Advocacy Day Showcases the Power of Local Action

A jigsaw puzzle with the word Advocacy in place of the missing pieces.

Public policy advocacy has been a cornerstone of the Council’s mission since our founding over 70 years ago. One thing we’ve always emphasized is that anyone can be an effective advocate; you just have to know where to start.

That’s why this this year’s Advocacy Day, which took place virtually on Thursday, May 16, focused on the impact local advocacy can have on your life. The main part of the event was a panel discussion featuring three people from around the state with vision loss, all of whom are at a different stage in their own advocacy journey. The panelists were Brent Goodman of Rhinelander, Wendi Dwyer of Madison, and Liz Fryseth of La Crosse.

“What’s so powerful about our advocacy is that it has been led by people with vision loss,” says Executive Director Denise Jess. “Those of us with lived experience are speaking our truth, and speaking to what it is that would improve the quality of our lives. That is something to be celebrated, and there is real power in it.”

Brent, who is a member of the Council’s Board of Directors, is relatively new to advocacy. He also facilitates a vision loss support group. Brent began his advocacy journey last fall by assisting the Council with White Cane Safety Day, an opportunity to promote safe, welcoming communities for people with vision loss.

When Brent noticed that Rhinelander had never formally recognized White Cane Safety Day, he reached out to his city leaders to try to make a change in his own community.

“I gave city leaders a little review of how I feel getting around Rhinelander, and about how comfortable I feel with the sidewalk system in our town,” Brent says. “I also pointed out a lot of positives that were already in place, as well as suggestions on ways we could improve. Sure enough, within a week I was told that a White Cane Safety Day proclamation would be on the city’s agenda.”

As an advocate, it can be tempting to simply tell people what they’re doing wrong. But as Brent’s story shows, starting out by showcasing what works and how that makes a difference in your life can build strong relationships with the people making the decisions in your community.

While Wendi is a longtime activist, she is new to advocating specifically on matters related to vision loss. She has been championing various causes for years, but lately she’s focused her work on pedestrian safety. Last fall, Wendi was seriously injured when she was hit by a vehicle that had sped through a stop sign.

While recovering from the accident, Wendi did her homework and began researching data about pedestrian safety in Madison. She has been advocating for improvements ever since.

“Realizing that there are officials who we elected that really want to get things done for the people in their community was really important,” Wendi says.

Knowing who to talk to about your specific issue is a key to getting the results you want. By combining the raw data she collected with her personal story about the impact of her accident, Wendi was able to make a compelling case for change. Wendi says persistence is critical; if someone was hesitant to talk with her, she would schedule a specific time to sit down with them and talk about the issue.

Like Wendi, Liz has been advocating at the local level for many years. She lost most of her vision in 2016, and quickly learned that advocacy was needed to have her needs met.

Liz says that she’s focused her advocacy on emergency preparedness. By sitting down and talking with first responders in her area, she was able to communicate her needs, and the needs of others with vision loss, as a step toward improving those services for everyone. Liz also spoke with people throughout the community, giving them the opportunity to bring their own ideas to the table.

“Advocating for change can sometimes be a little difficult, but progress and change do happen,” Liz says. “Keep in mind that patience is key.”

Liz says her biggest takeaway from her time as an advocate is to remember to be yourself. “We’re not perfect,” Liz says. “We’re all human beings, and sometimes you need to reach out for help. When you have the community behind you, you know that you are not alone.”

While Liz, Brent, and Wendi are all at different stages in their advocacy journey, one thing is certain: All three are making an impact in their own communities. We’re grateful to them for sharing their stories at Advocacy Day.

We’re also grateful to the dozens of people who attended Advocacy Day! If you were unable to participate in the panel discussion in real time, you can check out the recording on our YouTube channel. You can also learn more about the Council’s advocacy work and our policy priorities, and find resources that can help you advocate in your own community on our website at

And finally, we encourage you to sign up to receive our Action Alerts to learn about concrete steps you can take on important issues.

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