Deb Wisniewski

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The ADA Wisconsin Partnership is dedicated to the idea that all people with disabilities are valued members of their communities. By working to implement the ADA throughout Wisconsin, we can ensure that people will have equal access and opportunities to participate and contribute in their communities.

Your responses to this quick survey with help us identify our priorities and activities as we move forward together. Please share your ideas, challenges, and vision with us.

This is an interesting editorial about a recent agreement between the state of Rhode Island and the US Justice Dept. re: integrated work vs. segregated work for individuals who have developmental disabilities. (Thanks to the Great Lakes ADA Center for sharing it)

New York Times
April 11, 2014

Doubly Disabled in Life

Americans with intellectual and developmental disabilities historically have been shuttled far from societys mainstream into segregated lives and workplace serfdom, earning wages as low as pennies per hour for the most repetitive and menial jobs. The Supreme Court in 1999 pronounced this kind of treatment a civil rights violation under the Americans With Disabilities Act, but abuse and isolation from society have continued to this day.

This week, Rhode Island and the Justice Department took an important step away from that pattern by reaching a comprehensive agreement to direct these people toward community living, minimum-wage guarantees and competitive opportunities.

The agreement, a consent decree between state and federal officials announced in Providence, will help some 2,000 developmentally disabled Rhode Islanders obtain community-based jobs over the next decade while 1,250 students with disabilities will receive training for placement in more competitive workplaces. It could serve as a model for the treatment of the nations 450,000 developmentally disabled, who are still largely kept in state-run sheltered workshops and segregated day care programs.

According to federal investigators, only 5 percent of the states developmentally disabled youngsters are currently guided into integrated job settings after high school. Most of the rest have been shunted into programs paid for with government money that offer no opportunities for learning or advancement. Federal investigators examining these programs have also found widespread abuse of a federal law that allows sub-minimum wages for the severely disabled but not for those capable of doing more. Some of the people in Rhode Island, for example, earned $1.57 an hour for stultifying work like sorting buttons, even though they were found to be suited to more varied and challenging work.

A recent report in The Times laid bare the neglect and abuse of the developmentally disabled, chronicling the lives of a group of men who spent more than 30 years eviscerating turkeys at an obscure Iowa factory. In return, they got room, board and $65 a month. Advocates finally succeeded last year in winning a lawsuit to recover damages and decades of back pay.

The need to end the economic servitude and social exile of people with disabilities has long been clear. The Providence agreement is a promising but overdue starting point.


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Employment Network News: March 25, 2013

By Deb Wisniewski, 2013-03-25

Connect | Share | Learn |

March 25, 2013

RIP: Al Buss

Wisconsin lost one of our gentle and tireless leaders this month. Elmer "Al" Buss passed away on March 17th, surrounded by family. Dan Johnson, Al's good friend, shared his memories and thoughts with us on this sad occasion.

It Only Takes "Five"

Take five minutes to check out what's happening on the Employment Network:

Support the Employment Network with "Five":

  • This month we'd like to thank Catherine MacKenzie for her support of the Employment Network.

Join Us for a Coffee Break

Coffee Break: Employment Planning during High School. The Coffee Break gives us an opportunity to participate in a live chat about a topic related to working in the community. It's not a presentation, but an opportunity for all participating members to share ideas, questions and resources. It's easy to participate and all are welcome to join the conversation.

The theme of our next Coffee Break is Employment Planning during High School. We'll be joined in our discussion by Shannon Huff - Shannon has been involved in numerous employment initiatives in Wisconsin from the Medicaid Infrastructure Grant to Let's Get to Work. What are your challenges when thinking about employment after high school? What ideas do you have? What resources do you use to help you or the students you work with?

There is no cost to participate in the Coffee Break. RSVPs are encouraged but not required.

Welcome New Members

Stop by to welcome our newest members.

Upcoming Events

Here's a sample of upcoming events listed on the Employment Network:

Post your event on the Employment Network and it can be included in future Network News emails to members! Questions? Contact Deb Wisniewski at


Thanks to the sponsors of the Employment Network!

RIP: Elmer "Al" Buss

By Deb Wisniewski, 2013-03-20

Wisconsin has lost one of our true heroes - Al Buss. The following was shared with me by his good friend, Dan Johnson.

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

On Sunday, March 17, 2013 surrounded by his family Al Buss passed away.

Al worked for the Department's Bureau of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse until retiring in 1999 on disability. He brought statewide awareness to the need for alcohol and drug programs and services to be fully accessible to people with coexisting physical, sensory or intellectual disabilities and alcohol and drug abuse. He understood firsthand as an individual with a spinal cord injury and recovering alcoholic how important it was to have inpatient treatment and ongoing AODA support programs in the community accessible to someone in a wheelchair and how important it was to have printed materials available in alternative format for people who were blind or for meetings to be interpreted for individuals who are deaf. He worked hard to incorporate into state contract language requirements and program guidance requirements for compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and later the Americans with Disabilities Act. He provided statewide training and technical systems.

When he retired he continued his advocacy work co-founding with Dennis Moore, Bob Olsen and others the National Association of Alcohol, Drugs and Disability and heading up the Wisconsin Association of Alcohol, Drugs and Disability. Al was serving as a Chairperson of the Board of Directors for Access to Independence, one of eight independent living centers in Wisconsin. His second stint on a Board of Directors for independent living center. His first was back in 1984 when he served on the Board of Directors of Society's Assets, Incorporated in Racine. A position he left to come to work in Madison as an LTE in the Bureau of Long-Term Support working with me on improving programs and services for people with physical disabilities.

We were friends for more than 35 years, Over the years we have taught and learned, cried and celebrated, failed and achieved. All of which has made our life's richer and more successful. Al's life will be celebrated on Thursday afternoon at 5 PM after visitation from 3 PM to 5 PM at the Gunderson Fitchburg Funeral and Cremation, 2950 Chapel Valley Rd.

Here is Al's obituary for further information:

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Stories: Real People, Real Jobs

By Deb Wisniewski, 2013-02-18

Are you looking for stories about people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are working in theircommunities? The Institute for Community Inclusion has collected some great stories on their website. Here's what they say:

This site highlights the employment successes of people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) who are working in paid jobs in their communities. Through the use of innovative, front-line employment support practices, these individuals are earning money, forming networks, and contributing to their communities.Learn more about these people and the promising practices that led to their success.

Posted in: default | 0 comments Asks, Whats Your Connection?

By the Team

There are nearly 57 million individuals with disabilities in the United States, and all of them are connected to the people around them in some way. They are sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, coworkers, neighbors and friends.

Yet people with disabilities are often treated as a separate or special population, although the reality for most is that their lives are not segregated.

Keepingthis in mind, (, the federal government website for comprehensive information on disability programs and services in communities nationwide, created theWhats Your Connection?initiative to commemorate the sites 10thanniversary.

Launched on October 30, 2012,Whats Your Connection?promotes inclusion and reinforces the idea that people with disabilities, even those who dont identify as having a disability, are not separate, but an integral part of American society.

Has disability touched your life in some way? If so, we want to know how. is asking people nationwide to share their stories in two ways:

  • by submitting a photograph online (less than 100KB in JPG format) along with a 250-word maximum caption; or
  • by uploading a captioned, one-minute YouTube video that answers the question, Whats Your Connection?

In July 2013, we will pick the top three submissions and ask our Facebook fans to vote on their favorite. Photographs and captions can be emailed; video submissions should be uploaded on YouTube and include the hashtag, #myconnection2, in the title.*

Our goal is to create aWhats Your Connection?movement throughout the country during the next nine months, but we need your help spreading the word. So please post information about the initiative on your Facebook page, tweet about it and tell everyone you meet!

For more information and details on theWhats Your Connection?initiative, please visit's_your_connection.

*By submitting a photograph or uploading a YouTube video with the hashtag, #myconnection2, participants grant permission to the U.S. Department of Labors Office of Disability Employment Policy to display their work on the website; the sites Facebook, Twitter or YouTube page; and future print publications. All submissions will be reviewed and approved by the team prior to being posted on the website or its YouTube page.

ABOUT DISABILITY.GOV is a federal government website that provides comprehensive information on disability policies, programs and services in communities nationwide. Visitors are connected to thousands of resources from federal, state and local government agencies, academic institutions and nonprofit organizations across 10 main subject areas: Benefits; Civil Rights; Community Life; Education; Emergency Preparedness; Employment; Health; Housing; Technology; and Transportation. The site is managed by the U.S. Department of Labors Office of Disability Employment Policy in collaboration with 21 federal agency partners. For more information,

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The Webinar on Bureau of Labor Statistics New Education and Training Data for Employment Projections was held on June 19, 2012. For those who couldnt attend, you can now obtain the PowerPoint presentation, a recording and a transcript of the Webinar plus relevant resource links from both BLS and the U.S. Employment and Training Administration by clicking on the appropriate link on the right hand side of this screen.

In this Webinar, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics described its recently revised system for determining the education and training that individuals typically need to qualify for employment in an occupation, and showcased the results of its research using the new classification system.

They will also be posting answers to the questions not provided during the session itself (including a number of valuable sources).

Listen to the recorded webinar.

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Self-Advocates Wanted!

By Deb Wisniewski, 2012-07-09

People First Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities are conducting the 2012 Wisconsin Self-Advocate Survey. Please share this survey with self-advocates you know!

The survey asks questions about how policies affect the day-to-day lives of self-advocates. Also, the survey asks what ideas self-advocates have for improving policies in Wisconsin.

The results of the survey will be presented to legislators. When legislators are developing the 2013-2015 state budget, they can use this information to make Wisconsin a better place for self-advocates.

This survey is only intended for self-advocates living in Wisconsin. A self-advocate is an individual with a disability who is eligible for or using long-term care supports.

Survey link:

Please complete the survey by Monday, July 23, 2012.

If you need hard copies of the survey, please contact Joshua Ryf at or (608) 261-7829.

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