MN Commission Serving Deaf/Hard of Hearing has Success in Legislature

Six out of the seven MN Commission Serving Deaf and Hard of Hearing People (MCDHH) approved legislative initiatives passed in […]

Six out of the seven MN Commission Serving Deaf and Hard of Hearing People (MCDHH) approved legislative initiatives passed in the 2005 legislative session. MCDHH successfully lobbied for $1 million in new funds for deaf, deaf blind and hard of hearing services and programs and policy changes were made that strengthen protections for consumers. The commission also worked, with the MN Association for Deaf Citizens in the lead, to pass a tuition assistance bill for deaf students. MCDHH and the Coalition for Children with Disabilities were unable to restore funding that was cut to special education in 2003 (we’ll try next time!). Thanks to CSD for extra support this session. Details are below. Kudos to all MCDHH appointed commission members and members of the deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind communities, their families, supporters and all those who testified and provided technical assistance for helping to make this happen.

Captioning Bill Gives $600,000 over 2 Years for
Real-time Captioning

MCDHH initiated and advocated for legislation that creates a fund for real-time captioning of live news programming in Alexandria, Duluth, Mankato, Rochester and TPT’s Almanac. The funds will make one hour of real-time captioning of news broadcasts available 365 days a year in 4 cities, plus 110 hours of live news on public television. Federal law requires that only the top 25 news markets provide real-time captioning for live news broadcasts; the Twin Cities is the only MN area required to provide them. Now all deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind people (with enough functional vision or adaptive equipment) will be able to enjoy the news daily throughout the state. Thanks to Sen. Metzen and Rep. Knoblach, our chief authors, and to Rep. Gunther, Rep. Westrom and Sen. Ellen Anderson for their help. Thanks to Toni Fairbanks, Marian Lucas and Jamie Taylor for testifying. Thanks to Bill Struzinski at Capitol Hill Associates.

Hearing Aid Consumer
Protection Bill Passes

This law: 1) extends the money-back guarantee period by 15 days (from 30 to 45 days); 2) helps consumers understand the deadlines they have to file a complaint and to return a hearing aid; 3) requires that old hearing aids given to a dispenser or audiologist be returned upon request if the new aids are returned; 4) requires that the audiogram administered by the dispenser to select the hearing aid be provided to the consumer upon request; 5) sets the maximum amount that is charged to the consumer for fitting and processing a hearing aid(s), if returned, to $250 (instead of 10% of the cost of the aid). Thanks to Sen. Sams and Rep. Clark, our chief authors, and to Rep.s Wilkin, Bradley and Abeler for their help and thanks to Sen. Becky Lourey. Thanks to Merilee Knoll and Diana van Deusen for testifying. Thanks also to Keith Weigel at AARP, the MN Speech and Hearing Association and the MN Academy of Audiologists.

All New Construction of MN Schools Required to Follow New Classroom Acoustic Standards

The new law requires that all school districts have to include in their design for new schools how they complied with the American National Standard Institute’s recommendation of a maximum of 35dB background noise and .6 to .7 seconds reverberation time. Studies show that kids have a six month to two year language acquisition delay because of classroom noise. The cost is estimated at $65,000 and was included in the education budget. Thanks to the Coalition for Children with Disabilities and Capitol Hill Associates for their support. Thanks to Dr. Peggy Nelson, Mike Nixon, Rhonda Sivarajah for testifying. Thanks to our chief authors Sen. Wiger and Rep. Abeler and to Rep. Buesgens, Sykora and Erickson and Sen.s Kelley and Stumpf for their help with special thanks to Rep. Krinkie.

MN Employment Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People (MEC)

When the funds were cut in 2003 an estimated 44 deaf and hard of hearing people who have multiple disabilities lost their job supports and probably lost their jobs. MEC received an additional $300,000 for the biennium and will be able to rehire staff to provide the supports and increase the number of people who get and keep their jobs. Thanks to chief authors Rep. Bradley and Sen. Dibble and thanks to Rep. Gunther and Sen. Bakk and Sen. Anderson for their help. Thanks also to Lynne Osterman.

Interpreter Shortage Study

The Department of Commerce agreed to study interpreter shortages in health care settings and will include deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind consumers and sign language interpreters as members of the study group in the study. This was not included in the legislation, but was agreed to by all parties. A report will be made with recommendations to the legislature before or during the 2006 legislative session. Thanks to chief authors Sen. Higgins and Rep. Abeler. Special thanks to John Gross of the Department of Commerce. Thanks to the Children’s Defense Fund, the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans, the MN Council on Chicano Latino Affairs and the Council on Black Minnesotansfor their support.

Collaboration with the MN Assoc. of Deaf Citizens (MADC):Tuition Assistance for Deaf Students Passes

MADC took the lead and got a bill passed that gives tuition assistance to deaf students of any age who qualify for Pell grants. The tuition assistance program provides the remainder of the tuition. Thanks to chief authors Rep. Abeler and Sen. Sandy Pappas. Mike Cashman deserves credit for this one.

Mary Hartnett is theExecutive Director MN Commission Serving Deaf and Hard of Hearing People 444 Lafayette Rd N. St. Paul, MN 55155-3814, mary.hartnett@state.mn.us 651-297-7305 (V) (TTY)

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