According to OBVI's objectives and mission, those who participate in the Office's programs and receive its services should be better able to remain independent in their own homes, enjoying active and productive lives filled with meaningful activities and relationships. In order to assess its program effectiveness and improve service delivery to blind and visually impaired persons in Wisconsin, the Office conducted a participant satisfaction survey from May through September 2004.2 Consumers throughout the state who had received services from the Office and completed their program participation during this five-month time period were given a survey form to complete. Participants were allowed the option of providing survey information by telephone if this method would better accommodate their needs.
The survey form (See Appendix A, Program Participant Survey) comprises three sections. The first section includes demographic information asked of each respondent. The second section includes eleven multiple choice statements regarding the respondent's experience as a result of receiving services from the Office. The third section includes two open ended questions regarding the respondent's experience after receiving services. Respondents were given the option of providing their names at the end of the survey form.
Office for the Blind and Visually Impaired field staff distributed a total of 272 paper survey forms to persons who had completed receiving services between May and September, 2004. Six of the respondents requested that they be contacted by telephone in order to complete the survey. However, only two of the six could be reached after three attempts. A total of 227 surveys were returned to the central office for a response rate of 83 percent. Since some were missing too many responses to be included in the analysis, the following statistics are based on 223 surveys completed with adequate information. Because respondents sometimes chose not to answer a specific question, some of the tables in this report are based on a smaller total number of responses.
B. Respondent Characteristics
Respondents' ages ranged from 40 to 102 years. The largest share (58 percent) were 80 years old or older. More than three in four respondents were women (72 percent of all Wisconsin residents age 85 and older are women). Nearly all were white (97 percent), reflecting the race makeup of the older population as a whole (the same share of Wisconsin's 85+ population is white).
Respondents were significantly more likely than the older population as a whole to be living alone. Whereas 29 percent of Wisconsin's 65+ population (and 42 percent of the 85+ population) lives alone, fully 58 percent of survey respondents did. A large majority (88%) lived in a private residence, such as a house, apartment, or condominium. Community-based residential facilities housed another seven percent, and the remaining four percent lived in nursing homes. Their residences were about evenly distributed between metropolitan counties (52 percent lived in cities of 50,000 or more) and nonmetropolitan counties. Since about two-thirds of Wisconsin's older population as a whole lives in metropolitan counties (those 65+ as well as those 85+), metropolitan counties are somewhat underrepresented in the survey.
Results of the 2004 survey indicate that OBVI services are advancing its objectives for the majority of individuals served. At least 70 percent of respondents reported satisfaction with each of the specific objectives measured with the survey questions.
More than nine out of ten respondents said that they felt safer moving around where they live and accomplishing daily activities, and that they felt more confident that they could maintain their current living arrangements. Between 80 percent and 90 percent said that they had learned to do some abandoned activities differently through OBVI's instruction; that they were better able to move around their homes, prepare meals, and manage housekeeping tasks; that they had learned ways to continue to enjoy reading and participate in activities with family, friends, and community; and that they were better able to cope emotionally with the challenges of vision loss. A smaller proportion of respondents (70 to 80 percent) said they had more control over decisions important to their lives and were better able to manage paperwork tasks such as mail and check-writing.
D. Goals for Quality Improvement
The survey is useful to OBVI, as well, for highlighting potential areas for quality improvement in the coming years. The results suggest that participants could particularly benefit from enhanced assistance in developing the skills to manage household administrative tasks like bill paying, mailed correspondence, and check writing. Additionally, 20 to 30 percent of respondents indicated that they did not experience improved control over decisions important to their lives. Further discussion with participants, either through additional surveys or a more informal process such as focus groups, could help OBVI to spell out specific measures to give blind and visually impaired people better control over their lives.
2 At the beginning of the 2004 program participant survey, the administering agency was named the DHS Bureau for the Blind, and this name appears on the survey instrument. In 2005 the name was changed to Office for the Blind and Visually Impaired, which is how it will be referenced here.