Mary Faithfull, Executive Director
41 focus groups.
36 listening sessions.
36 social media posts.
12 individual interviews with disability leaders.
7 public forums.
All over the course of six months (October 2013 to March 2014) across the state of Texas.
The reason for all of this activity? Because we wanted to learn what matters most to people with disabilities in their everyday lives.
It’s all part of our multi-faceted priority setting process. We are required by our federal funders to conduct a widespread community outreach every four years to help us identify today’s most significant issues facing people with disabilities in Texas. We then use what we learn from current and former clients, disability organizations, parents, guardians and family members, service providers, and others to review our federal mandates to determine how to best utilize our limited financial resources.
So what did we discover? Our survey asked people with disabilities to rank the top five things that are most important to them. From 1131 completed surveys, the top five answers were:
#1 – Being able to make or be involved in making decisions about my life. (671 out of 1131 – approx. 50%)
#2 – Having a job. (592 out of 1131 – approx. 44%)
#3 – Earning a good salary. (402 out of 1131 – approx. 30%)
#4 – Having transportation that meets my needs. (393 out of 1131 – approx. 29%)
#5 – Being able to see a doctor or other healthcare specialist, including mental healthcare specialist, when I need to. (393 out of 1131 – approx. 29%)
As you can see, #4 and #5 are really a tie. And what’s interesting to note is that the five answers are the same as four years ago, but the percentage of those who listed #1 and #2 both jumped by nearly 10%. That lets us know that although the most important things are the same, these issues are even more important to people with disabilities than ever before.
So what happens now? In May 2014, our specialized issue teams will meet to review the results of the survey and other outreach activities to determine if changes need to be made to our current priorities. Our PAIMI (Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness) Council will convene in July to do the same.
Then in early August 2014, our board of directors will review the recommendations made by our staff and the PAIMI council, and in September 2014 they will finalize and vote to approve updates.
In the end, our priority setting process is about living out the values for which protection and advocacy agencies were created which include:
- Disability is a natural part of the human experience.
- Disability does not diminish the right to live independently or to exert control and choice in your life.
- Because people with disabilities are at a greater risk for abuse, neglect, exploitation, and violation of legal and human rights, protection and advocacy organizations like Disability Rights Texas are needed.
People with disabilities have basic human needs that are no different from those of all people. They have a right to freedom from neglect, exploitation, discrimination and isolation, and a right to be included in all aspects of their communities. Our priority setting process helps us to focus our work so we can one day see our vision come to fruition: to live in a society where all people have dignity and worth.