It has been quite a journey to create the Minnesota Olmstead Plan—a dynamic, visionary roadmap for improving life for Minnesotans with disabilities. Over the course of my three years leading the Minnesota Olmstead Implementation Office, I have learned that, along with using this road map, we must also work alongside the people with disabilities—listening to you about what integration and choice mean to you.
An aspect of my job that I value highly is making connections with people with disabilities and learning about their lived experiences. As a person with a disability, being heard is important. However, having my voice valued, considered and included in the decision-making process is monumental.
The Olmstead Implementation Office is working to gather insights from Minnesotans living with disabilities to give input into the Olmstead Plan. The plan has been in effect for two full years. We want to learn what impact it has made in the lives of people living with disabilities in Minnesota. As a way to learn about your lives and experiences, we are fielding a statewide Quality of Life Survey. The goal of the survey is to measure how well people are integrated into and engaged with their community; how much autonomy people with disabilities have in day-to-day decision making; and whether people with disabilities are working and living in the most integrated setting of their choice.
As a deaf person, when a barrier for one disability group is overcome, there is a ripple effect—we all share in that achievement—and I, too, benefit. Reaching our goal of hearing from 2,000 people with disabilities from all areas of our state through the survey will provide an invaluable baseline to track progress and learn if people with disabilities are better off now than before the Olmstead Plan. Survey results will help target, evaluate and refine Olmstead Plan goals and strategies going forward.
The initial Quality of Life survey is expected to be completed by November 30, 2017 and will establish a baseline of findings. In the next few years, subsequent surveys will be conducted again with a smaller number of individuals previously surveyed, to measure changes over time. The State of Minnesota will use this information to improve how people with disabilities are served, supported, and engaged in their communities.
Our office has partnered with The Improve Group, a local research firm, to conduct this survey across the state. A sample of over 12,000 people with disabilities from all over Minnesota were invited by letter to participate in this survey. People in the sample were selected randomly so that those who take the survey will be representative of the diversity of people with disabilities across Minnesota. We are aiming to reach people with a range of disabilities, and who are receiving different types of services, throughout the state.
If you have been invited to participate in the survey, I hope you will make your voice heard! I strongly encourage you to contact The Improve Group or the Olmstead Implementation Office, so that we can schedule a time for you to take the survey with an in-person interviewer.
The survey asks key questions to understand whether your lives have been improved by the plan:
-Do you feel engaged in your community?
– Are you able to make your own decisions?
-Are you able to live, work, and go to school where you choose?
Would you help me spread the word about this important survey? Join our efforts to make Minnesota a place where all people with disabilities are living, learning, working, and enjoying life in the most integrated community setting of their choice.