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Give until year’s end.  The Friends of Access Press group has extended its generous matching gift program for the newspaper’s […]

Give until year’s end.

 The Friends of Access Press group has extended its generous matching gift program for the newspaper’s readers, supporters and stakeholders. Through the end of the year, the program will match donations dollar-for-dollar up to $10,000, doubling your opportunity to promote disability awareness, influence policymaking, enhance services and programs, and increase accessibility for people with disabilities. Please do not miss this chance for a 100 percent match of your donation. 

For the past three years, I have been proud and delighted to serve on the Board of Directors of Access Press, the only organization of its type in Minnesota and one of 12 newspapers in the nation devoted to disability affairs. For nearly 30 years, Access Press has been an outstanding voice for all Minnesotans with disabilities and their families, addressing critical issues such as discrimination, independent living, benefits, poverty, human rights, employment, transportation, education, housing, crime, arts, culture, sports and other life aspects. I share my fellow board members’ enthusiasm for improving the lives of our fellow Minnesotans with disabilities as we strive to keep our organization and newspaper alive in the face of financial challenges. 

I urge you to contribute what you can to keep this voice functioning. 

The community of people with disabilities is the most disadvantaged group in nearly all quality-of-life measures, and the gap remains wide between people with disabilities and people without disabilities. This community is also the only group that could include anyone at some point in life. According to the Social Security Administration, 3 in 10 of today’s 20-year-olds are expected to suffer one or more forms of disability before reaching 67, and nearly 69 percent of the private sector workforce has no long-term disability insurance. 

Furthermore, the most recent American Community Survey (ACS) dataset revealed the following characteristics of the underserved population with disabilities in Minnesota: 

Disability prevalence: In 2017, roughly 11 percent of Minnesota’s population, or 610,000 of the 5,521,400 residents of all ages, reported one or more disabilities. In addition, an estimated 5 percent (220,400) of Minnesotans age 15 and older have independent living disability, while 2.2 percent (115,600) of Minnesotans age 5 and older have difficulty performing self-care activities such as dressing, bathing, or getting around inside the home. 

Employment rate: The employment rate of working-age people (ages 16 to 64) with disabilities in Minnesota was 48 percent, compared with 83 percent for working-age people without disabilities. 

Poverty: The poverty rate of working-age Minnesotans with disabilities was 24.3 percent in 2017, which is more than triple the poverty rate among working-age people without disabilities, 7.2 percent. 

Education attainment: Education Attainment dataset indicated that the proportion of people with disabilities with a university degree (bachelor’s degree or higher) was 16 percent, less than half the nearly 40 percent rate among people without disabilities. 

Those distressing numbers, among many other measures, underscore the importance of Access Press’ vision and mission. Definitely, we have a lot of work to accomplish together to improve the lives of our fellow Minnesotans with disabilities. Your support of Access Press is crucial to our success in keeping the voice of all people with disabilities heard. 

In addition to my membership in the Access Press board, I serve on the board of the Minnesota Commission of Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing, which serves as the principal agency of the state to advocate on behalf of Minnesotans who are deaf, deafblind, and hard of hearing to ensure they have the same access to services, programs and opportunities as people with no disabilities. 

I am also a member of the State Cross-Agency Direct Care and Support Workforce Shortage Working Group, which has been working under the supervision of Olmstead Subcabinet on laying out a strategic vision addressing the crisis in the direct care and support workforce. In Minnesota, the number of unfilled direct support professional jobs started to increase dramatically around 2010, reaching a 20-year high in 2018, and the situation is expected to worsen over time, with thousands more direct support professionals needed in the coming years as baby boomers age and fewer people enter the workforce. 

I am also a selected member of the Minnesota Statewide Independent Living Council, awaiting formal appointment by the governor, so I can have another role in expanding the meaning of “accessibility” beyond physical structures, promoting community integration, and contributing to planning and policies necessary to provide independent living services to people with disabilities. At the Board of Directors of Access Press, I collaborate with the leadership and fellow board members on a wide range of activities that include my roles mentioned here in addition to more. 

Together and with your support, we can keep Access Press strong in advocating for the community of Minnesotans with disabilities. 

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