According to the Indiana Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities, Fifth Freedom’s disability information network is the largest in the state. Fifth Freedom sends over 1.2 million disability alert emails each year about disability programs, training opportunities, special events, voter registration and election information, and time sensitive calls to action.
Whenever Fifth Freedom encounters a possible source for an alert, it goes through a rigorous evaluation process before it is used in a document. Possible sources are evaluated for several factors:
• Author Information – Who wrote it? Is the author identified? One of the first things we look for with any source is an author’s name, bio, or byline. We look for any credentials, degrees, professional associations, and so on.
• Accuracy – If a website offers disability statistics, we compare their numbers to our own data and data from the Census Bureau. If a website purports to be academic, we look for evidence of peer review, the scientific method, and so on.
• Recency – The resource is examined to determine when it was first published and how often it is updated. The site is searched for outdated or “dead” links, copyright and publishing dates, and other such details.
• Objectivity or Bias – Do they mention opposing arguments? Does the source mention sources or experts that disagree? Does the source mention research that contradicts their findings? Does the source mention downsides to their proposal, or the possibility that it might not work as planned? One important thing to watch out for is “weasel words”. Weasel words are an attempt to look like you’re citing other sources when you are really just stating an opinion. “Some people say” or “experts say” or “critics say”.
When an alert focuses on a particular bill or piece of legislation, we research the bill to help our members evaluate the bill and whether they want to support or oppose it. The issues we research include but are not limited to:
1. Costs – The Congressional Budget Office is charged with estimating the costs of major pieces of proposed federal legislation. When a bill creates new federal programs or offices, CBO estimates the cost to taxpayers, how much revenue any new taxes or fees would raise, and whether the bill would add to the budget deficit or not. At the state level, Indiana’s fiscal impact statements offer similar kinds of information.
2. Length – If the bill would create a large program or complex regulation, but it is only a couple of pages long, it is not finished yet. Additions and amendments to the bill may make it less of a good idea than it originally seemed.
3. Lobbying – While donations may be given without any “official” demands behind them, money always has an influence in politics. If the bill first came to our attention from a press release, we always check to see if the press release comes from a lobbying organization with a financial motive to push for the bill.
Fifth Freedom strives at all times to be non-partisan. Our alerts never express or imply support for any particular political party, politician, candidate for office, or piece of legislation.