The Impact of Disability Advocates – A Recap
Thank you for your hard work and continued advocacy!
Wisconsin’s recent legislative session provided advocates with many opportunities to take action and improve the lives of people with disabilities in our state. The legislature considered many bills that affect people with disabilities, and bills about long-term care and education issues highlighted the session. Due to the hard work of disability advocates – that means you – the disability community celebrated some important victories this year!
Next month, DAWN will distribute the Survival Coalition’s legislative report card. In the meantime, below are the results of key legislation related to disability issues.
Caps: Strongly supported by disability advocates, this new law lifts the caps on enrollment and will eventually end waiting lists for long-term care services in counties currently offering these programs.
A major victory for self-advocates, the law eliminates the term “mental retardation” from the state statutes and replaces it with “intellectual disabilities” in people-first language format.
Proof of Identity to Vote: While most of the law is on hold because of a law suit, this law requires the vast majority of voters to provide certain photographic identification in order to vote. It was opposed by disability advocates because it requires people to obtain photo identification, which can be difficult without easy access to the Department of Motor Vehicles. It also has other provisions, such as signing a poll book, which can cause confusion in cases where voters’ disabilities limit the ability to sign their names.
Seclusion and Restraint in Schools: Many years and much effort were put into passing this law protecting students from physical and emotional harm. The law requires that seclusion and restraint be used only as a last resort when a student is at risk of harming oneself or others. Only trained personnel can use these practices except during emergency situations. It also requires notification of parents when they are used.
Mandatory Child Abuse Reporters: The law adds further protection for children by making all public school employees mandatory child abuse and neglect reporters and requiring training of employees. Employees making reports in good faith cannot be disciplined. It was supported by disability advocates partly because classroom aides are covered by this new law.
Vocational High School Diploma: This law provides school districts the option of offering vocational education to students in addition to requiring students to pass the regular curriculum. This is seen as an opportunity to provide real job skills to students with disabilities transitioning to the workplace and requires that vocational experiences be documented in the transition plan’s course of study for students with disabilities.
Accessible Materials: This law requires institutes of higher education to assist students who are blind or visually impaired with obtaining accessible instructional materials. Institutes have to work with publishers to make more material accessible.
Special Needs Scholarships (Vouchers): If this legislation had passed, it would have provided vouchers to 5% of students with disabilities to attend private schools. The Board for People with Developmental Disabilities opposed the legislation for multiple reasons. It did not pass.