Deb Wisniewski

Key Medicaid Questions Post-Election

By Deb Wisniewski, 2016-11-30

This is a very interesting website about how the election results might affect Medicaid (and all the programs that are funded through MA). Key Medicaid Questions Post-Election

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SPARKS Grants are designed to organize local grassroots groups that identify and make changes in their communities resulting in a positive impact on the lives of people with disabilities.

Grassroots community organizing means groups working for positive community change for individuals with disabilities on issues that are important to them. SPARKS Grants are available to people with developmental disabilities and family members in Wisconsin.

Activities funded by SPARKS Grants include organizing a local People First chapter; forming a local social justice or civic group that includes people with and without disabilities (this could be a school group); providing for local community advocacy (e.g., developing an inclusive park or accessible garden, expanding community employment opportunities for people with disabilities)

Apply for the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities (WI-BPDD) SPARKS Grants. These Grants provide you with funding up to $3,000, technical assistance, and tools/resources to support your outreach activities.

If you are interested you need to complete an SPARKS Application (if link does not work, cut and paste this URL into browser: 

Send completed application to: 

101 East Wilson Street
Room 219
Madison, WI 53703

The deadline for submission of applications is Friday, July 29th, 2016.   Individuals (or groups) with I/DD who have diverse identities and /or individuals that are underserved are encouraged to apply. 

If you have any questions contact:  John Shaw at 608-266-7707 or 

You can also contact Deb Wisniewski (Sparks Grants Coordinator) at or leave a comment below.

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World Book Night 2014: Sign up by Jan. 5th

By Deb Wisniewski, 2013-12-10

World Book Night is an annual celebration dedicated to spreading the love of reading, person to person. Each year on April 23, tens of thousands of people go out into their communities and give half a million free World Book Night paperbacks to light and non-readers.

World Book Night is about giving books and encouraging reading in those who dont regularly do so. But it is also about more than that: Its about people, communities and connections, about reaching out to others and touching lives in the simplest of waysthrough the sharing of stories.

I participated in this in 2013 and loved it! So cool to give out free books to folks The Deadline to sign up to be a book giver is Jan. 5th. It's a great opportunity for folks with disabilities to do something for their communities.Learn more about this...

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SDS Network News: Sept. 5, 2013

By Deb Wisniewski, 2013-09-05

Connect | Share | Learn |

July 16, 2013

Show Your Pride!

Come celebrate Wisconsin's first Disability Pride Festival!Join us in Madison on July 27th to share our talents, skills, arts, energy, and pride in being who we are. This event builds on a long tradition of disability pride celebrations around the world. Our theme for this year is Forward to possibility.

Learn more about this exciting, upcoming event!

It Only Takes "Five"

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

  • Advance Your Advocacy:Apply for Partners in Policymaking.Self-advocates and family members of a person with a developmental disability (DD) who want to improve their leadership skills are encouraged to apply.
  • Make a Difference:If you are passionate about making a change that will improve the lives of people with disabilities in your community, apply for a SPARKS grant from the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities (BPDD).
  • Job Opening: Disability Rights Wisconsin (DRW) is now accepting applications for Executive Director. Deadline: July 23, 2013.
  • Tell Your Story: BPDD is sponsoring a public awareness campaign, called Better Together. The goal is to raise awareness about the many important roles that individuals with disabilities play in our lives and communities.

Support the Network with "Five":

Join Us for a Coffee Break

Many people don't realize that they can use Self-Directed Supports (SDS) regardless of whether they use Family Care or IRIS for their supports. Join us at one or both of these upcoming Coffee Breaksto share your ideas and questions, to get more connected, andto learn how these two programs enable people to use SDS,. Remember that Network Coffee Breaks are not presentations - they areinformal, livediscussions (chats) on the Network, open to all members.

SDS and Family Care, July 24, 2013:

Do you use Family Care for your supports? How do you self-direct within Family Care? What questions do you have about how Family Care can support your efforts to be self-directed? Join our special guest, Cathy Derezinski, from Community Cares of Central Wisconsin (a Family Care Managed Care Organization).

SDS and IRIS, August 21, 2013:

Do you self-direct your supports through IRIS? Or are you wondering how IRIS can work for you or someone you care about? Maybe you're just not sure what IRIS is. Join our special guest for this Coffee Break,Brenda Bauer, from The Management Group (the IRIS Consultant Agency).

Welcome New Members

Stop by to welcome our newest member.

Do you know someone who should join the SDS Network? Spread the word and invite friends, families and other interested folks!

Upcoming Events

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

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

Thanks to the sponsors of the SDS Network!

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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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Survey: Quick Poll on Holiday Eating

By Deb Wisniewski, 2012-12-12
From the Rehab Research & Training Center on Spinal Cord Injury...
The Holiday season has slowly begun. We attend holiday parties with friends and family and we tend to eat and drink more than the usual. The average American gains 7-9 lbs during the holiday season and our quick poll question this month focuses on holiday eating and suggestions to stay on track on healthy eating.
Also, please stay tuned for our weight management info sheet mid December!
These surveys are an easy way for the RRTC team to hear from the SCI community on certain topics. Information from these surveys will help the RRTC team understand the needs of the community. Please take a moment to take our survey.
We really appreciate your feedback!
The RRTC on SCI at the National Rehabilitation Hospital
102 Irving Street, NW
Washington, DC 20010
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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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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