Editor's Column - November 2012

About 200 people joined Access Press for the ninth annual Charlie Smith Award Banquet on November 2, and it was a blast! We gathered for dinner to honor Chuck Van Heuveln, who was very excited about and honored by the celebration. While many of the people who attended knew of Chuck’s recent success in achieving change in key provisions of Medical Assistance for Employed Persons with Disabilities (MA-EPD), most had not been aware of the long history of Chuck’s legislative accomplishments.

Everyone learned that each of us with a disability has been positively affected by Chuck’s hard work and his tenacity to make Minnesota better for us. Luther Granquist, retired disability law attorney, emceed—and did an excellent job as he’s done in the past. Luther is an icon in the disability community and we are very proud to have him involved with Access Press. Soon Luther will move to California and we’ll miss his history notes. He has said he will write some from a distance—so let’s hope that he’ll feel homesick about one day a month and get inspired to write about Minnesota history.

Mel Duncan, who recently stepped down as Executive Director of Nonviolent Peaceforce and is now the organization’s Advocacy and Outreach Director, and Anne Henry, an attorney at the Minnesota Disability Law Center, the state-wide advocacy organization, both gave awesome speeches introducing Chuck to the crowd. Mel talked about the 40 years he has known Chuck and how back in the early days Chuck and Charlie Smith crossed paths many times as they advocated for voting rights, accessibility and housing issues. Anne spoke about Chuck’s more recent accomplishments, noting that they had only met last year when Chuck began advocating for removal of the age limitations on the MA-EPD program.

We started the night by showing a brief trailer of a documentary film that Access Press is creating in collaboration with some partners, thanks to the support of UCare. The film, which will be released in the spring of 2013, looks at the legacy of media in support of Minnesota’s disability community. The documentary highlights the history of advocacy and activism in Minnesota’s disability community and the role of various media channels in getting the word out. We’re all very excited about this project, and if the response to the trailer is an example of what is to come, it will be a real hit.

In another highlight of the night, Anita Schumer was honored for her service on the Board of Directors of Access Press. Anita has been a great help throughout her tenure. I’m very proud to be associated with every member of the board. Chair Brigid Alseth and vice chair Carrie Salberg keep me on my toes, serving as valuable advocates and advisors, along with treasurer Kay Willshire, secretary Kristin Jorenby, Steve Anderson, Elin Ohlsson and our newest member, Halle O’Falvey. We have one of the strongest boards in my history as director.

Most of all, I want to publicly acknowledge Jane McClure and Dawn Frederick for all their hard work in planning and managing the awards banquet. With all they do in keeping Access Press thriving every single day, these two powerhouses support me in so many ways, I can’t thank them enough!

As we go to press we have just learned that we will have four more years with President Barack Obama. I only hope that the president will have a better time with legislators and that both sides can compromise. The president has some tweaking to do on the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) to get it to the point where it will be a true success and good for all of us in the disability community. I have confidence that Minnesota will be one of the leaders in forging ahead with healthcare for people with disabilities. Another huge struggle will be getting people back to work in well-paid employment. I’m also hoping for education funding so that individuals can get the education they need to earn a living doing what they are good at and want to do.

The constitutional amendment for voter ID was not passed. People with disabilities and senior citizens will not be disenfranchised by requirements that are costly and not needed. The marriage amendment did not pass, either; so as far as I can tell, nothing is changed. But so far, the majority of Minnesotans said we don’t have to restrict our definitions of marriage to one man, one woman.

What a month! Plenty to be grateful for when Thanksgiving comes. Until next time, stay warm.

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