There are many benefits to becoming an advocate. It gives you a voice in decisions made by lawmakers and other institutions. It can help you gain a better understanding of the systems that affect your life and the obstacles they present. And perhaps most important, it can validate your own experiences as someone with vision loss. Your story, combined with advocacy skills, can have a powerful impact.
“I want people to feel empowered in advocacy work,” says WCBVI Executive Director Denise Jess. “Your experience as a person with vision loss is exactly where we start.”
A great way to attain that sense of empowerment is by participating in Advocacy Days, April 19 through April 21. Advocacy Days, an annual training hosted by the Council, is an opportunity to hone skills that will give you the confidence to make your voice heard on the issues you care about. Like last year, Advocacy Days will take place online via Zoom, meaning people from all over Wisconsin can participate.
On Day One of Advocacy Days, April 19, session leaders will introduce the Council’s priorities, describe grassroots advocacy strategies, and explore the state budget process and how you can influence it. Participants can choose to attend this introductory session at either 8 a.m. or 4:30 p.m. Attendance at one of these sessions is required in order to join the sessions taking place on April 20 and 21.
Days Two and Three will each feature a lunchtime discussion focusing on two Council priorities. One of these sessions will be a conversation about State of Wisconsin website accessibility with a representative from the Department of Administration (DOA). “All Wisconsinites have the right to access their government,” Denise says. “We’re pleased to be working with DOA to ensure that people with vision loss are not excluded from the critical information the state maintains on its websites.”
The other session will focus on state services that support the efforts of people with vision loss to continue working and to live well. A representative from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, which the houses the Office for the Blind and Visually Impaired (OBVI), will be on hand. Denise notes that OBVI has not seen an increase in funding for over ten years, while costs have continued to grow over that time.
Participants can expect to learn about these Council priorities during Advocacy Days:
Getting where you need to go on schedule is a key to sustainable employment, healthcare access, shopping, and staying connected with family and friends.
Civil Rights and Accessibility
The Council advances policies to prevent discrimination and promote the full community inclusion of people with disabilities.
About 70 percent of people with vision loss are unemployed, and 22 percent are underemployed. The Council supports initiatives to increase competitive, integrated employment for people who are blind or visually impaired.
Accessible Absentee Voting
Federal law requires that people with disabilities have equitable access to voting, including the right to vote privately and independently. Election systems in Wisconsin currently fall far short of these requirements. The Council works to reduce barriers to voting for people with vision loss.
Health & Long-Term Care
The Council works to eliminate barriers to care, and to protect and strengthen health coverage for people who are blind or visually impaired.
We support educational opportunities for the 1,500 Wisconsin students who are blind or visually impaired.
“As people living with vision loss, we bring value to our communities through our life experiences,” Denise says. “We can help others to see things in new ways and bring insights on how to make positive change that benefits others beyond ourselves. We have a right to fully participate in our democracy and to play a vital role in shaping our futures. Advocacy Days is a great next step in developing the tools to fight for that right.”