There’s something very exciting about to happen all across the state of Minnesota! Starting next month, 8,000 Minnesotans living with a range of disabilities will be invited to participate in the Olmstead Quality of Life Survey. The survey will help State leaders better understand how to expand choices and community integration for the more than 500,000 people living with disabilities in Minnesota.

The purpose of this survey is to examine the impact of Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan, which is a statewide plan to ensure that people with disabilities are able to live, learn, work, and enjoy life in the most integrated setting. And as the organization tasked with administering the survey, through a contract with Minnesota’s Olmstead Implementation Office (OIO), we are thrilled to be able to connect with thousands of Minnesotans with disabilities about the challenges and opportunities they face each day in their communities.

The origins of Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan are based in the 1999 Supreme Court decision, Olmstead v. L.C., which made it unlawful for states to keep people with disabilities in segregated settings, and required that states show deliberate progress toward greater community integration and choice for people with disabilities. Minnesota began developing its own Olmstead Plan in 2012, as a result of a federal court settlement, Jensen et al v. Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS), which directed the State to show active steps toward expanding community integration for all people with disabilities.  

Through the Olmstead Quality of Life Survey, we hope to examine how well the plan is working for Minnesotans with disabilities. The goal of the survey is to answer the question, “Are you better off now than you were before?” We will be interviewing people with disabilities about their quality of life and what opportunities they have to choose where they live, work, play and engage more fully with their communities. This will provide an opportunity for people with disabilities to share their stories and perspectives on what most impacts their quality of life and what ideas they have for expanding choices and opportunities.

At The Improve Group, we’ve been honored to be a part of this effort since the very beginning. In 2013, we worked alongside the OIO to conduct a pilot of the survey. We connected with over 100 people with disabilities and learned about what matters most to them. We also learned more about barriers to completing the survey, and worked hard to ensure that all people with disabilities are able to share their voices and perspectives.

Our work in the pilot project has prepared us for the next chapter. Between now and October 2017, our goal is to connect with at least 2000 Minnesotans with disabilities. The success of this effort requires that we listen intentionally to the stories, ideas, and dreams of people with disabilities. It will also require support from many partners—including people with disabilities, service providers, families, and caregivers—to reach that ambitious goal.

We are prepared and excited to take on this new challenge. We are expanding our team to support these efforts and to make sure we hear from people with disabilities in every corner of the state. As the survey is implemented, we will continue to share updates on our progress. And once the results have been analyzed, we will work closely with OIO to share what we’ve learned with all Minnesotans.

We are deeply committed to this critical work to listen to people with disabilities about their dreams for a better quality of life. Together, we can all work to ensure that people with disabilities are living, learning, working, and enjoying life in the most integrated and equitable setting of their choice.

Edit: This article has been edited from its original state. This edit acnkowledges that the deadline to take the survey, which was originally through June 2017, has been extended through October 2017.