not know where to go or who to contact. Others noted inequities in the current healthcare system.
“I have never seen accessible HIPPA-related documents. I had to change to a different healthcare system which is significantly less accessible than what I had previously. I am going up the food chain to see what I can do to remediate this situation, but nothing, to date, has happened.” – Survey Respondent
More on How Survey Data Will be Used:
The Council plans to bring this data into conversations with legislators and policy-makers. The data will be particularly useful when making state budget requests this fall.
Information from the survey will also be used in social media posts and polls/shorter surveys about these specific issues going forward.
“There is a lot of diversity in the survey responses,” notes Denise Jess, Council CEO/Executive Director. “I am looking forward to pairing this data with the stories of lived experiences of people who are blind and visually impaired that I hear every day.”
The Council appreciates all those who took the time to fill out the survey. Thank you for sharing yourselves and your experiences. This information will assist in advocacy efforts to create a more equitable future for all.