Graphic text image that says: "The Olmstead Quality of Life Survey - Help us cross the finish line!"

The Olmstead Quality of Life Survey has reached a major milestone—more than 1,100 completed surveys out of the goal of 2,000. The survey—the largest of its kind ever conducted on a statewide basis—aims to better understand how people living with disabilities throughout Minnesota feel about their quality of life and to measure change over time.

However, we are not resting on our laurels just yet. While we have been pleased with the high response rate from the large representative sample, there is still a long way to go.

We want to get the message out to providers, guardians, and people living with disabilities themselves who have been selected for the sample: We need your help, and we have extended the deadline through October!

“This is such critical information to know,” says Kylie Nicholas, a senior research analyst at The Improve Group and a lead on the project. “There is still so much work to be done on social justice for people with disabilities. They experience isolation, lack of access to services, and lack of opportunity. This survey is a rare and very important opportunity for people with disabilities to make their voice heard. This is an opportunity for them to say ‘this is where my life is now, and this is what I want my life to be in the future.’”

The Improve Group is conducting the survey on behalf of the Olmstead Implementation Office, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), and the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS), and with strong support from partners throughout the state, including scores of providers and guardians. The survey is currently gathering baseline data about how people with a range of disabilities are accessing services; to what degree their lives are integrated within their communities; and how much choice and accessibility they have to participate in the activities they enjoy. Several subsequent surveys will be conducted annually with smaller sample sizes, to measure change—hopefully improvement—in quality of life for people living with disabilities in Minnesota.

The survey is unique in the way it has been adapted to communicate with people who have a range of disabilities, so that we can gather as much diverse input as possible from the people the survey and the resulting Olmstead Plan will serve.

“As we look toward the future of the Olmstead Plan in Minnesota, it is essential to have the voices and experiences of people with disabilities shape the goals of the plan,” says Melody Johnson, Community Engagement Specialist with the Olmstead Implementation Office at the State of Minnesota. “This plan will directly impact their lives,” she says. “Our state seeks to create more inclusive and participatory spaces and communities for people with disabilities. It is critical to hear from people with disabilities about what it means to them to choose where they live, work, and enjoy life and how they are able to participate and feel fully included in their communities.”

While the main goal is to gather data, a secondary goal of the survey is to make sure people have the opportunity (many for the first time) to have their feedback heard. “There is power in asking questions and responding to questions,” says Colleen Casey, survey specialist for the project. “Even the questions themselves are a way of connecting with someone who may be isolated. People often tell us they didn’t know they could ask for something new (such as a new service or activity). Some of the survey interviews have prompted people to think about their lives in new ways.”

If you or a provider, guardian or loved one have received a request to participate in this survey, please reach out to our team here at The Improve Group with any questions or concerns.

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