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June, 2003 - SMAC in the News

Marketing center for students conducting survey to determine need for handicapped accessibility for future housing

Larry P. Magrath

A census survey with questions about disabilities and residential accessibility issues is being conducted in Lyon County this summer.

Results of the survey could be used to create a model to help determine what percentage of housing units should be handicapped-accessible in a given county in coming decades.

The telephone survey is being conducted by student workers with the 1-year-old Southwest Marketing Advisory Center at Southwest Minnesota State University.

“The less people we have hanging up on us the better results we'll have on the people living in this area,“ said Amanda Dahlhoff, the center's managing director. “The more information and the more data we have the better.“

The survey includes approximately 9,000 residents in Lyon County. It is being funded by a federal grant given to the Metropolitan Center for Independent Living based in Marshall.

The independent living centers help aging people deal with issues of accessibility. The goal of the center is to keep people in independent living arrangements as long as possible.

“What we're hoping is that when this survey is done and if there's enough demographic analysis, it can be a model that can be used by other municipalities in the state of Minnesota to project the need for accessible housing,“ said Steve Thovsen, director of the Southwestern Center for Independent Living.

Lyon County was chosen in part because it is considered a regional center, the size of the hospital, the Southwestern Center for Independent Living is here and because of its rural farming roots, Thovsen said. An accurate model of what percentage of single-family housing needs to be handicapped accessible is lacking, Thovsen said.

The student surveyors are battling public perceptions about telephone solicitations, said Mike Rich, the executive director of the Southwest Marketing Advisory Center.

“Legitimate surveys serve a very useful purpose, which really benefits all people eventually,“ Rich said. “Unfortunately, there's a lot of people trying to sell under the disguise of a survey. They call and say they are taking a survey. My favorite was the freezer plan: 'We're taking a survey of the amount of meat consumed by the American family.' They talk to you for about two minutes and then say, 'well you might be interested in our freezer plan.'“

“That's why when you call up someone and you say you're doing a survey, even if you are doing a survey, they figure you're trying to sell them something,“ Rich said.

“One thing that helps is the reputation of the university is strong and so far the reputation of the advisory center is strong. We tell them we're from Southwest Minnesota State University and we're the Southwest Marketing Advisory Center and we're trying to gather information on whatever it is, and most of the time people will be OK,“ Rich said.

For further information, call 507-537-7102 or e-mail:

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