Advocacy Priorities Work to Build Equity

A yellow pedestrian street sign with a large button to activate walking lights attached to a pole.

Accessible Pedestrian Signals like this one make streets safe for everyone
in your community.

The Council’s advocacy priorities get reviewed each year to develop strategies that will achieve policy goals that benefit people with blindness and visual impairment. Making progress toward equitable transportation, accessibility, voting, health care, education and employment depends on ongoing work of many advocates in the blind and visually impaired community.

This year, we have excellent opportunities through Gov. Tony Evers’ biennial budget to work toward important improvements. The Council’s priorities are detailed in freshly updated briefing documents. Each informs our discussion with elected officials and educates people throughout the state on effective advocacy.
We hope to work together with advocates across Wisconsin toward these goals. Being in conversation with elected officials and telling your personal stories about how the lack of reliable transportation impacts your employment opportunities or access to health care, for example, can go a long way to gain understanding, inform policy and influence decisions that will make a difference.

The following outlines how we plan to advocate in three of our five priority areas, and how you can add your voice in a way that creates real and lasting change.

Transportation
While access to reliable transportation is essential to be productive and connected, many are unaware of the barriers that face people who do not drive. These budget and legislative items move us toward a more comprehensive public transportation system.

  • Increase the specialized transit program funding for seniors and people with disabilities by 10 percent each year.
  • Increase mass transit spending to keep up with inflation and to pay for projects that would increase services for non-drivers.
  • Help municipalities install accessible pedestrian signals through $200,000 funding to the Department of Transportation.
  • Create additional Division of Motor Vehicle service centers in Madison and Green Bay with $2.1 million in funding.
  • Boost access to services for the state’s 1.2 million non-drivers and create efficiency by analyzing which state services can be provided online or virtually.
  • Increase transportation access through cross-municipal transit options.
    Raise public awareness of Wisconsin’s Pedestrian Right of Way laws and the White Cane Law and the rights of pedestrians with visual impairment.

How you can help: If you use one of these special or mass transit services, talk to your legislator about how it allows you to get to places essential to your life. Telling a story about how your community is, or could be, safer with accessible pedestrian signals is also powerful information to share.

Accessibility
Our work to prevent discrimination and promote full community inclusion of people with disabilities would be strengthened through the following proposals:

  • Governor Evers wants to expand broadband access throughout the state through $200 million in funding. This will provide Wisconsinites with vision impairment access to many services including telehealth, employment, goods delivery and more.
  • Make sure all state websites are accessible and compatible with screen-readers and other technologies needed by people who are blind and visually impaired.

How you can help: Access to technology is essential to participating in many facets of daily life now. Conveying your experience trying to access a government website or discussing how being able to connect to affordable high-speed internet service impacts your ability to purchase groceries or for your children to access online school is important.

Voting
People with disabilities have the right to vote privately and independently according to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). But no such equitable access exists in Wisconsin for absentee voting.

The state needs to provide voters who are blind and visually impaired better means to vote absentee. We need a ballot that can be sent electronically in a format that is accessible with assistive technology and securely returned to municipal clerks using technology.

We are asking the state to ensure equitable voting by taking legislative action to create a compliant absentee ballot system for voters with disabilities or those who require assistive technology. This would include providing funding to send and receive such ballots through the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

How you can help: What has your absentee voting experience been like over the past year? It is imperative that we create awareness about the lack of access to an absentee ballot that makes it possible for people who are blind and visually impaired to vote privately and independently. Ask your legislator to support the change in state law necessary to make this happen.

In addition, let your legislators know about what it was like to vote in-person in recent elections. Was accessible equipment set up and ready to use? Were there other barriers that impeded the voting experience for you? If so, it’s important that lawmakers are aware that this is a violation of the Help America Vote Act, passed in 2002 to, in part, addresses improvements to voting systems and voter access.

Communicating with your Legislator
Certain tools are highly effective in creating relationships with your elected officials.

  • Brief and pointed personal stories can be the best way to establish a connection and build understanding. Sharing an example about how an issue impacts you makes a policy personal. Learn more about how to tell your story on our website.
  • To identify your state elected officials and how to contact them, find information on the legislature’s website. You can also call the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-362-9472.
  • Learn additional advocacy information in videos from the Council’s Advocacy Days earlier this month. Find out how to share your story and what is valuable for lawmakers to hear in one session, information on transportation and accessibility issue advocacy in others. These videos will be available on our YouTube channel soon.
  • Find out more about our advocacy priority areas in the updated documents on the Advocacy Page of our website.

Your involvement is integral to our work in advancing issues that will improve the lives of people across the state who are blind and visually impaired. We hope that this provides information on how to start or continue your advocacy journey.

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