Throughout my life I would tell people that the most significant problem I suffered from was not that I am visually impaired, rather, I suffered from a severe lack of information. Since I was born with my visual impairment I am quite capable of handling that aspect of my life. Everything else though was a challenge for me. A person who has better vision can walk into an office, scan the signs on the wall or a rack full of brochures or forms and quickly find whatever they need. Not me though. I could easily miss information shown on a sign or not notice a rack of informational pamphlets entirely. When I would attempt to read the information, or at least find a form or pamphlet that I could take home, my slowness seemed to cause others to become nervous or impatient with me and I often would give up and try to find a person who could help me. That was not always easy as well.


I had no place to go which could help me find the information I needed to live as an independent adult with a disability. If you are lucky enough to live in a place with a nonprofit or advocacy group, then you have a better chance of finding people who can help you. These groups can help you with certain aspects of your life and can be a great support system however they may not be able to help you with everything. As an example, I discovered that there was a local chapter of the National Federation of the Blind in my hometown in California, so I would take a bus from where I attended college back home to attend meetings once a month. None of the people at these meetings knew anything about attending college as a blind or visually impaired student or much about the early accessible technologies, which were just then being developed. The people in the chapter could not even help me in voting because I lived 70 miles away in another county.


The university had a disabled student services which helped me learn how to be a college student with a visual impairment, but the counsellors there were not paid to help me outside of that, even though some of them tried. I was one of the few visually impaired students on campus.


I needed some place to help me learn about resources that were available, and help me gain access to them. I needed a place like the Aging and Disability Resource Center. In 1998 then Governor Tommy Thompson authorized nine pilot projects which started these centralized resource centers, and by 2012 every citizen in Wisconsin had access to one. Some ADRCs cover a single county while others such as the Aging and Disability Resource Center of Central Wisconsin that cover several counties. The ADRC-CW provides service for Lincoln, Langlade, Marathon and Wood counties.


ADRCs all over Wisconsin are helping elderly and the disabled live independent, healthier lives, but many of them are required to deal with increasing aging populations on budgets that have changed little since 2006. ADRCs help Wisconsin residents of all backgrounds and all economic levels. They exist to help any senior or person with a disability who needs to find information about programs and services which can help them live more fulfilling lives.


Budget talks will resume shortly and Wisconsin needs to support its own. ADRCs provide information and access to services which can help prevent people from falling into harmful situations. Preventative measures can be cost effective compared to the expense of emergencies.


I urge you to contact your state and local elected officials and tell them that you support the initiative of increasing funding for Wisconsin ADRCs in the next budget cycle. We are all in this together.


(William Hascall is a member of the Board of Directors of the Aging and Disability Resource Center of Central Wisconsin where he advocates for the physically disabled.)