Employment, access eyed

Minnesota gets a C+ on ADA Report Card; is top grade

Minnesota earned a C + on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Report Card issued this summer by the Center for Planning and Policy Studies at Indiana University’s Indiana Institute on Disability and Community. On a 4.0 scale, that’s a 2.30 average.

When asked about overall community improvement over the past five years, Minnesota scored a 3.06 out of 5 possible points.

While a C+ may not sound like anything to show off, Minnesota had the highest overall grade in the Great Lakes region, according to Vicki Pappas, director of the center for planning and policy at the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community. The institute analyzed survey data and worked with DBTAC-Great Lakes ADA Center and ADA Minnesota on the project. Those agencies helped publicize the survey and now, the report card results.

The other five states—Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin—earned Cs.

“At first I was disappointed that we earned a C+,” said Cindy Tarshish of ADA Minnesota. But then she looked at the grades given to other states. “In the context of what we saw elsewhere, I think we did fine.”

“Unfortunately the results were pretty much what we expected,” said Pappas. “Results were consistent from state to state.”

But Tarshish said ADA Minnesota is looking at the survey results as a motivation to continue advancing the gains already made through the ADA, and to focus on areas needing work. “One focus of our 20th anniversary celebration in Minnesota is to continue the fight and this is an incentive for us to do that,” she said.

More than 500 Minnesotans took part in the survey this spring.

In 12 subject areas, Min-nesota’s grades ranged from C to D+. Access to local government and community programs and services, removal of physical barriers in buildings, and accessibility requirement for new construction and renovation each received a C+, their highest grade point averages. Job accommodations, Web site accessibility, use of communication supports and alternative formats, educating people with disabilities about the ADA and access to accessible transportation earned Cs. C– grades were given to the areas of employment opportunities for people with disabilities, and educating business people and government officials about the ADA.

Education about filing ADA complaints got the lowest grade, at D+. “Minnesota organizations need to do much more to educate people about how to file complaints and see complaints through,” Pappas said. But all five other states also earned D+ grades.

Those analyzing survey results expected employment to be a priority and noted that it was. But they were surprised to not see removal of physical barriers in buildings not rank more highly. “No one got a B there,” said Pappas, “and that’s a surprise because of all of the years of emphasis on making buildings accessible.”

The survey revealed that respondents were quite informed about the ADA. Fifty percent of Minnesota respondents indicated that they have good to excellent knowledge of the law.

Respondents get their ADA information from the Internet, ADA Minnesota, Minnesota Disability Law Center and Minnesota State Council on Disability. The fact that ADA Minnesota is viewed as a resource is encouraging to Tarshish.

Pappas said it is our hope people with disabilities, their families and caregivers can use the survey information as they advocate for improved services. “We hope people look at their priorities, how those fared in the survey and continue to work toward improvements.” Tarshish agrees, saying the results should be a motivating factor.

Survey respondents identified their top priorities for action as more employment opportunities for people with disabilities, accessible transportation, education business and government officials about their rights and responsibilities under the ADA, and providing accommodations for employment. Other areas cited as needing attention include removal of physical barriers in buildings, educating people with disabilities about their rights and responsibilities and accessibility requirements for new construction and renovation.

The ADA Report Card Project was sponsored by the DBTAC-Great Lakes ADA Center and ADA Minnesota, with support from the U.S. Department of Education and National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research. The survey was conducted and analyzed by the Center for Planning and Policy Studies at Indiana University’s Indiana Institute on Disability and Community.

The mission of the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community is to work with communities to welcome, value, and support the meaningful participation of people of all ages and abilities through research, education, and service. The Institute collaborates with community agencies, schools, advocacy organizations, government, institutions of higher education, and other community partners to effect improvements in quality of life.

The survey was conducted from May through June. Respondents were asked to grade their communities in how the ADA was being implemented. They were also asked areas in which compliance needs to be improved.

A total of 512 people with disabilities, their family members and advocates took part in the survey. Thirty-six percent of respondents were people with disabilities, with advocates making up another 36 percent. Parents and family members comprised 17 percent, with 11 percent of respondents classified as “other.”

Respondents were from 62 of Minnesota’s 87 counties. Minneapolis and its surrounding suburbs topped the responses at 35 percent, with 23 percent from St. Paul and its surrounding suburbs. Another 16 percent came from northern counties, 9 percent from central Minnesota and 17 perfect from southern Minnesota. Tarshish said that she would have liked to have seen more results from Greater Minnesota.

“People in those communities are dealing with all kinds of issues, especially in the areas of transportation and employment,” she said. “It would have been nice to hear from more of them.”