Editor's Column - October 2014

All the signs of the upcoming winter are here: chilly nights, trees turning colors, leaves falling, school kids wearing long pants and hooded jackets. In our house, we brought up our winter clothes, took down the short-sleeved shirts and unpacked the winter blankets. The dog is enjoying being outside more, and the cat is starting to want to stay inside. I hope we can make it through Halloween without a major snowfall, even though snow anytime means a private paradise for my dog.

With all the talk in our community about the Olmstead Plan, I went to a meeting in late September of MN-CCD’s education subcommittee. Darlene Zangara, the new executive director of the Minnesota Olmstead Planning Committee, spoke about progress to date and her plans for finalizing the document. The Olmstead Plan is intended to provide a roadmap of choices and person-centered planning for people with disabilities. The plan will expand housing, work and educational opportunities, and ensure that individuals may participate in all the community activities they might choose. People will also have the supports needed to prosper in their self-directed living environments.

Zangara has a huge responsibility. U.S. District Court Judge Donovan W. Frank requires the Olmstead Plan to meet the conditions for person-centered planning options that he had laid out in his ruling in the Jensen settlement. He expects increased community accessibility as well as measurable outcomes.

The U.S. Supreme Court decreed in 1999 that people should be able to live in “the most integrated setting” appropriate to their needs. The “most integrated setting” requires, in Judge Frank’s ruling in the Jensen case, that the state provide “protections, supports, and services consistent with [each] person’s individualized needs, in the most integrated setting and where the individual does not object.” He also ruled that, “The Court is committed to ensure that the Settlement Agreement is not an empty promise or a meaningless gesture to placate individuals with disabilities…Justice requires no less.”

Creating this plan, while addressing the discriminatory practices that get in the way of its goals, while also ensuring measurable outcomes and good quality of life, are daunting tasks for Zangara and her assistant (Kristin Jorenby, who serves on the Access Press board of directors). Zangara’s office needs the continued involvement of the disability community as well as local government participation to make this civil rights plan a useful, evolving document. I encourage Access Press readers to put your ideas together and convey them to the Olmstead Planning Committee. One of their current challenges is to develop standards for measuring quality of life. It’s an ambiguous and subjective concept. How do you define it?

It’s unfortunate that in Minnesota’s upcoming election on November 4, there will be no Ride to the Polls program as in years past, when several organizations found philanthropic funding to help provide transportation for people with disabilities. I wonder if the Olmstead Plan will require state funding for some kind of ride to the polls.

The Access Press Charlie Smith Award Banquet is November 7. I hope you have all reserved a seat—or a table for your organization. It’s always a good time. One of the best parts of the evening is the chance to spend time with colleagues from your own and other organizations and to talk about things other than work. For me, it’s a treat to get to know people I’ve always admired and to chat a bit about our everyday lives. For you more work-driven folks, there are also opportunities to explain your organizational agenda in a stress-free environment. However you choose to socialize, there are great people, there’s good food and drink, plus all kinds of fun stuff in our silent auction.

This year’s donations range from a tablet computer to a week in Montana in an accessible cabin. Please join the award winners for an epic event and an evening of fun.

We’ll talk next month. Enjoy these weeks of fall!

 

 

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