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By Brian Peters, Community Access and Policy Specialist
Legendary disability rights advocate Justin Dart used to say, “Vote as if your life depends on it … because it does.” Voting is extremely important, and it should also be combined with making your views known in other ways, like speaking with legislators and participating in listening sessions soliciting public feedback about projects.

For example, on Tuesday, September 18, the Milwaukee County Department on Aging and the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) hosted an event at IndependenceFirst to specifically reach out to people with disabilities and older adults in the community about the MCTS Next planning process. MCTS Next is the process whereby MCTS will be redesigning the bus routes to create more high frequency routes with more frequent buses. But this will mean fewer stops, and that could have an impact on people with disabilities and older adults. MCTS and the Department on Aging wanted to ensure that people had the opportunity to share their thoughts. This is just the start of the planning process, and there will be more public meetings in the future.
Last week, IndependenceFirst’s Transportation Consumer Advocacy Team hosted a special brown bag lunch event about The Hop, Milwaukee’s new streetcar that is opening later this fall. Representatives of The Hop spoke about the streetcar routes, streetcar accessibility features, how it will impact neighborhoods and how the bus system reconfigured two stops to accommodate the streetcar route. It was a very informative session, and people had the opportunity to ask the presenters questions and make their concerns known.
Both of those events, and others that IndependenceFirst has hosted in the past and will host in the future, are instances in which local government agencies worked with us to reach the disability community. These agencies should be credited for their efforts to ensure our voices are heard in the planning process. We at IndependenceFirst work to recruit people to show up to these events because we believe that it’s our responsibility as people with disabilities to be part of what happens in the community. We share information through Facebook, Twitter, our website calendar, and sometimes in our quarterly newsletter, First Look, if the timing works out.
Do we always agree as a community? No. Some people like streetcars, others think they are a ridiculous waste of money. Some people like more frequent buses so they don’t have to wait as long, others hate the idea of possibly walking farther to stops. All valid points of view, and they should be shared. Because people with disabilities voiced our concerns and thoughts at these recent sessions, maybe the county will be extra careful in eliminating bus stops, maybe the city will devote more time toward educating people about the streetcars.
But my question is, where was YOUR voice? Were you at these events or others in the past, or do you make sure to otherwise make your opinions known to city, county and state officials and others with decision-making power? Will you be there at future events?
We can help you learn about opportunities to weigh in on issues that impact people with disabilities. Make sure you’re signed up for our newsletters (including our brand-new AdvocacyFirst e-mails), like us on Facebook (and mark us “See First” so you can be sure to see our posts), and check the events listings on our website periodically. You can even join one of our advocacy teams.
It is also important to connect with your community’s social media and e-mail notifications so you know what’s happening in the neighborhood you live in, too.
There are many decisions made by others that affect our daily lives, such as where funds are spent in our communities, so show up to have a say in these decisions!

| Tuesday, 10/2/2018 - 4:05 PM | 0 comments
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