Editor's Column - May 2014

Access Press will be celebrating its 25th anniversary, starting with this issue. This milestone anniversary is truly a tribute to the Minnesota disability community. It is the strong sense of community that has kept the paper flourishing over the years. There have been many ups and downs, steps forward and a couple steps backward, but all in all our community is one of the strongest in the nation. And if you haven’t seen The Real Story, the documentary done by Access Press exploring the evolution of grassroots and mainstream media coverage of disability issues in Minnesota and in the nation, you should. It can be purchased at www.AccessPress.org or call 651-644-2133. Read more about our history in this month’s History Note.

The 5% Campaign, as we go to print, has not been decided but it looks very promising. If the state of Minnesota is truly committed to community services and support, our legislature needs to commit financially to community-based services. The 5 percent increase in wage reimbursement is a wonderful start but even then it’s not where it needs to be. In my opinion, in order to make community services a reality and a success throughout our community, we need to make home- and community-based caregiving a profession, with benefits and a true livable wage. People doing this work have to be recognized as professionals doing a service for which they are paid wages that equal or better then their peers in other settings. In order to get caregivers who are professional and knowledgeable enough to take care of your children, your grandparents or yourself, the job must be professionalized. Every caregiver of people with disabilities and the elderly needs to be well-trained and dedicated to providing safe, protective, high-quality services that enable independent living. We can’t expect high-quality, dignified homecare based on a clear and respectful understanding of an independent living model without a true investment from state and federal government.

The Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities, in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Human Services and Twin Cities Public Television, has created a video documentary dedicated to the memory of P. Kenneth Kohnstamm, former Minnesota Assistant Attorney General. They premiered Independence to Inclusion on April 24. The film was funded in part by the Jensen case settlement fund and has been aired several times now. The Honorable Donovan W. Frank, U.S. District Judge, served as the master of ceremonies at the premiere. Frank spoke about the Jensen case and how the individuals in this class action suit, like none other he’d been involved with, were far more interested in creating public awareness of the developmental disability community than in the financial settlements. You may remember Access Press’ articles on the METO case, in which Shamus O’Meara, counsel for the plaintiffs, explained some of the critical aspects of the settlement agreement, including staff training around person-centered planning and the establishment of the Olmstead and Rule 40 committees. Both committees are developing plans for a more dignified life for people with developmental and physical disabilities.

If you haven’t seen Independence to Inclusion, I would highly suggest checking your TV guide or it can be seen online here. It’s well worth your time as a lesson in Minnesota’s history concerning people with intellectual and physical disabilities—and the strides that have been made over the years. The film clearly demonstrates the stigmas and stereotypes with which people with developmental disabilities have had to live. It highlights how independence is just one of the components of true “inclusivity.” The next steps we must take are to fulfill the rights and ensure the dignity of all people with developmental and physical disabilities in our community.

Have a good month and enjoy that strange yellow ball in the sky.