Chuck Quirmbach

More than 1.6 million voters in Wisconsin have already submitted absentee ballots — either by mailing in their ballot or voting in person during the early vote period that began Oct. 20.

Some of the folks doing early voting or who are waiting until Nov. 3 to vote face extra challenges because they have disabilities. However, they say it didn't have to be this difficult.

On Oct. 22, longtime friends Alice Rodrian and Danita Jackson traveled in Rodrian’s car to the Midtown polling place on Milwaukee’s north side. Rodrian can see, but Jackson has been blind since age 16. 

Rendering supplied by Independence First

Thousands of people with disabilities are hoping to vote in Wisconsin on Aug. 11, in November, and in many other elections in the years ahead. But advocates say people in wheelchairs, the visually impaired, and people with other concerns have a more difficult time exercising their right to vote. Technology is helping ease some problems, but not all.

Chuck Quirmbach

Thirty years ago this summer, the landscape slowly started to change for people with disabilities in the U.S. The change in 1990 came through the passage of major legislation known as The Americans With Disabilities Act, or ADA.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says one in four adults in this country has some type of disability. Those include people with vision or hearing impairment, loss of movement, mental health concerns, speech and memory loss. 

Windsong / stock.adobe.com

Wisconsin residents who receive disability benefits and who had been denied additional unemployment benefits made available due to the coronavirus pandemic can now receive those payments.

The U.S. Department of Labor told the state Department of Workforce Development in a letter Monday that Pandemic Unemployment Assistance was available to people with disabilities who receive payments through Social Security Disability. That’s a reversal from the federal government’s initial interpretation of state law.

Chuck Quirmbach

It's been 30 years since the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) became law. Some community activists say there are similarities between the battle for disabled rights and the current effort for racial equality.

The ADA helped lead to things like more curb cuts, those little ramps built into concrete curbs at places like intersections. The 1990 law also did much more, of course, including banning discrimination against the disabled in public places.

But Harvey Ross not being nice to the disabled community remembers at the time:

Updated Aug. 13 at 12:22 p.m. CT  

Some Wisconsin people with disabilities are raising concerns about their health during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the Trump administration says federal money coming to the state should provide some help.

Chuck Quirmbach

A UW-Milwaukee center that works on disability issues is developing an online way to inform people about access to public buildings like restaurants. It's hoped the computer system will be ready by the time the Democratic National Convention comes to town next summer. But once finished, the access ratings could be used by anyone.

Emily Files

Legislation aimed at helping dyslexic students in Wisconsin cleared a major hurdle last month when it was approved by the State Assembly. The bill is now in the Senate’s hands. From there, it would go to Gov. Tony Evers, and potentially become Wisconsin’s first dyslexia-specific law. 

But the debate over how to support struggling readers is far from over.

Emily Files / WUWM

Nineteen-year-old Lauren Buchanan is a student at Bethesda College, a specialized program for students with intellectual disabilities. It is run by the nonprofit Bethesda Lutheran Communities, located on Concordia University's campus in Mequon.

"I wanted to go to college because I wanted to meet new friends, see new people and, like, have good relationships, good friendships with people," Buchanan says.

Audrey Nowakowski / WUWM

Only four out of 10 working-aged adults with disabilities are employed nationally, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution. 

Chuck Quirmbach

Thousands of people will leave from, or arrive at, Milwaukee General Mitchell International Airport during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Getting through a crowded terminal is tough enough at peak times, but imagine if you were blind or with low vision. 

At Mitchell, there's now free technology to help those individuals move through the airport. And, more Milwaukee County buildings may soon have the same service. 

The service is called Aira.

Screen Capture from Ramp Up Milwaukee Video

Damien Buchman's goal to give disabled people not only access but opportunity. Buchman himself suffered from childhood cancer and almost lost both legs. But he grew up to be an active, athletic adult and wanted to give others the opportunity as well.

Buchman has set his sights on making more of Milwaukee available to everyone, starting at Bradford Beach. He is the founder of The Ability Center and the organizer of RampUp Milwaukee.

Local Volunteer Says She Refuses to Play "Blind Card"

Aug 1, 2013
Vision Forward

As the National Governors Association’s annual meeting kicks off tomorrow with a session on employing people with disabilities, a local volunteer says she is proof that challenges can be overcome.