Council's Corner - October 1991

  At its September 19 meeting, the Minnesota State Council on Disability chose access to health care for persons with disabilities as its primary legislative initiative for the coming year.  This is an issue whose time has definitely come, and it will require a good deal of concentrated effort.  Among the specific health care issues of concern are basic guaranteed health care insurance coverage, unfair discrimination on the basis of disability by insurance companies, and restrictions in programs like Medical Assistance.  Most of the work in dealing with the issue of basic coverage will be done in cooperation with other disability groups through the Coalition on Health Care Issues for Persons with Disabilities, a coalition established by the Council nearly two years ago.

In addition, the Council will continue to respond as appropriate to issues brought to it for its consideration by other organizations.  If any of these issues look like they would benefit from Council intervention and leadership, the Council may add them to its legislative priorities.

Physically, the Council is encouraged to see that the Department of Human Rights has taken favorable action with regard to the Commissioner’s charge filed against the Regional Transit Board (RTB) concerning the new Metro Mobility fare structure.  This charge was brought largely because of concerns raised with the Commissioner of Human Rights by the Council and other advocacy groups.  We will continue to monitor this issue very closely through our membership on the RTB’s Transit Access Advisory Committee.

In the area of access, the Council is involved in several projects which include spearheading a project to survey all county courthouses, providing input to building code changes and access training at building code conferences.

Several years ago the Council conducted a “bare bones” survey of all county courthouses throughout the state.  The results were both startling and disappointing: of 87 county courthouses, only one could respond affirmatively to the questions on our survey.  The Council has now decided to initiate another project to resurvey the courthouses with a more detailed, comprehensive survey.

The Council is seeking volunteers to assist with the actual access survey.  If you are interested, please call Margot at 297-2920 metro (V/TDD) or 1-800-652-9747 statewide (V/TDD).

The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) required final regulations to be published one year after it was signed into law.  The final regulations contained access standards which will go into effect on January 26, 1992.  In instances where the ADA regulations are stronger, they will automatically supersede the state code and vice- versa.

The Building Code & Standards Division of the Department of Administration has initiated a process to adopt the new ADA access standards as our state code.  In some instances, though, the current state code is clearly stronger.  For example, state code requires a vertical grab bar to be located next to the horizontal grab bar in restrooms.  The ADA access standards only require a horizontal grab bar; they do not require a vertical grab bar be installed.  The Council is seeking input from individuals as to what state language should be retained and amended into the new code.  If you are interested in providing input, please put your comments in writing and send them to the State Council on Disability, 121 East 7th Place, Suite 145, Saint Paul, MN 55101.

Council staff will be participating in ten Building Code Conferences this Fall and will have an opportunity to discuss the new ADA access standards with building code officials throughout the State.

Council staff continues to conduct presentations on the Americans with Disabilities Act around the state.  Recently, Kurt and Margot had an opportunity to present ADA information via an interactive teleconference hook-up at the St. Paul Technical Institute.  The teleconference provided a link with two other technical institutes in St. Cloud and Pine City.  In addition, presentations were made at the Minnesota Institute of Legal Education and the League of Human Rights Commissioners as well as to a group of Multiple Sclerosis health care professionals.