Stay informed of the latest happenings at the Eau Claire Community Foundation.
ECCF Announces Access Eau Claire Fund
The Eau Claire Community Foundation is pleased to announce a new fund established by Dr. Katherine Schneider of Eau Claire - the Access Eau Claire Fund. The purpose of this fund is to provide Chippewa Valley non-profit organizations funds to initiate efforts towards the full inclusion of people with disabilities in their leadership, programs and services.
Dr. Schneider has been a resident of Eau Claire for more than twenty years. She has given many talks to local groups about access issues and living as a blind woman in Eau Claire. She believes that the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Help America Vote Act and other legislation has improved access for the one out of seven people who have a disability. She asserts that people with disabilities still need to be involved on governing boards of non-profits and advisory boards to city and county agencies so that access issues will be raised as programs and services are designed.
Dr. Schneider is encouraging all members of the community who value inclusion of people with disabilities to donate to the Access Eau Claire Fund. Gifts of all sizes are encouraged and are tax deductible. Donations can be made by sending donations to the Eau Claire Community Foundation, with this fund designated as the recipient or online on the foundation's webpage.
Recently, Scott Morfitt, Grants and Public Relations Specialist with the Eau Claire Community Foundation interviewed her about the Access Eau Claire Fund.
SM: Living in Eau Claire, what has been your experience and/or challenges as a person living with a disability?
KS: Because I'm blind, my challenges with accessibility are information access and transportation issues, occasional challenges of my guide dog by people who don't know the laws about service animals and attitudinal challenges. For example, someone speaking to a sighted friend instead of doing business with me or assuming that the friend is my "keeper."
SM: Have you seen any improvements since you have been in Eau Claire? If so what are they and why do you see them as a positive?
KS: I've lived in Eau Claire over twenty years. That whole time I've found most people to be friendly and willing to accommodate my needs once we talk about them. Because of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Help America Vote Act and other legislation, I've seen access for the one out of seven people who has a disability increase greatly in my lifetime. Information access has gotten better because of screen readers for computers so I can receive documents needed for meetings ahead of time electronically, use the library's website to search for audio books, etc. I do a good bit of speaking to groups about access issues and hope that that has helped make people aware of problems and solutions as well.
SM: What structural changes should be made for Eau Claire to become a more accessible place?
KS: People with disabilities should be involved on governing boards of nonprofits and advisory boards to city and county agencies so that access issues will be raised as programs and services are designed. Info about how to request a disability accommodation should be put on all websites and fliers advertising programs and services.
People need to consider that half the people over sixty-five have disabilities, so if they don't have a disability now, they may in the future. Then they can think what needs to happen so that if they developed a disability they could still live the good life in Eau Claire. Then they can pay it forward by working to make those changes now where they live, work, play and pray.
As the people with disabilities are included more in the life of Eau Claire, their gifts will be added to the mix, making Eau Claire a richer community as well. It all boils down to asking what the needs are, offering to help meet them and enjoying the added dimension that disability awareness gives to a situation.
SM: How would you like to see local non-profits structure their approach towards accessibility?
KS: I'd like to see local nonprofits ask people with a variety of disabilities to be partners in assessing the accessibility of the staff, programs, facilities and services. Then goals can be set for improvement where needed and full participation celebrated where it exists.
SM: What do you hope to accomplish through starting a fund to address these needs in the community?
KS: My vision is of full inclusion of people with disabilities in the leadership of and programs and services offered by Chippewa Valley nonprofit organizations.
The mission of the Access Eau Claire Fund is to provide Chippewa Valley nonprofit organizations funds to initiate efforts toward full inclusion of people with disabilities in their leadership, programs and services. Initiatives funded could include (but are not limited to):
- Staff training on disability access issues
- Inclusive materials like adapted equipment
- Sign language interpreter, captioner or aide services for a program
- Materials in alternate formats like Braille
- Special program initiative of the organization to reach out to people with disabilities
- Sponsoring a speaker with a disability to educate a group about disability issues
- Seed money for a fundraising campaign to make a major access improvement to a facility
SM: Why would you suggest that others join you in giving to this fund?
KS: Contributing to the Access Eau Claire Fund will help friends, neighbors, family members and maybe themselves enjoy full involvement in all the great opportunities we have here in Eau Claire. When all are included, community life is richer. Each of us can help make that happen whether we have a disability or don't yet have any.
SM: Is there anything else you would like to share with the community?
KS: I've been living with blindness since birth and have benefitted from many people helping make access happen for me. Most times accessibility is more about thinking ahead of time how can we do this than about spending big bucks to make it happen. The Access Eau Claire fund will be able to make grants to nonprofit organizations once it reaches $10,000. They will be small grants but will achieve big results.
If you are interested in making a donation to the Access Eau Claire Fund you can do so at: on the fund donation page.