Last June the Commissioner of the Department of Employee Relations (DOER) eliminated the hiring goals at the State of Minnesota for people with disabilities (see page 1). If this had been any other minority group it would have been front-page news in the mainstream press and people would have been enraged. A group of advocates were very upset and contacted the commissioner asking for an explanation. A task force was formed to look into the issue. It appears the biggest problem is the lack of accurate numbers when it comes to people with disabilities in the state workforce.
Accurate statistics have been a problem in the disability community throughout history. The numbers have always been sketchy or difficult to read. Normally people rely on the U.S. census to tell them how many people are in a minority group, unfortunately people with disabilities have never been accurately counted in the census. The questions about disability have been very vague on the forms and many people do not want to identify as a person with the disability. We can only hope that when the 2000 census is interpreted the numbers will be more accurate. If not, I believe there should be a national research project. We need to know how many people with disabilities there are and a breakdown of how they are participating in our society.
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David Skilbrad is the new Executive Director of the Minnesota State Council on Disabilities. (see page 3) The council can play an important role in the lives of people with disabilities in Minnesota. Over the past few years the Council has not been as active as it could have been. I would like to welcome Mr. Skilbrad to our community and hope he can get up to speed on many of the issues facing the disability community at the legislature. This isn’t an easy task; we will need to give him sometime to start building relationships with other state departments and the community.
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A new cartoon debuted in October featuring a little boy in a wheelchair, Pelswick (see page 6). Although this may seem like a minor development for those of us who don’t watch cartoons, in reality this may have a huge impact on the children who do. It will start breaking down barriers of the attitudes young people have towards disability. If young children start to see the disability as just another way of living life, they may carry a new attitude towards disability into adulthood. Wouldn’t that be great? I’ve always felt that if we could change people’s attitudes towards disability, we would not be treated as second class citizens.
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Mark Hughes, co-chair of the St. Paul Advisory Committee of Disability, has moved his cable TV show to a regular broadcast channel. The show can now be seen on Channel 45, Saturday mornings at 9 AM (see page 11). It is shown once a month. We will start carrying Mark’s schedule in the paper so you can all stay tuned.
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Congratulations to Congresswoman Betty McCullom and Senator Mark Dayton. They will be great representatives for Minnesota and friends of the disability community. The re-count is still under way for President… I am keeping my fingers crossed for Al Gore to pull it out.