People and Places – February 2011

Independent living proponent is honored The late Ed Roberts, who is considered by many to be the father of independent […]

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Independent living proponent is honored

The late Ed Roberts, who is considered by many to be the father of independent living, has been honored by the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities. The council, in line with its commitment to excellence in Disability Policy, has created a web presentation about Roberts. The presentation can be seen at 

Roberts was honored in California with Ed Roberts Day on January 23. A bill has been introduced into Congress to have a national Ed Roberts Day. He was well-known as the first person with a significant disability to head the then world’s largest vocational rehabilitation program, the California Department of Rehabilitation.  He was honored with a MacArthur Fellowship for his achievements in changing disability policy and changing the way people with disabilities look at themselves.  He was also one of the founders of the first Independent Living Center in Berkeley, California which grew to a worldwide movement of, by and for people with disabilities

Roberts is remembered by many in Minnesota for his leadership. He led the way in the development of the independent living philosophy that has changed disability policy and attitudes about living with a disability worldwide.  His vision opened the American dream to many of the more than 50 million Americans living with disabilities.

He had a longtime involvement with the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities. He was a key presenter at Partners in Policymaking. He helped Partners in Policy-making expand from Minnesota to an international model of teaching people with all kinds of disabilities, families and ultimately communities to advocate for a better quality of life. 

Legally blind wrestler excels

Ben Goodrich is winding up a successful prep wrestling career despite being legally blind. The Star Tribune featured Ben Goodrich, a Brooklyn Center/Concordia Academy of Roseville co-op team wrestler. Goodrich has built a 23-2 record so far this season on a philosophy of attacking rather than reacting.

“A lot of heavyweights are not expecting you to come out strong,” said Goodrich. “They like to wait, so striking early gives me an advantage because I catch them off guard.”   

Born without irises to help his pupils focus and with a condition called nystagmus that causes involuntary eye movement, Goodrich sees a world of blurred colors and shapes. He competes in football, wrestling and track and field while maintaining a 3.92 grade-point average at Concordia Academy.

The Guillotine wrestling magazine lists Goodrich ninth among heavyweights in Class 2A, and he is set on reaching the state tournament.   

If he gets there, he will have a hard time seeing fans from the Xcel Energy Center competition floor.

“He has an excuse to not be successful, but he doesn’t use it and doesn’t want to use it,” said Nate Gautsch, coach of the Brooklyn Center/Concordia Academy team

A wrestler since fourth grade, Goodrich found the sport satisfied his competitive nature without putting him at the disadvantage he experienced playing sports like T-ball. “You’re in close and there is almost always contact,” Goodrich said. “You know where you are pretty much the whole time so your eyes don’t come into play as much.”

Wrestling allowed Goodrich to be just one of the guys. And he strives to keep it that way. Matches involving wrestlers with vision impairments can be paused and restarted when the wrestlers lose eye contact. Goodrich never requests this provision because he wants “to do the best I can and not give anyone something to say against me.”

He has 20/200 vision in his right eye, 20/300 vision in his left. When using a monocular on his right eye, Goodrich can read street signs and the numbers on a bus — things that will help him navigate the University of Minnesota campus beginning next fall. Goodrich was accepted into the Carlson School of Management.

Veteran visits Oprah

Can Do Canines’ recent graduate, Sergeant Corey Briest and his wife, Jenny, were on a special edition of the Oprah Winfrey Show January 27. The show was titled “The Bravest Families in America” with First Lady Michelle Obama, Tom Brokaw and Bob Woodward.   

Briest and his mobility assist dog Baker graduated in November 2010. This is the first Can Do Canines’ pairing of a disabled Iraq veteran and one of the program’s assistance dogs.   

The show was filmed at the Briests’ family home in Yankton, S.D. and then in Chicago. About 14 minutes of the show focused on the family. Little if any video of Baker made it on air because the focus was on military families coping with the wounds of war. Read more about Baker and the Briests at

New services for deaf patients   

Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) sees nearly 60 to 80 deaf patients each month, including patients who do not speak English. Having a language barrier as well as hearing loss can make communication challenging in any setting, and explaining health information requires special attention.   

HCMC has repurposed “Easy Street,” an interactive area that features simulations of real life situations where patients can practice skills like shopping and getting in and out of cars and buses. With the help of Deaf Community Health Workers Anita Buel and Mary Edwards, Easy Street now houses the Deaf Immigrant Center for Education (DICE), funded by the Hennepin Health Foundation.  HCMC patients, the Adult Bilingual Education program in St. Paul, as well as local high schools with deaf-centered curriculums come for education and safety training   

Hennepin County Medical Center is a nationally recognized Level 1 Adult Trauma Center and Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center with the largest emergency department in Minnesota

St. Paul teen is competitor   

Amber Hougo, 19, of St. Paul, will represent Minnesota in the 2011 Young Soloist Competition, sponsored by VSA: The International Organization on Arts and Disability.   

Hougo’s entry, which was selected as Minnesota’s senior division and overall winner, features her as both vocalist and guitarist performing three original compositions. Hougo is now being considered nationally along with applicants from all of the states and U.S. territories. She hopes to be one of four applicants (two national and two international) to be chosen to receive cash prizes and to perform this summer at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.   

Rachel Hastings, 18, of Plymouth was chosen as Minnesota’s junior division Young Soloist winner. Hastings submitted three pieces on piano, including Debussy’s Claire de Lune and Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata.  Both young women were surprised and excited when they learned they had been chosen as division winners. Each will receive a $100 gift card from Schmitt Music.   

The VSA International Young Soloists Award annually recognizes outstanding young musicians with disabilities. The Award supports and encourages them in their pursuit of a career.  Minnesota has been the home of two past national winners: Aria Stiles in 2010 and Stephanie Dawn Stomberg in 1995.  Stiles, currently a junior at Eastview High School in Apple Valley, performed on violin at the Kennedy Center in June 2010 as part of the VSA International Festival.  Stomberg still performs as a vocalist and currently resides in Texas with her family.   

Doug Schmitt and Schmitt Music in Brooklyn Park have sponsored the state’s Young Soloist Competition for the past three years.  This year’s judges for the state competition were Dr. Michael Silverman and Todd Schwartzberg of the Music Therapy Department staff at the University of Minnesota’s School of Music.

Pro Bono Publico awards   

The Hennepin County Bar Association (HCBA) annually recognizes three attorneys who have made a significant contribution through pro bono service. The awards are presented in recognition of the time, knowledge, and devotion given utilizing legal skills for the good of the community. The 2011 recipients will be honored at the 31st annual Bar Benefit on March 8.   

Three distinct award categories honor the dedication of volunteer services. The Distinguished Service Award recognizes an individual for career-long volunteer work on behalf of the community and the two Excellence Awards recognize current or recent excellence in service by individuals–one from the private sector and one from the public/judicial sector.   

Macpherson received the Public/Judicial Sector Pro Bono Excellence Award. Macpherson has been a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis and has championed the rights of people with disabilities since 1994, earning a national reputation.  As a result of his advocacy, deaf people now have improved access to medical care in our state.  In addition to his advocacy, Macpherson has trained hundreds of attorneys and mediators on disability discrimination law, and trained new state court judges on communication access in the courts.   

Macpherson has not only made a significant difference in lives of individuals, but has also helped to reshape the systems of justice in Minnesota.   

Tinkham, recipient of The Distinguished Service Award, is of counsel at Dorsey and Whitney, where he formerly served as chair of the commercial litigation practice group. Tinkham led efforts to improve access to the judicial system by low-income people and to increase pro bono service in the profession.

Moheban will be recognized with the Private Sector Pro Bono Excellence Award. Moheban, a shareholder with Leonard Street and Deinard, co-chaired the firm’s Pro Bono Committee from 1995 until 2007.

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