It’s great to be back at the capitol. Most agree on that. But many of us who live with disabilities also appreciate hybrid hearings and floor sessions, and how we can still be part of the action.
Those thoughts crossed my mind the other day while trying to navigate an icy sidewalk. There’s one good thing about all of this snow: I had a soft landing. That’s why I am so thankful to watch many hearings and meetings online.
At the same time, many of my friends in our community note that there is nothing like filling a hearing room or meeting. It shows the power of the disability community.
As we head back to hearings and rallies, here’s some good reminders. Whether you are going to the State Office Building or a city hall or county courthouse, keep our new world and our current realities in mind.
*Make sure phones and other devices are fully charged before leaving home. It never hurts to bring a charging cord in case an electrical outlet should magically appear.
*Bring medications, needed supplies, a water bottle and any needed snacks to get through the day. I like to freeze yogurt tubes and carry them or have some crackers and peanut butter packed with me. We cannot always count on finding a vending machine. Hearings and meetings can drag on for longer than we expect and feeling hungry can affect how we feel and how we treat others.
*Leave some things home. My sewing kit stays home because I want to keep my small scissors. My Swiss Army knife does too.
Some halls of government have visitors go through metal detectors. Plan ahead and be ready to have empty pockets, take off a belt and not wear lots of metal jewelry.
The workers are keeping us safe, of course, but I have wondered at what they confiscate. I used to carry a roll of quarters or two for the bus, and once had to really argue to not have those taken away. I was skeptical of getting them back if the wrong person got past a security guard and near the held items.
*Think about parking. The disability-signed spots around the capitol and in other places can fill up quickly. If you are able to drive, make sure you cover the parking fee or are mindful of time limits and restrictions on streets in the capitol area. Also watch for City of St. Paul snow emergencies. Don’t get a ticket or worse, get towed.
*Think about what you will wear. Most of us with disabilities don’t worry about being fashion plates or sashaying like models. But we need to be comfortable.
Meeting rooms can often run hot or cold so keep that in mind. I often wear layers or throw an extra sweater in my bag.
Recent MOHR survey
The organization MOHR recently did a survey that many of its members participated in, looking at our workforce shortage and what impact that has on people with disabilities.
Some of the insights from the survey are striking. One, of course, that most member agencies are serving fewer people than they did pre-COVID. On average members are serving 27 percent fewer people than they did in 2019.
This really caught my eye. Members reported that the average wait list is more than 30 people long, with some wait lists topping out at 100 people. That was a wow moment for me.
Members are understaffed by nine people on average. And, not surprisingly, the biggest barrier to hiring is wages that are not competitive.
Learn “more” about MOHR at https://mohrmn.org/