Minnesota Council on Disability honors six of its exceptional advocates 

The Minnesota Council on Disability (MCD) has presented its Exceptional Advocate Award. The awards got to citizen advocates and legislators who do outstanding work for people with disabilities. Winners are nominated by community members. 

The 2022 honorees are: 

Mary Hauff, Minnesota Inclusive Higher Education Consortium, was nominated by Julia Burkstaller of the Arc Minnesota. 

A consortium co-leader and dedicated parent, Hauff was instrumental in highlighting the need for expanding access to postsecondary education for people with intellectual disabilities. 

Hauff wrote the legislation for the Inclusive Higher Education Act. This bill would broaden access to institutions of higher education for people with intellectual disabilities. While the bill didn’t pass this session, it will be brought back in 2023. 

Representative Kelly Moller (DFL – Shoreview), was nominated by Shoreview resident Mark Hughes. 

“I have had several Metro Mobility Issues with which Kelly has helped me, and she has also helped Lance Hegland on a housing issue,” Hughes said. He praised her work for Minnesotans with disabilities. 

Moeller is an attorney and victim’s rights advocate. She has served as vice chair for Judiciary Finance and Civil Law, and also served on the Education Policy, Human Services Finance and Policy and Behavioral Health Policy Division. 

Ken Rodgers of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) was nominated by Muzamil Ibrahim. 

“Throughout his life, Ken fiercely advocated for people with disabilities to have better access to employment, education and assistive technology. He advocated for the Connect 700 program so that people with disabilities could have a chance to work, earn, and live life as any other non-disabled person,” Ibrahim said. 

Rodgers ensures that the Americans with Disabilities Act is reflected in what MnDOT does. He’s also worked on arts access issues. 

Rep. Brian Daniels (R- Faribault) was nominated by Sonny Wasilowski. 

Daniels is a champion for the deaf, deafblind, late deafened and hard of hearing. His work includes bills to establish sign language interpreters/transliterators board and licensure, modify licensure for teachers of deaf and hard of hearing students, modify licensure for oral and aural deaf education, require closed captioned television on public television, require right of way signage in Faribault for the Minnesota State Academies, and grant right of language for ASL at home and in the community. 

Damon Lievestad was nominated by MCD staff. As a citizen advocate, Lievestad is a champion for people with disabilities and caregivers in Minnesota. Receiving homecare services himself, he created several bills to combat the home care crisis in Minnesota. His invaluable knowledge and years of experience makes him an exceptional leader. 

Lievestad is praised for helping to hold lawmakers accountable during the 2022 legislative session, and for bringing forward issues affecting those who need care and those who provide care. He’s active with the PCA Reform Coalition and with MN Power Hockey. 

Lance Hegland was also nominated by MCD staff as a citizen advocate. Hegland is a strong advocate for Minnesotans with disabilities. He cares deeply about disability rights and equity. He believes that our state government should work for people with disabilities, and he finds creative solutions that help all Minnesotans. 

Hegland recently used his own situation to highlight the care crisis, noting that he had to move from his longtime home into a group home due to lack of staff. 

Additional legislators were also honored. They are Representatives Tony Albright, Jamie Becker-Finn, Steve Elkins, Rod Hamilton, Jessica Hanson. Ginny Klevorn, Tina Liebling, Liz Reyer and Jennifer Schultz; and Senators Jim Abeler, Karla Bigham, John Hoffman, Carla Nelson and Torrey Westrom.