People and Places – June 2017

Partners in Policymaking graduates class Partners in Policymaking marked 30 years’ service this spring by graduating its latest class. The […]

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Partners in Policymaking graduates class

Partners in Policymaking marked 30 years’ service this spring by graduating its latest class. The graduates were honored with a ceremony in Bloomington. Gov. Mark Dayton declared graduation day, May 13, as Partners in Policymaking Day in Minnesota.

Class members learn how to more effectively advocate for themselves and their family members with disabilities. The leadership training program was started in 1987 by the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities, to serve adults with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities. More than 950 people have graduated from the Minnesota program, which just put out a call for the 2017-2018 class. More than 27,000 people from around the world are program graduates.

This spring’s graduates have their own stories. Although aware of the value of the Partners program, Bonnie Pautsch-Dyakin delayed applying until her three boys were adjusted to their school settings. Very familiar with separation and anxiety she experienced herself in school with serious dyslexia, her mother was always the best example of assertive behavior and consistently advocating for the best school setting.

Pautsch-Dyakin is raising a son with Down syndrome, a second son with autism and another with dyslexia. She credits her Partners training with training and encouraging her testify in a hearing this spring against the parental fee that is added to medical services. She has been an avid advocate of her sons being placed in the best school environment for their success. She has encouraged the schools to provide fully integrated experiences for them.

Toni Malone joined the class to be a stronger advocate for her 14-year-old son, who has Down syndrome. She values the skills she has gained through the class. Malone is most passionate about full inclusion of all students in the educational system. She feels strongly that the federal education law, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, IDEA, must be changed since is does not address the importance of inclusion in the classroom.

Malone highly encourages individuals and parents to apply for Partners. Malone considers the time and energy invested will not be regretted. She valued the outstanding and reputable professionals who spoke to the class and was inspired by the experience and drive of fellow classmates who want to advocate for people with differing abilities. “The experience will leave you feeling more capable and confident to fight for what is right.”

Many of John Fosdick’s friends encouraged him to apply for the class. He learned a great deal from the history of what people with disabilities have gone through over history, of how people have been neglected and abused and forgotten about. Fosdick would recommend this class because of the opportunity to meet interesting people. It expands goals outside of one’s comfort zone when doing skits and role plays. It is well worth the time and for a weekend and a vacation from work.

Bemidji resident Sarah Reiners has five children. Two were born with chromosome disorders. Over several years, she has built an online support group with parents across northern Minnesota who are raising children with disabilities. She applied for Partners in Policymaking to become a stronger advocate for her children so they can have the best life possible.

The program was a wonderful experience for her family and herself. From the class, she learned how to be confident as an advocate and gained knowledge of how to interact with her representatives at the capitol and members of congress. “I would highly recommend anyone who is a self-advocate with a disability or for a family raising a child with a disability to attend. The benefit you get from learning how to communicate needs and tell your story to influence change is empowering!” Reiners has joined the Special Need Advisory Council for her area. “You need to make a commitment.”

Jackson Larson had a spinal cord injury resulting from a car accident and uses a wheelchair. He is currently studying business at the Anoka Ramsey Community College and psychology at Concordia University. He was impressed with the preparations and training provided by the class to gain advocacy skills and reach out to elected officials. After a visit to the capitol, he was impressed that the “elected senators and representatives are not above us, they’re there for us. They represent our voices, so we need to advocate and speak to them about our needs.” Jackson learned that sharing stories puts a face to the issue and proves that it will have an impact on many lives. He recommends the Partners in Policymaking program as a powerful training experience to realize the value of advocating for oneself and others with disabilities.


Minnesota Disability Law Center honored for service

Over the past four decades, the Minnesota Disability Law Center has helped countless Minnesotans with disabilities achieve better lives. The center staff received many well-deserved thanks and congratulations at The Arc Minnesota’s Public Policy Recognition Event on May 25 in Roseville. The center was celebrated for its advocacy and legal work that have protected the rights and services of people with disabilities in Minnesota.

The Arc Minnesota holds its Public Policy Recognition Event annually. The event puts a spotlight on the accomplishments of individuals or groups whose efforts in disability law and/or disability policy have benefited individuals with disabilities and their families. The event offers an opportunity for members of The Arc Minnesota and others in the community to celebrate each honoree’s achievements and to support the work of The Arc Minnesota.

The Minnesota Disability Law Center is the designated protection and advocacy system for Minnesota and addresses the unique legal needs of Minnesotans with disabilities. The center provides free legal assistance to individuals with disabilities statewide on civil legal issues related to their disabilities. All individuals with disabilities are eligible to receive help, regardless of age or income level.

Some client stories are personal. Mai Thor McIntosh, a former center advocate, began the center’s initiative on voting rights. She became a client when attorney Justin Page helping her to find an accessible van. Thor McIntosh cited this as one example of the dedication and effectiveness of center staff. She praised the entire staff’s integrity and the commitment to ensure that people with disabilities were being fully included in the community, and their rights were being upheld.

The Arc Minnesota Senior Policy Director Steve Larson shared his recollection of center activities and successes over the past four decades, through a power point and his own many collaborations. Larson cited Luther Grandquist, a former staff attorney; Center Legal Director Pamela Hoopes and current staff attorneys Anne Henry, Bud Rosenfield and Dan Stewart.

Using scenes from the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” as a backdrop, Larson speculated about what life would be like if, like the movie’s main character, George Bailey, if the center had never existed. His conclusion is that without the center’s work, Minnesota’s citizens with disabilities would not have made great strides towards living and participating in the community, and they would not have the community services they benefit from today.

Larson then presented Hoopes with a plaque expressing The Arc Minnesota’s gratitude to the center for its four decades of service. Hoopes then gave kudos to her colleagues. She gave a special thank you to three Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid staff who are retiring after decades of distinguished service for the agency.

Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid’s Executive Director Cathy and Patricia Siebert were recognized. Henry has been the chief public policy advocate for the center. Siebert has focused on legal issues for people with mental illness.

In 2015 and 2016, the center represented people in 81 of Minnesota’s 87 counties on issues related to their disabilities.

The majority of these cases dealt with advocating for access community services needed for independence, such as Medicaid waiver services, PCAs, and mental health services; and enforcing clients’ individual rights. Read more about the center’s goals and current initiatives on its website.


In Home Personal Care relocates

After 15 years in Golden Valley, In Home Personal Care has found a new home in St. Paul. The new address for home health care agency is 1330 Grand Ave.

In Home was started by Kevin Sullivan, a young flight instructor who broke his neck in a 1984 diving accident. Sullivan drew from that experience to found the agency so that others could maintain their independence and living in their homes while receiving quality care. In Home began in 1991 and continues to be a small, family-owned business. Erin Sullivan Govrik, founder Kevin Sullivan’s younger sister, is the executive director.


Learning, inclusion are grants’ focus

Paul’s Pals enriches the lives of children with disabilities by funding projects that improve access, foster learning and promote inclusion. The Twin Cities nonprofit organization works to enrich the lives of children with disabilities by funding projects that improve access, foster learning and promote inclusion. Paul’s Pals facilitates capital improvements that other non-profits struggle to fund.

This year Paul’s Pals will allocate $245,000 to be shared by six different Twin Cities organizations.

The Autism Society’s Paul Adelman Technology and Learning Center will use its grant to bring affordable and accessible services to underserved and at-risk communities, reaching over 500 users across the state. The center will continue to offer statewide, distance-learning and engagement to support the care and development of youth with autism.

Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute will use a grant to purchase adaptive sports and recreation equipment. The institute will buy new sports wheelchairs and rock climbing equipment that will improve the adaptive sports program, including wheelchair basketball, softball, tennis and power soccer. This will ensure that more than 200 youth with disabilities have access to quality equipment, reducing the barriers for fun and fitness.

In partnership with GameTime, Three Rivers Park District and Minnesota/Wisconsin Playground, Golden Valley Parks and Recreation will use its Paul’s Pals funding to build Schaper Park Inclusive Playground, the first fully-accessible playground in Golden Valley.

Wilderness Inquiry’s Paddling Beyond Boundaries program connects children and families with disabilities to rewarding and challenging outdoor experiences. The organization will expand this program with the addition of three adaptive sea kayaks, made possible by the grant. More than 2,200 children with disabilities alongside their peers can enjoy the opportunity of outdoor recreation.

PACER Center will create a cutting-edge innovation lab to provide parents, professionals, and children with disabilities the opportunity to communicate, learn and increase their knowledge of assistive technology offering life-changing benefits — greater independence, enhancements to learning and increased opportunities for employment.

Upstream Arts will use its grant to create mobile kits, which will include assistive technology and adaptive art supplies for use with interactive arts experiences. These experiences provide access to more than 2,000 children with disabilities to expand their communication skills, peer relationships, and self-esteem through artistic expression.

With game-changing upgrades and boosts to technology and equipment, the organization enables children with special needs to enjoy everyday activities others take for granted. Founded in 1996, Paul’s Pals aims to create a Minnesota where every child finds joy in life and learning because limitations are met with innovative solutions. For more information, visit:


Access U has focus on disability

University of Minnesota journalism students got firsthand experience with a community news organization by creating the Access U website.

As part of the Brovald-Sim Community Journalism Practicum in the spring 2017 semester, students created an online news site for the disabled community at the University of Minnesota. The site was the main project of an upper-level journalism class.

“This year we decided on a different approach, one that would diversify the experience,” said Gayle Golden, who taught the course. “We asked the class to pool their talents to create their own news site for a community in or near campus. It worked beautifully. “The students decided on a mission statement for a site that would “connect students with disabilities by sharing stories about all aspects of life while also furthering discussion around access and stigma.” They discussed the project with guest speakers including Access Press Managing Editor Jane McClure.

Meeting students with disabilities to discuss issues was a challenge because some students with disabilities were initially wary. “Despite obstacles, when we ran into sources who would help, that allowed us to step into the community and see things from that angle. It was amazing to me,” said Barney Min, Access U’s web editor.

Among the stories are profiles of faculty and staff dedicated to mental health awareness or technology accessibility, features on blind and deaf students, athletes with disabilities, campus transition difficulties, building access issues, service animals, and more.

For student Chris Lemke, the community choice was even more meaningful than the many reporting skills he learned. “We chose a community of those who often don’t have a voice or who could use one,” he said. Learn more about the project here.


Minnesota students receive National Unity Awards

Minnesota students and students’ organizations working to prevent bullying were honored May 25 by PACER Center’s National Bullying Prevention Center in Bloomington. The Unity Awards celebrate those who have made outstanding contributions to address and prevent bullying in their schools and communities.

“We hear hundreds of stories every year about individuals who make a positive impact and we are excited that a few of those amazing individuals were honored at the event,” said Julie Hertzog, director of PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center. “The Unity Awards celebrate how much we appreciate the special contributions that are being made across the country to prevent bullying, and to create kinder, more inclusive communities.”

The Faces of Change, the youth advisory board of PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, selected the Faces of Change Award recipients.

Elaina Leitzke of Apple Valley was concerned about the attitudes and behaviors of staff and students toward those in her school with disabilities. She approached the school principal and suggested sensitivity training for staff, and initiated a peer advocate and mentoring group.

Wayzata High School Unified Club is piloting a class that brings together students with and without disabilities in a physical education setting to focus on physical, relational and health topics.

North Branch Area Middle School Student Council empowered every student to take a stand against bullying. Activities included a Student Shout-Out board that highlights students’ positive action.

Watertown-Mayer Middle School invited a group of students to share thoughts on how they view bullying behavior within their school and online community. The students provided staff with a unique student perspective and helped guide school personnel to develop solutions to address bullying.

Eloise Berdahl-Baldwin of St. Paul was honored as a #World-Changer, for her work creating PACER’s “Ask Jamie” column, which offers advice and support  to teens about bullying. John Schulzetenberg of Eveleth received the national United for Inclusion Award, which recognizes outstanding acts to help others feel like they belong and know that they are not alone.

The event was presented by PACER Center and the Faces of Change. The Bloomington Human Rights Commission provided the event space. Bloomington Mayor Gene Winstead and Human Rights Commission Chairman Dennis Kane addressed the group.




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