The story of Access Press: 25 Years of Disability News in Minnesota

As covered by Access Press, Compiled by Jane McClure. The story of disability in Minnesota, as told through the pages of […]

As covered by Access Press, Compiled by Jane McClure.

The story of disability in Minnesota, as told through the pages of Access Press, is one of victories and defeats, activism and awards. Come with us on a trip back through the past 25 years. Our entire archive of past issues is also available online. 

 

May 1990

Access Press published its first issue, proclaiming that “a new monthly publication assumes an advocacy role for tens of thousands of previous under-represented Minnesotans – those with physical or mental disabilities.” The issue included a congratulatory letter from Gov. Rudy Perpich, who wished founding Editor Charlie Smith good luck in the new venture. The first-ever Access Press Directory of Organizations was published.

 

July 1990

Articles described the difficulty of finding accessible public transit. The Regional Transit Board (RTB) hosted meetings to seek input on the need for better transit access. Metro Transit buses were being equipped with lifts, but it would take 12 years to make the bus system 100 percent accessible.

 

August 1990

Passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was front-page news. “The bill is the most comprehensive anti-discrimination law to go into effect since the 1964 Civil Rights Act,” an article stated. “The ADA will bar discrimination in transportation, telecommunications, public accommodations and employment.”

 

September 1990

Several thousand low-income older Minnesotans who were eligible for cash benefits from the federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Program miss out because they either didn’t know about the benefits, don’t understand them or can’t figure out how to apply. As many as 50 percent of those eligible weren’t participating in the program.

 

October 1990

Growth in the assistive technology field was described, with a focus on state efforts for the past five years. Perpich was noted for leadership in promoting assistive technology and for an awards program to honor those who devised assistive technology items. The winners of Minnesota System of Technology to Achieve Results (STAR) awards were announced.

 

November 1990

The Closing the Gap conference in Bloomington offered a way to exchange information on special education and rehabilitation. More than 1,300 people attended the many workshops and visited more than 500 exhibitors.

 

December 1990

New Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin was profiled. The commissioner, whose district includes much of South Minneapolis, wanted people who use county health and human services to be more involved in decisions affecting those services. McLaughlin would write an Access Press column for a few years.

 

January 1991

Organizers were preparing for the Eighth Annual Special Olympics Games, to be held at locations throughout the area in July. It would be the largest international multi-sports competition ever held in Minnesota. Volunteers were sought to help with events at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, the state capitol in St. Paul, the University of Minnesota campus, Minnesota State Fair and National Sports Center in Blaine.

 

 

February 1991

The Minnesota Health Care Access Commission, appointed by state lawmakers in 1989, presented its final report on the state of healthcare. The fact that thousands of Minnesotans lacked health care pointed to a system in need of reform, according to the report. High costs of health care and difficulty in even finding basic health insurance were other issues raised. More than 10,000 Minnesotans were surveyed as part of the report.

 

March 1991

Affordable, accessible housing was the focus. Smith noted in his editor’s column that the problem was growing as federal home ownership efforts hadn’t expanded significantly since the 1940s. More subsidies were needed to provide needed housing.

 

April 1991

In his column, Smith wrote, “The Metro Mobility Program needs full funding and a commitment of future growth.” He noted that Metro Mobility was improving and drawing more riders each year, but that its funding needed to come from general taxation and not just riders who could least afford rate increases.

 

May 1991

The waning days of the 1991 legislative session were met with dismay by Smith, who chided lawmakers for a lack of action. He scolded disability community members for not being more involved. He said discussions of the state’s budget shortfall were used as an “alibi for inaction” to ignore issues including health care reform. There was also frustration with possible personal care assistant (PCA) and Metro Mobility cuts.

 

June 1991

Access Press reviewed its first year, with the headline “Win Some, Lose Some.” Smith said the next six months would be a turning point for the paper in terms of revenues and growth. Smith called Gov. Arne Carlson “Reagan in a Gopher Suit.” Carlson had just vetoed the health care access bill. “Minnesota was to be a trend-setter in the nation in this piece of legislation, even the watered-down version which finally passed,” Smith wrote.

 

 

July 1991

Despite 97-degree temperatures, Metro Mobility riders in the Fair Fares Coalition rallied in front of the governor’s mansion. Not only had service been cut, fares had doubled. One protest sign stated “RTB is taking us for a ride.”

 

August 1991

Metro Mobility’s future was still in doubt. Prohibitions on Metro Mobility spending and problems with a voucher program for the neediest riders complicated the problems riders faced. Smith noted the frustration with transit funding, noting that while Metro Mobility funding was hard to find, funding for light rail transit studies seemed to magically appear out of nowhere.

 

September 1991

The dispute over Metro Mobility service cuts and fare hikes continued as Minnesota Department of Human Rights Commissioner David Beaulieu charged that the RTB discriminated on the basis of disability under the state human rights act.

 

 

October 1991

In the battle for universal health care, the Minnesota Council of Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) announced a proposal that would provide health care coverage for all Minnesotans by mid-1997. Reforming the HMO and insurance industries and making coverage available to everyone was the basis of the plan.

In an editorial, Smith urged more be done to lower fares and improve services with Metro Mobility, noting that many had had to quit their jobs or cut travel in light of higher fares.

 

 

November 1991

Ways to become self-supporting while retaining benefits was the topic of a series of articles. The Plan for Achieving Self-Sufficiency or PASS was outlined. It allowed a person with a disability to work toward financial independence.

 

 

December 1991

History and current services of Gillette Children’s Hospital were featured. Gillette had served children with disabilities for 100 years, with about 850 patients admitted each year and more than 30,000 annual outpatient visits.

 

 

January 1992

Wheelchair aviators were flying high. Mindy Desens, owner of Lucky Mindy Aviation in Litchfield, offered training and support for pilots, with Richard Logan. Logan provided ground training and training on use of hand controls.

The “Hello Nichole” advice column featured a letter from a young person with cerebral palsy, preparing to move to his first apartment despite family objections.

 

 

February 1992

Access Press and the ADA statewide Steering Committee on Accommodations were gathering information on business that didn’t provide access, with the intent of publishing that information at a later date.

 

 

March 1992

Access Press published information on the federal universal health care act of 1992, which Sen. Paul Wellstone was championing. Other plans were outlined, by California Gov. Jerry Brown, President George Bush and the Minnesota Medical Association. Readers were urged to compare plans.

At the capitol, community members jammed the rotunda twice to protest further cuts to Metro Mobility and cuts to PCA programs. For Metro Mobility, elimination of suburban routes, cuts to evening and weekend service and elimination of trip assurance were proposed. Pending PCA program cuts were part of $100 million in Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) cuts proposed by Carlson. PCA services had already been cut in 1991 and advocates feared further cuts would result in institutionalization of people who currently live independently.

 

 

 

April 1992

Sister Kenny Institute announced a new temporary help program, providing employment for people with disabilities. The jobs ranged in length from four hours to two years, and provided many opportunities.

 

May 1992

Sen. Linda Berglin and Rep. Paul Ogren explained the HealthRight Program, the state’s new medical plan. They explained who is eligible and how to apply, as well as how the program would be financed. The program would provide more access to health care, while containing costs. The program was not free and people would have to pay for coverage.

 

 

June 1992

Debate continued to flare over RTB’s handling of Metro Mobility. Riders and advocates packed a recent open house. There was frustration that information was not clear and was at times contradictory. “It seems the confusion will never end,” Smith said. He scolded the board for presenting and then retreating from plans. Many were angry and confused, and unclear as to how services would be affected.

 

July 1992

More than 200 people attended the first-ever national conference on violence and substance abuse for the deaf community. The conference, organized by Perspectives Inc., was held in Bloomington and was considered to be a great success. The conference theme was “Breaking the Silence.”

 

August 1992

New rules covering employment discrimination under the ADA became effective this summer. Disability community groups were working hard to ensure small businesses that they could help meet their employees’ needs without incurring high costs.

 

September 1992

Access Press published a special; higher education edition, explaining how most state colleges and university meet if not exceed ADA regulations. A school-by-school review of accommodations was presented, for students with learning and physical disabilities.

Congressman Jim Ramstad hosted a forum to discuss barriers in current laws that prevent Americans with disabilities from finding gainful employment. Ramstad wanted to improve work incentive program and hear from community members.

 

October 1992

Disability Employment and Awareness Month was marked with a rally at the state capitol and other events, and in articles. Smith remarked that the event was positive and had a good impact on the community, but questioned why it didn’t get more coverage from Twin Cities news media.

 

 

November 1992

The early days of Arc Minnesota were outlined. It started as a Minnesota group focusing on children but had grown into a national organization for people of all ages who face developmental disabilities.

 

December 1992

Sister Kenny Institute and Sister Elizabeth Kenny were featured. She opened her first clinic in 1933, starting what would become a worldwide treatment model. She came to the United States in 1940, traveling to Minneapolis to help doctors deal with a polio outbreak here. Her work expanded to its own ward at the University of Minnesota, and then to a rehabilitation center in Minneapolis’ former Lymanhurst School.

 

January 1993

The Guthrie Theater announced the implementation of its audio description or AD program, a new service to make theater-going more enjoyable for the blind or people with low vision. AD was gaining popularity across the country.

 

 

February 1993

Access Press and Smith were honored by the Goodwill/Easter Seal Society with the outstanding print media award. The award was given for outstanding reporting and analysis of issues affecting people with disabilities.

 

March 1993

Sticks and Stones, a video documentary produced by Advocating Change Together (ACT), made it debut at the Minnesota History Center. The documentary highlighted the state’s self-advocacy movement and its history.

April 1993

Minnesota ADAPT was involved in debate over PCA care versus nursing homes during the legislative session and in the community. ADAPT leader Barb Knowlen was among those arguing that nursing home admissions were more focused on the financial health of the facility and less about the client’s health.

 

May 1993

Crystal resident Jeff Bangsberg was honored for his work on behalf of Minnesotans with disabilities, with the Minnesota Department of Jobs and Training’s Volunteer of the Year honors. He not only worked for state rehabilitative services, he also devoted time to many community groups.

 

June 1993

Help Yourself, an all volunteer group that provided people with speech synthesizer, software, computers and printers, was seeking donors to open a communications center to help the disability community. The volunteers were currently operating out of two home offices but wanted to set up a drop-in center.

 

 

July 1993

Just weeks after celebrating its first anniversary, the Disability Rights Alliance abruptly closed its office and shut down. That prompted many questions from community members.

 

August 1993

The recent ADA celebration at Boom Island was a success, although windy weather got the best of a couple of tents. Students from the University of Minnesota Disabled Student Cultural Center wore T-shirts with a starry sky and the phrase “To go boldly where all others have gone before.”

 

September 1993

Implementation of a new Metro Mobility system was more uncertain than ever due to a lawsuit by Metro Ride, a firm that unsuccessfully bid for a provider contract. The RTB hired new providers Handicabs and Mayflower Contract Services Inc. to start providing rides in October. But the lawsuit could potentially delay or even scuttle long-awaited restructuring, further frustrating Metro Mobility riders.

 

October 1993

The soap opera that was Metro Mobility continued as the agency lacked experienced drivers and had to stop taking trip requests. The program could provide 3,200 trips per day, far short of the 4,000 trips requested. The situation was a nightmare for riders who could not get to work or appointment, or could not get home from work. Carlson called in the National Guard to help.

 

 

November 1993

Dan Hibbert of Metro Mobility’s management company, ATE Management and Services, met with disgruntled riders. He said improvements had been made to improve the transit service but many riders weren’t convinced. Their concerns filled three pages of the newspaper. One writer, Lolly Lijewski, wrote that one of her friends had only been picked up twice from work in the last three weeks.

 

December 1993

President Bill Clinton’s efforts to get a national health care bill passed were foundering, which disability community members saw as a lost opportunity. Smith wrote that the proposal was too cumbersome and that recent response from the community indicated a preference for single-payer plans. Several forums were held to discuss the Clinton proposal and other plans.

 

 

January 1994

James Brady, former press secretary to President Ronald Reagan, visited Minneapolis to present awards from the National Organization on Disability. Brady was disabled in the attempt to assassinate Reagan. He honored the community of Columbia Heights for building the accessible Castle Heights playground and the accomplishments of the Minneapolis Advisory Committee on People with Disabilities. Both groups received cash awards.

 

 

February 1994

Open Door – New Abilities, a new Twin Cities theater group, was raising money to travel to Brussels for a performance at the international Very Special Arts Festival. Open Door promised to change the way audiences view theater. The group performed at several Twin Cities theaters.

 

March 1994

At an ARC of Hennepin County health care forum, Anne Henry of the Minnesota Disability Law Center urged community members to carefully evaluate proposed reforms. She warned that some proposals could result in the loss of benefits people with disabilities had won in past years.

For the first time in its 40-year history, United Cerebral Palsy of Minnesota elected a president with cerebral palsy. Rob Chalmers had been active with UCP since 1972.

 

April 1994

Jimmie Lee Gaulden, a member of the Goodwill Easter Seals Board, was profiled. He didn’t let a neuromuscular disorder keep him from working for First Bank Systems and being an active volunteer.

 

May 1994

One of the most active members of Congress on disability issues, Wellstone explained in a guest opinion piece that mental health and substance abuse disorders should be included in federal health care reform programs. He urged other members of Congress to look at cost-effectiveness benefits of mental health and substance abuse treatment.

June 1994

The Minnesota Head Injury Association was challenging U.S. Sen. Dave Durenberger. The senator was trying to repeal helmet and safety provisions in federal transportation legislation. He angered local activists by using their information to claim that public education is more important than federal mandates.

 

July 1994

The Minnesota Health Commission, created as part of MinnesotaCare, had two new members. The Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MN-CCD) chose Bangsberg to represent them with Tom Brick as alternate, The Mental Health Association and Americans for Recovery chose Bill Conley as representative with Bruce Nelson as alternate. This was the first time the disability community had direct legislation on the commission, thanks to a change in state law.

 

 

August 1994

Plans were underway for Disability Pride ’94, an alternative Labor Day event to be held in St. Paul’s Highland Park and televised regionally. The event was meant to counter the annual Jerry Lewis Telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, which many community members criticized for its depictions of people with disabilities as objects of pity.

 

September 1994

Courage Center hosted the annual disability rights conference, Know Your Rights. Keynote speaker was Ed Roberts, president of the World Institute on Disability. Several area disability community organizations were event co-sponsors.

 

October 1994

“When Billy Broke His Head. . . and Other Tales of Wonder” opened to a standing-room-only crowd at the Walker Art Center. The story of Billy Golfus and his life after an accident and head injury drew rave reviews for its frank approach to disability and the barriers people with disability face.

 

 

November 1994

DHS rule changes were still being debated. Objections to the proposed changes, which would affect medical equipment and supplies, prosthetics and orthotics had resulted in a delay. DHS was convening small group meetings to discuss the proposed changes after hearing from many concerned community members. DHS was also reconsidering restrictions on eyeglasses and vision care.

 

 

December 1994

Pending 1995 legislative proposed were reviewed. A cost of living increase was requested for PCAs. PCAs had seen one 3 percent increase in five years. Increases of 4 percent were proposed for 1995 and 1996. Full funding for Metro Transit and statewide paratransit services was sought.

 

 

January 1995

Nationally recognized disability advocate Justin Dart sounded the alarm about potential threats to ADA and other disability programs. Minnesota groups quickly mobilized to meet with members of Congress. The proposed Contract with America, a Republican initiative, would have a destructive effect on laws meant to protect and ensure equal opportunity for people with disabilities

February 1995

In Congress, a bill to eliminate unfunded federal mandates was being debated. In a guests column Wellstone explained that the bill’s intent to limit unfunded mandates on state and local government wouldn’t affect anti-discrimination programs – including the ADA. That provision had been eliminated thanks to the hard work of disability rights advocates.

At the state level Carlson proposed a 25 percent cut to PCA services, as part of his state budget proposal.

 

 

March 1995

The PCA cuts were presented as part of a proposal to restructure the program, raising red flags for the community. DHS suggested reinvesting the PCA savings in other waiver programs but community activists were skeptical. Community members were urged to pack upcoming rallies and legislative hearings to make their objections heard.

Another fear was the proposed elimination of aid to children with disabilities, which was provided through TEFRA Medical Assistance. Almost 4,000 families would be affected.

 

 

April 1995

Protests against pending state budget cuts at the capitol included a sit-in in the governor’s foyer. Approximately 30 people, including 20 using wheelchairs, said they wouldn’t leave until Carlson met with them. The seven, including Smith, thought they were arrested for disorderly conduct. But after other news media arrived the officers stepped back, saying they weren’t actually arresting the seven and would only ticket them for trespassing. Group members said they were willing to go to jail but that there was no way to transport so many people in wheelchairs for processing.

 

May 1995

Debate continued at the capitol over programs for people with disabilities, with most attention focused on proposed PCA cuts and cuts to services for children with disabilities and their families. The latest proposals raised the possibility of delaying the PCA cuts and set up a home care task force to look at ways to reduce spending. The number of children and families affected by TEFRA cuts was reduced to 1,600. Alternative care for the affected children was being sought. What angered many disability activists was that while the state was proposed to slash human services programs, lawmakers were also working to bring professional hockey back to Minnesota

Minnesota faith-based organizations were working together to create a brochure to allow everyone to participate in each denomination’s activities.

 

June 1995

Months after his visit to Minnesota, Justin Dart wrote a guest article explaining how attacks on the ADA had escalated in Congress. Activists had ensured that the unfunded mandates bill didn’t affect services for people with disabilities but other threats loomed in Washington, D.C. The ADA and IDEA were still subjected to attacks in the news media. Dart urged community members to fight back when their rights were being attacked.

The 1995 Minnesota Legislature enacted 15 percent cuts to PCA services, effective in July 1996 and cuts to TEFRA that would affect almost 2,000 families.

The University Minnesota Disabled Student Cultural Center hosted Lew Golan, author of Reading Between the Lips: A Totally Deaf Man Makes it in the Mainstream.

 

July 1995

DRAGnet, which was serving people across the country with its program, was moving to a larger space in downtown Minneapolis. The organization needed space for its computer recycling programs, which provided equipment for people who couldn’t otherwise afford it. Equipment that couldn’t be reused was recycled. The program also provided jobs, equipment and software for people with disabilities and for rehabilitation agencies. Its online disability network would remain in Andover.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole called for a “retooling of the ADA. Dole, who supported the act, said that “maybe we’ve gone too far in some areas” of implementation. Community members were urged to contact Dole with their concerns.

 

August 1995

A national survey showed that 70 percent of business leaders believed the ADA should not be changed. By an 82 to 5 percent margin, those surveyed also said the opportunities provided by the ADA are worth its costs of implementation. The survey generally had a favorable response to hiring of persons with disabilities. It was released by the National Organization on Disability (NOD).

More than 400 people attended a legislative public hearing to air concerns about Metro Mobility. State Rep. Dee Long told the group that metro area legislators weren’t in agreement as to how to improve the service, but agreed with the demand for long-term support for paratransit.

The Twin Cities’ first aphasia support group marked its 25th anniversary. The group, based at Sister Kenny Institute, helped people affected by the speech and language disorder.

 

September 1995

MN-CCD and the Minnesota Senior Federation hosted a form on the effects of pending federal cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. The only two members of Congress to attend were Wellstone and U.S. Rep. Bruce Vento. Many people who testified expressed fear about how the radical changes they would have to make if the programs were cut.

Metropolitan Council approved a 30-cent fare increase for Metro Mobility, to help close a $5.7 million budget gap. The one-way fare for rides during peak periods would now be $2.50. But the council also approved a number of incentives to encourage more people with disabilities to ride regular route buses. Decisions on service reductions hadn’t been made yet, although several suburban communities were again targeted for cuts.

 

October 1995

The DHS Home Care Task Force, formed during the past legislative session, was charged with studying ways to stave off $13 million in pending state budget cuts to PCA services. Concerns were raised that the task force hadn’t started meeting until late summer and lacked enough information to make recommendations to state lawmakers in 1996.

Community members continued to focus on possible Medicare and Medicaid cuts at the federal level, working with Minnesota’s Congressional delegation to make their voices heard. MCIL, Courage Center, Arc of Hennepin County and many other groups and individuals weighed in.

Perfect Squares, a wheelchair square dance group, invited newcomers to join them for the fall season at Courage Center.

 

November 1995

In his editorial Smith pointed out the very real threats facing the community. If the state home care task force couldn’t reach agreement and if proposed cuts at the federal level took effect, the PCA program in Minnesota would actually be cut by as much as $50 million. This would force many people into nursing homes or into state-run institutions.

Courage Center hosted its annual award ceremony. Smith received the Judd Jacobson Memorial Award for people who use computers to enhance entrepreneurial potential. Winners of the Phillips awards were Bob Bardswell of Stewartville, Victoria Carlson of Brooklyn Park, Jimmie Hanson of Minneapolis, Diane Manowksi of Chisago Center and Mark Mertens of Spicer. The awards honored Minnesotans with disabilities who achieve career success.

 

December 1995

Minnesota had a projected $824 million surplus in 1996. Disability activists urged that part of the funding be used to restore potential cuts in PCA, TEFRA, Metro Mobility, education and other programs but state lawmakers were resistant. Instead it was proposed to either return the money to taxpayers or create a rainy day fund.

A new City of St. Paul parking policy at 15-minute parking meters was hitting persons with disability parking placards or license plates in the pocketbook. The city had announced that any vehicle violating the time limit would face a ticket, in contradiction to state law that allowed vehicles with placards to park for an unlimited amount of time. Community members were asking city officials to re-evaluate the policy change, which had resulted in fines to unsuspecting motorists.

 

January 1996

Access Press co-founder Bill Smith Jr. passed away. The entrepreneur and former banker felt strongly that the disability community needed a way to get its message out and make itself heard. In his column, Charlie Smith said he wasn’t sure about the future of the newspaper. “I know my father would want me to continue Access Press and I will try to keep it going,” he wrote. Ways to continue publication, possibly by reorganizing, were considered.

A DHS task force set up to examine PCA issues was criticized as a means of simply finding a way to further cut PCA services. The task force did recommend that a cut slated for July 1,996 be repealed, but that was buried in the final report.

 

February 1996

Cuts to TEFRA were delayed by the Minnesota Legislature. TEFRA helps disabled children stay in their homes with support services, Last year Carlson proposed eliminating the program; instead state lawmakers cut it dramatically. Advocates argued that the information DHS used to justify program cuts and higher fees was flawed. Legislators wanted more time to review information about children impacted by the cuts. About 850 families had opted out of the program already; another 1,645 children were at risk of cuts.

Community members rallied at the capitol on a bitterly cold winter day to speak for preserving TEFRA and for minimizing impacts of PCA service cuts.

Access Press was in the process of restructuring from a for-profit newspaper to a non-profit. DRAGnet would serve as fiscal agent.

 

March 1996

As the paper went to press, Carlson was threatening to veto the health and human services omnibus bill. The bill included language to restore past cuts made to TEFRA and PCA services. A veto would impact more than 5,000 children and adults with disabilities. Many would lose all or part of their PCA services. The threatened bill would have delayed the cuts until July 1 1997. Community members rallied to flood the governor’s office with calls and letters.

Remembering With Dignity saw its efforts to get a public apology stall at the 1996 Legislature. A bill asking for an apology to the tens of thousands of Minnesotans with developmental disabilities who had been treated poorly in state institutions was withdrawn due to lack of support.

 

April 1996

In a last-minute move the Minnesota Legislature restored cuts to TEFRA and PCA services. Carlson had indeed vetoed the health and human services omnibus bill but agreed to restore the programs important to the disability community if another unrelated section of the bill was removed. The Senate voted to override the veto of the original bill but an override in the House fell short. Smith said the restoration of the programs was proof that people could make a difference through organizing.

Major changes were proposed in the way the Minnesota Department of Economic Security delivered vocational rehabilitation services. Reductions in funding dedicated to serving people with disabilities, eliminating service priority for people with severe disabilities and removing other provisions that served the community drew protests.

 

May 1996

Many changes had been made to the Social Security Administration’s Plan for Achieving Self-Support or PASS Program. The changes were seen as making program access more challenging. The DisAbility Works organization was asking affected persons and organizations to contact them.

Wellstone was involved in the fight to guaranteed parity on insurance coverage for the mentally Ill. The Wellstone legislation would be part of a larger health care reform bill that was pending in Congress.

Access Press published a list of Twin Cities parks that are accessible. These included Hidden Falls/Crosby Farm regional parks in St. Paul and the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Trail in Minneapolis.

 

June 1996

A new program sponsored by Arc of Hennepin County would assist persons with developmental disabilities who wanted to become home owners. The project was the first of its kind in the region and one of the few of its kind in the country. It would provide financial assistance and counseling for up to 10 prospective Hennepin County home owners.

In the Religion and Disability column, the upcoming visit of Bill Graham was highlighted. Graham was on his final crusade as he was battling Parkinson’s disease. The event, held at the Metrodome, was planned by a committee that included several members with disabilities. Many accommodations were being planned, including American Sign Language interpreters, additional accessible parking and loaner wheelchairs.

 

July 1996

A strong disability sub-caucus attended the state DFL convention in St. Paul. Americans for Disability Rights Minnesota brought forward several resolutions including measures to maintain and strengthen the ADA and IDEA; support independent choice in the management of health care options and support community-based living for people with disabilities.

Access Press also worked with the group Voices for Disability Rights to profile U.S. Senate candidates Wellstone, Dean Barkley, Rudy Boschwitz, John Herman, Bert McKasy, Monte Moreno and Steve Young. This month’s focus was housing and health care issues.

Opportunity Workshop, a group serving adults with developmental disability and brain injury, opened a new facility in Plymouth. Karlins Center would provide a wide range of services and programs.

 

August 1996

Six years after its passage, the ADA has made a difference, said disability rights activist Wendy Brower. Brower, who was present when then-President George H.W. Bush signed the act into law, said the bill had succeeded in literally and figuratively opened doors for people with disabilities. But she also warned that it was under constant attack by special interest groups, the media and politicians. The attacks usually centered on ADAS costs but failed to recognize its benefits.

After surviving a stroke, Gary Vizoner of Stillwater developed new grab bars for personal use. He modeled them on large, suction cup-equipped bars used to life large, heavy panes into window openings. He incorporated his company as Grabit and named the bars Port-a-Bars.

September 1996

Access Press moved to the Griggs Midway building from its longtime home in southeast Minnesota. Scott Adams’ cartoon showed an Access Press moving van following a Route 16 bus east on University Avenue.

“When Billy Broke His Head. . . and Other Tales of Wonder” won Best of Show at the New Mobility magazine Disability Film Festival in Atlanta. The American Paralysis Association presented the award to Twin Cities filmmaker Billy Golfus.

The Metropolitan Center for Independent Living and Americans for Disability Rights-Minnesota announced a get out the vote drive. More than 280 disability-related organizations received vote registration information. Everyone was urged to register to vote and to volunteer for phone banks and other voter outreach efforts.

 

October 1996

Ability to Hire was the theme of the education and awareness program overseen by the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. The campaign emphasized the talents and abilities of the nation’s 49 million people with disabilities. Attitudinal barriers and narrow-minded assumptions about what people could and could not do were cited as obstacles to employment. The committee was making its push during October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

CLIMB Theater, West Hennepin Community Service and Arc of Hennepin County helped a group of actors with disabilities film scenes for “It’s a Job Finding Work,” a video to be shown on cable television and distributed to community groups.

 

November 1996

Courage Center’s annual National Courage Award sparked controversy when actor Christopher Reeve was the recipient. Reeve was paralyzed in a horseback riding accident. Disability community activists objected to Reeve as an honoree, citing his emphasis on “curing” paralysis, as well as the large sum of money Courage Center was spending on the event. Courage Center Executive Director David Phillips and Metropolitan Center for Independent Living (MCIL) Executive Director John Walsh set up a meeting prior to the event to hear the concerns but the debate embroiled all sides for weeks before the event and a protest outside of the event itself.

Hundreds of people attended the first-ever statewide self-advocacy conference in New Ulm. Keynote speaker was television actor Christopher Burke from the show Life Goes On.

December 1996

Congress made major changes to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) that would have a major, negative impact on people across the country. The program, which provides $70 per month payments to low-income elderly and people with disabilities, was targeted for change by Congress. The changes in eligibility could mean that more than 3,000 people would lose their payments. Reviews of cases would get underway next year. The changes would most impact children, immigrants and persons with substance abuse issues.

The state’s first day health center for people with HIV/AIDS opened in Minneapolis. Park House provided quality care and socialization for persons with HIV/AIDS and support services for their families and caregivers.

 

January 1997

Bills involving consumer protection in health care, a possible repeal of MinnesotaCare, managed care for people with disabilities and funding for Metro Mobility and paratransit were just some of the issues pending before the 1997 Minnesota Legislature. Disability community members were supporting a citizens’ commission to run the transit system.

Sit-skis were flying along the trails of Hennepin County. The skis were designed for people with mobility impairments. Skiers could sit on a sled-like device and push themselves along with poles.

The Minnesota News Council hosted a forum, Words Count, at Courage Center. The topic was media coverage of the disability community and how it perpetuated stereotypes. It provided an opportunity to meet with Twin Cities media representatives.

 

February 1997

Administration of the PCA program was described as inhumane and unlawful. Complicating matters was how DHS staff would incorrectly interpret legislative mandates to cut even time from people in need of PCA services. The Disability Law Center reported it was winning about 95 percent of the PCA services appeals filed, but questioned having to file appeals and why the DHS was investigating some cases.

Courage Center continued to respond to the aftermath of controversy over the National Courage Award given to Reeve. Issues Courage Center officials were discussing included a perceived isolation from Courage Center and the rest of the disability community, models of programming and fundraising. A coalition of disability organizations was involved in the meetings, described as productive and positive.

 

March 1997

The Patient Protection Act of 1997 was pending before the Minnesota Legislature. It would provide centralized information for consumers in the health care system, as well as advocacy help and oversight. Complaints would be handled in a more expedient manner and health care providers would have to disclose more information about provider payment plans. Improvements to access to emergency care and a clearer procedure for specialty referrals were also spelled out in the act.

Minneapolis Advisory Committee on People with Disabilities won a $10,000 national award for community involvement.

The story of Kathy, a developmentally disabled woman, outlined the risks of home ownership. Kathy’s home faced foreclosure through a series of actions by her banks and a scam artist. Legal Aid was trying to help Kathy stay in her home.

 

April 1997

Opportunity Partners’ Senior Options Group was involved with “senior day” at the state capitol. Seniors involved with Opportunity Partners’ day training and habilitation program got the chance to meet legislators and share concerns, as part of the program meant to keep people physically and mentally active.

ACT developed a video-based curriculum series called Tools for Change. The participatory and accessible program was meant to educate self-advocates and encourage them to draw on their life experiences in telling their stories. It included videos, a facilitator’s guide, training manuals and other materials.

MCIL Director Walsh resigned after more than 11 years. He was replaced by David Hancox.

 

May 1997

Rep. Torrey Westrom was profiled. He was the first blind person to serve in the Minnesota House of Representatives. Just 24 years old, he was a rare combination of youth and fiscal conservatism. His response to disability issues during the session was described as “calculated.” For example, while he voted for increased funding for Metro Mobility, Westrom expressed concern that state officials not throw good money after bad. He attached an amendment to the Metro Mobility funding legislation that called for a study of Metro Mobility’s efficiency and ADA compliance.

Controversy flared over a proposed $55 million monument to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The statute, to be placed in Washington, D.C., would not depict FDR in his wheelchair – a decision that angered and baffled many.

 

June 1997

The legislative session was seen as a successful one for the disability community, with a 5 percent cost of living adjustment to PCAs and other community support workers, $36.4 million to Metro Mobility, more protection for medical patients, more money for supported employment and two demonstration projects for managed care for people with disabilities. Remembering With Dignity obtained $200,000 to replace grave markers at regional treatment centers.

But not everyone left the capitol happy. Officials at DRAGnet questioned why the K-12 omnibus education bill and plans for computer recycling left the agency out. DRAGnet or Disability Resources Affiliates and Groups network was shut out of state-funded computer recycling programs involving schools. Instead of using DRAGnet state officials named a California nonprofit to head up the computer donation drive.

 

July 1997

A survey of state parks and accessibility was underway, led by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The 1996 Legislature required at least one trail in each state park to be accessible. The changes were to be implemented in five years. Wilderness Inquiry was assisting the DNR with the project. The challenge was to keep parks natural while making trails accessible, according to DNR officials.

Problems during recent floods in the Grand Forks/Devils Lake area were described. The area was home to almost 100 deaf citizens, including 50 students at the North Dakota School for the Deaf. Lack of closed-captioned information on television proved frustrating, as did a lack of clear information for those displaced by flooding.

Help Yourself Inc. celebrated its 10th anniversary.

 

August 1997

Courage Center residents aired their concerns with what they saw as understaffing in the facility’s resident assistant (RA) ranks. RAs were certified nursing assistants who help residents with everyday care needs. Residents indicated they were very happy with the therapies they went to Courage Center for, but concerned that the scarcity of RAs made it difficult to get to therapy on time. Courage Center was one of many agencies facing a nationwide shortage of nursing assistants.

The Disability Institute opened its doors in the Twin Cities, to be a catalyst bringing together people with disabilities, community leaders and policy makers. The new organization wanted to serve as a reliable clearinghouse for information and a collaborator among many community organizations. The institute was based in Minneapolis.

 

September 1997

Tenants at Holmes Greenway in Minneapolis were trapped for hours one summer night by power outages and flooding. Some residents were unable to get to their apartments and had to sleep in wheelchairs in the lobby, because elevators didn’t work. Others were trapped in their apartments for more than 20 hours. Holmes Greenway was designed to be wheelchair accessible. Management was looking into obtaining emergency generators but any purchase had to be approved by HUD, which provided subsidies for tenant’s living expenses.

National disability rights leader Evan J. Kemp Jr. passed away. He was a former chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and a lifelong advocate for people with disabilities. He was deeply influence by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement.

 

October 1997

Disability and civil rights activist Justin Dart was Courage Center’s winner of the National Courage Award. Dart, who often visited the Twin Cities to work with the disability community, was involved in efforts including the ADA, civil rights and employment issues. Dart served on a number of national-level disability boards, commissions and committees and founded Justice for All.

Mayoral candidates Sharon Sayles Belton and Barbara Carlson in Minneapolis and Sen. Sandy Pappas and Norm Coleman in St. Paul addressed disability issues.

Diane Hovey, mother of a disabled child, wrote about the lengthy and difficult process her family faced in trying to get a bathlift for her daughter, who has a diagnosis of dystonic quadraperesis. Hovey wrote that the entire process made her feel like a criminal.

 

November 1997

Seward Square residents were battling drug dealers. The 81-unit Minneapolis building for residents with disabilities had had problems for many months but tenants felt helpless until the Minneapolis Police Department’s Community Crime Prevention SAFE unit came in to help.

Metropolitan Council and its Transportation Accessibility Advisory Board held public forums on Metro Mobility and the move from three service providers to two. The switch resulted in numerous service complaints about trip denials and customer service problems with one of the providers. But those at the hearing said they were glad not to hear a repeat of horror stories from several years ago.

DEAF Incorporated announced a Deaf Refugee and Immigrant Citizenship program, funded through the Minnesota Department of Children, Families and Learning.

 

December 1997

A three-year battle over use of a standing wheelchair was outlined. Forrest “Frosty” Johnson fought for three years to obtain the standing wheelchair. The 39-year-old with multiple sclerosis used a power scooter for mobility but wanted a standing wheelchair. The wheelchair would allow him to move between sitting and standing positions. But DHS rejected Johnson’s request for the device. The dispute went to Washington County District Court and then to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, after the district court ruled in Johnson’s favor. The appeals court ruled in Johnson’s favor and he was able to obtain the standing wheelchair.

Members of communities of color were seldom seen at disability community events and organizations. Why that situation existed, concerns about under-representation and how it could be addressed was discussed by disability community leaders.

 

January 1998

Access Press officially became a non-profit publication. That allowed the newspaper to apply for grants and expand the size of the newspaper. The process had taken several months.

Disability organizations geared up for the 1998 legislative session and for a Minnesota State Council on Disabilities roundtable prior to the session’s start. Priorities for several organizations were outlined, including work on managed care, more money for children’s mental health and increased funding for medically related transportation.

The problems of MCS or multiple chemical sensitivity was outlined. The condition causes hypersensitivity to most chemicals, including household cleaners, tobacco smoke, pesticides, home improvement and construction products and personal products. In Minnesota persons with MCS were represented by Chemical Injury Resource Association of Minnesota.

 

February 1998

Raising the Medical Assistance income standard and increasing coverage for durable medical equipment were two bills the MN-CCD and other organizations were advocating for at the capitol. People on Medical Assistance could only keep $420 per month to live on; the increase sought was an additional $47.

MN-CCD was introducing legislation to create the Metropolitan Area Transit Accessibility Board. The board would conduct a comprehensive assessment of transit needs for the disability community and the elderly in the seven-county metropolitan area. It would also conduct an evaluation of existing transit services and would develop short-term and long-term plans to met transit needs.

Concordia University prepared to host the 1998 National Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Tournament. The Minnesota Rolling Timberwolves would be among teams competing.

 

March 1998

MCIL’s decision to permanently hire David Hancox as executive director sparked controversy. Issues centered on whether MCIL should be led by someone with a visible disability, the amount of compensation offered to the new leader, changes to services MCIL offered and perceptions of the center. A panel of people involved with and outside of MCIL responded to a series of questions raised by Access Press. Hancox indicated that the intent of MCIL was to add back services which had been cut in the past. He urged community members who had concerns to get more involved with MCIL and to communicate their concerns to the center.

Opportunity Partners was celebrating 45 year of helping people achieve greater potential and independence. The organization was serving almost 900 adults with developmental disabilities or brain injuries.

 

April 1998

Monte Meier of Hastings won gold and silver medals at the Paralympics in Nagano, Japan. Meier skied on one leg; his other leg was amputated after a childhood accident. He skied in the slalom and giant slalom events. He had competed as a U.S. Olympian since 1994 and had been on the U.S. team since 1991.

Once again the health and human services omnibus bill was in jeopardy at the state capitol. The bill was threatened by the addition of language on late-term abortions in the House version of the bill. Senate leaders said they would not vote on the bill if the abortion language stayed in. Disability community activists were concerned that many measures they had sought during the session could be lost.

 

May 1998

A U.S. Court of Appeals ruling was eyed warily, with some describing it as a death sentence. The ruling centered on the state of Connecticut’s attempt to deny Medicaid recipients access to durable medical equipment. The case was appealed all the way to the high court, which ruled in Connecticut’s favor. The case had nationwide implications for people needing equipment.

The health and human services omnibus bill and other measures important to the community passed before state lawmakers adjourned a special session. But gubernatorial vetoes meant some initiatives were lost for another year. Increased coverage for durable medical equipment, increased Medical Assistance income limits, more patient protections and a health care consumer advocacy and assistance office were approved, but Carlson vetoed a home ownership program.

 

June 1998

The University of Minnesota struggled to comply with the ADA, much to the unhappiness of workers there. Employees with special needs felt that the efforts at accommodation were viewed by some management as a distraction. Nor was there awareness of what the university’s Disability Services Office could do to help employees. The office would mediate disputes over accommodations and help find equipment for employees.

Access Press received its first grant, of $7,500 from Headwaters Foundation. The grant was for general operating support.

The St. Paul Department of Human Rights and Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services were collaborating to increase enforcement and education on housing laws. Landlords and tenants would gain information on reasonable accommodations.

 

July 1998

Courage Center, Sister Kenny Institute and Becklund Home Health Care joined forces to start AXIS Healthcare, to take the lead in managing care for people with disabilities in the Twin Cities area. Becklund at the time was the state’s largest PCA provider. AXIS hoped to start enrolling clients by July 1999. AXIS was touted as providing many benefits for its clients. AXIS would work with UCare Minnesota to help administer the new program. Getting AXIS up and running would take many steps but organizers were confident they could be serving consumers next year.

David Phillips announced he would leave the helm of Courage Center to work with Young Life, an international Christian outreach ministry based in Colorado. He had worked at Courage Center since 1996.

 

August 1998

MN-CCD was represented at a U.S. Senate work incentives improvement act hearing. At the time 29 percent of people with disabilities were employed, while 72 percent stated they wanted to work. To that Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kansas, said, “To access basic care, prescription drugs or personal assistance service through Medicare or Medicaid, we say to individuals with disabilities, stay home, don’t work. As a matter of public policy this is senseless and unjust.”

Very Special Arts Minnesota was the featured organization at the Minnesota State Fair, in the Fine Arts Building. Several visual artists involved with the organization would have their works on display during the fair, in a way accessible to people with disabilities.

 

September 1998

A story of life and death, and difficult medical decisions, involved a Bloomington couple. Despite traumatic brain injury and doctors’ statements that he would be a “vegetable,” Jim Nestande fought back. This was despite poor medical care decisions that began at the scene of the 1993 car accident that left him badly injured. His wife Nicky worked for years to get better care for Jim and get him out of a nursing home. He made progress under her care but asked in 1998 to be taken off of life support. The couple then had to discuss that decision with a panel of health care professionals. He died that spring at home in his wife’s arms. The story raised difficult questions about prevailing attitudes toward people with disabilities.

 

October 1998

Freedom of Speech Inc. was profiled. The Minneapolis-based company helped people find a wide range of adaptive technology solutions, ranging from devices for people with low vision to those with limited hand mobility. The company was started by Mark Dzuik, who himself battled dyslexia. The company had grown and obtained a key state contract.  Dzuik was able to hire people with disabilities to work for him.

A phone system glitch wreaked havoc for a day with Handicabs, one of the Metro Mobility service providers. People calling for a ride got a busy signal or a message saying the number had been disconnected. Metro Mobility was looking into ways to keep the problem from happening again.

 

November 1998

DEAF Incorporated was developing advocacy services for its clients who were victims of domestic violence or sexual assault. There was only one trained advocate in the entire state who could serve deaf women, prompting the need for better services.

DHS was considering a recommendation to license PCA service providers. Providers had to register with DHS but there was no license requirement tied to that. Licensing was seen as providing more consumer protection and control, as well as making it easier for some consumer to hire PCAs. But the potential downside included potentially higher costs without providing better service. The challenge of developing a licensing system was also debated. The topic was the subject of upcoming public forms.

 

December 1998

The Richman versus Ramsey County Human Services and DHS lawsuit illustrated the difficulties those seeking Minnesota Supplemental Aid (MSA) interim assistance had faced. The Richman family applied for MSA assistance, was turned down, took the dispute to court and won. The case revealed that the state hadn’t been making the aid available to qualified people. The aid could make a big difference when a person became disabled and hadn’t qualified yet for other help. The new court ruling would make it easier for people to receive interim assistance while waiting for decisions on other benefits.

Metro Mobility’s demand service system was the topic of public forms. Forum participants also discussed problems with current services, as part of a Metropolitan Council study of Metro Mobility and paratransit services.

 

January 1999

Leadership was changing at ACT. Mary Kay Kennedy and Cardenas were named co-directors. The board also made some changes and added a board seat. Ways to change leadership had been studied for several months.

The 1999 legislative session got underway. Many disability advocacy groups prepared their legislative agendas for the session. One of the most ambitious proposals came from National Federation of the Blind in Minnesota, which sought an additional $1 million for State Services for the Blind. Many groups were seeking more funding for transportation and transit, housing and services to families and children.

Eric Stevens became the new director of Courage Center. He previously led St. David’s Child Development and Family Services.

 

February 1999

Irving Martin, a St. Paul disability rights activist and role model, passed away after a bout with cancer. In 1981 he was the first person with a developmental disability to be elected to the national board of director of Arc. He was a founder of the St. Paul chapter of People First and was co-founder of ACT. He was described as a friend and a hero to others.

At the state capitol, PACER Center was closely following efforts to change special education rules and regulations. Last year there was a push to eliminate all Minnesota special education rules and regulations that exceeded federal law. State officials and stakeholders met but couldn’t agree on what changes. PACER was fighting to retain key rules and regulations that were important to Minnesota families.

 

March 1999

Self-defense options for people with disabilities were described. Mary Brandl, a third-degree black belt holder, developed self-defense classes for women with a range of disabilities. She emphasized that women have many more options for dealing with dangerous situations than they realize. She also provided information on how to avoid confrontation and keep confrontations from escalating. Women who had taken self-defense classes said the classes helped them build confidence and feel safer.

Kurt Strom of Oakdale, who served 22 years with the Minnesota State Council on Disability, passed away. He didn’t let ALS keep him from being an effective and well-liked community program director, information officer, co-director and acting director.

 

April 1999

A number of bills affecting Minnesota’s disability community were in play at the state capitol. One closely-watched piece of legislation was the waiting list bill, which was meant to help about 3,500 people eligible for developmental disabilities/related conditions home and community-based services waivers get the help they needed. The bill would also help about 900 people waiting for family support program services and another 500 waiting for semi-independent living skills program services.

Another bill drawing attention would provide $40.1 million for Metro Mobility for the next two years, a $5.5 million increase that would provide expanded services. While these bills and many others won praise, advocates were fighting proposed cuts to other programs, including one that allowed people with epilepsy to live independently.

 

May 1999

A Disability Culture Conference drew 100 people to St. Paul. Keynote speaker Dr. Carol Gill described how the concept of disability culture is formed through people with disabilities coming together, developing their own set of values and norms, and strengthening each other through sharing the disability experience. Conference-goers learned about disability history as well as current issues. The conference drew attendees with a wide range of disabilities and featured a number of accommodations.

A new Harris Poll showed that nine out of 10 Americans familiar supported the ADA The findings were especially timely given a pending U.S. Supreme Court case out of Georgia, which had ADA implications nationwide for state and local governments.

 

June 1999

The 1999 legislative session was reviewed. One highlight was passage of the special education compromise bill. It would set age 21 as the limit for students to receive services (the age limit had been 22). It also set a number of policies and procedures on specific special education issues and allowed the Department of Children, Families and Learning to make many rule changes. The omnibus education bill provided an additional $100 million for special education. Persons with epilepsy were pleased to have funds restored for one of their programs. Increased funding was provided for home and community-based services for people with disabilities.

Chris Berndt, who helped Access Press become a nonprofit publication, drowned in a fishing accident. He lived with Parkinson’s disease.

 

July 1999

Minnesota was leading the way with a new work incentive option. State officials hailed the new work option for people on Medical Assistance, saying it would help many people with disabilities return to work. DHS Commissioner Michael O’Keefe unveiled the program to enthusiastic response. One of those at a press conference was Kathy Rathcke, who had to quit teaching after becoming a quadriplegic. She hoped to return to the classroom soon.

But the news was less positive for the ADA, which had three separate U.S. Supreme Court decisions diminish its effectiveness. The gist of the rulings was that people with correctable physical impairments were not considered disabled and not eligible for protection under the ADA. An example was someone whose vision could be corrected with glasses.

 

August 1999

Home buying was made easier for people with disabilities thanks to the new HomeChoice program. The program, which involved several disability advocacy groups, helped people with physical or cognitive disabilities buy homes of their own. Home buyers had to undergoing training on home ownership, including one-on-one counseling.

Options for Independence, a Grand Forks-area service profiler, was profiled. The agency cover more than 18,000 square miles of territory in Minnesota and North Dakota and helped people overcome barriers to independent living in a variety of ways. The group also was active in lobbying efforts in both states.

Sculptor Helene E.R. Oppenheimer was leading a group effort to create an ASL/Braille-theme sculpture in St. Paul’s Western Park. Community members were invited to participate.

 

September 1999

The custody struggles of mothers with disabilities were described. Three mothers described their long fights to gain or regain custody of their children. One woman was blind, another had cerebral palsy and the third was mentally ill. Disabilities of parents in and of themselves are not grounds for removal of children from parents but all three women felt unfairly judged as a result of their disability.

Gov. Jesse Ventura’s veto of $250,000 for ACT’s Common Vision Leadership Program had self-advocates and Department of Economic Security staff scrambling to find replacement funding. About half of the funding was restored for the first year; the second year was in question.

Access Press won the 1999 Arc Minnesota Community Media Excellence Award.

 

October 1999

Changing Futures, a new program to help people with disabilities find and retain employment, was launched by Courage Center’s Vocational Services Department. The program involved several local companies and helped provide job training and job-seeking help.

The possibility of a disruption of services was being eyed with the start of a new century. People with disabilities were urged to prepare for Y2K. Checking on any essential computer-controlled equipment, keeping extra cash, food and water on hand and stocking up on needed medicine and medical supplies were among suggestions. Having a battery powered radio was another suggestion, in case power was shut off.

Former U.S. Senator Bob Dole won the National Courage Award.

 

November 1999

History was made as the Remembering with Dignity project dedicated a cemetery at the former Faribault State Hospital. For the first time, people who had died at a state facility had proper grave numbers with names and dates of birth and death. Replacing old numbered markers would help people find loved ones as well as provide proper recognition.

Minnesota was planning its first light rail line, from downtown Minneapolis to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and Mall of America. Access Press looked into accessibility issues and found that attaining maximum access may not be a priority for the agencies involved in rail planning. Concerns were raised about the gap between platforms and train doors, and whether a wheelchair’s front wheel or wheels could get caught.

 

December 1999

“Why does this always have to happen?” was heard from a Metro Mobility rider who was picked up more than two hours late. Increasing problems with the paratransit system were documented. Complaint after complaint was heard about vans that never showed up, late vans and poor service. One man told Access Press he had to quit his job due to lack of reliable rides to and from work.

Congress passed the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Bill. The bill was expected to start a five to 10-year process of changes that would help people with disabilities get back to work, by providing a number of work incentives and related services.

Bob Zimmerman was honored by the National MS Society for developing wheelchair ramps for home use.

 

January 2000

State Rep. Lee Greenfield, DFL-Minneapolis, stepped down after 20 years. Greenfield was regarded as a champion of disability legislation. He worked on many key pieces of legislation, including PCA programs, TEFRA and MinnesotaCare. Greenfield served for many years as chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee. His retirement was for personal reasons.

A Metro Mobility forum on service drew an angry crowd of people complaining about poor service. Ironically, two people arrived very late for the forum because they traveled there on Metro Mobility.

The Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health launched a campaign using children’s drawings on billboards. The intent was to educate the public about mental health issues affecting children, suing children’s own words and art.

 

February 2000

Hennepin County NAMI held a forum on proposed legislation addressing the issue of civil commitment. Sen. Don. Betzhold said the system was currently designed so that patients couldn’t be helped until they had hit rock bottom. But Betzhold and Rep. Mindy Greiling wanted to pass legislation that would help individuals and families before they reached a crisis point. The issue was complicated by a number of questions raised by mental health advocates.

For the first time prior to the state of a legislative session, advocates from six Minnesota cities participated in an interactive videoconference to discuss their legislative agendas. Groups from Duluth, St. Cloud, Brainerd, Moorhead, Rochester and Marshall were able to participate with Twin Cities groups and discuss legislative priorities for 2000.

 

March 2000

Telephones could be a source of fear for persons with difficulty speaking. A new service offered by Minnesota Relay could address those fears. Speech to Speech would serve people with a wide ranging of speech difficulties make themselves understood. The technology included a three-way conference call feature.

Discrimination complaints against Metro Mobility were filed with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, due to poor service, late or missed rides and poorly-organized and lengthy trips. Shortages of vehicles and drivers caused significant problems.

New appointments to the Minnesota State Council on Disability were announced by Ventura. They were Carolyn Stensland, Geraldine Drewry, Julianne Degenhardt, Joan Willshire, Gary Beringer, John Schatzlein and Robert Cooper.

 

April 2000

Hundreds gathered at the capitol to ask “Who Cares?” about people with disabilities. The event was organized by MN CCD and highlighted the need for better pay for the direct care staff workers who cared for persons with disabilities. The group chanted and held signs in support of cost-of-living increases and related issues. Many direct care staff couldn’t remain in their jobs because the pay was simply too low.

University of Minnesota design student Jennifer Stahlberg centered her senior year fashion show on the need for clothing for women with mobility impairments. Stahlberg was inspired after being injured in a car accident. Cut of clothing and types of fabrics were among the issues she studied. Her five models for the show live with mobility disabilities.

 

May 2000

A demonstration at the state capitol was one of many held around the United States to call for greater dignity and freedom for people with developmental disabilities, and to remember the more than 5,000 people still living in large institutional settings.

ADA Minnesota awarded the Community Bridge Consortium funding to do better outreach and determine what barriers keep people from participating in community education programs. The program would take place in the North St. Paul, Maplewood. Oakdale and South Washington County school districts.

The Minnesota Association for Persons in Supported Employment presented Surepak Co. with its small metro area employer of the year award.  The Plymouth-based company, which manufactures plastic packaging peanuts, worked with CHOICE Inc. to create employment opportunities for adults with disabilities.

 

June 2000

A long legislative session came to a close. Advocates for direct care workers were pleased to get a cost of living adjustment for services including PCAs. Special education programs received an additional $60 million in new funding. Changes, less sweeping than originally proposed, were made to the civil commitment process.

Smith looked back on a decade of Access Press and how the paper had grown and changed. He stated that over the past decade, the state’s disability community had become more powerful and more effective when it came to advancing the rights of people with disabilities.

Cliff Poetz was honored with the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Award for self-empowerment, for his work in helping young people with developmental disabilities become effective self-advocates.

 

July 2000

The ADA marked its 10-year anniversary; IDEA turned 25. Community members reflected on how two pieces of federal legislation changed their lives. PACER Center advocate Rachel Parker said as a blind person, the ADA gave her a sense of being ordinary because so much had opened up to her. Activist Margot Imdieke-Cross recalled that years ago life for people in wheelchairs was “damned hard.” Those were days of no curb cuts, building access accommodations or even accessible restrooms. Parent Virginia Richardson described how IDEA helped children with disabilities obtain a better education. Her own daughter and many others were relegated to school basements in the past.

The Lupus Foundation of Minnesota launched a new Web site to provide information and access to persons with Lupus.

 

August 2000

Ted Kennedy Jr. addressed a joint ADA/IDEA anniversary celebration in Minneapolis. Hundreds of people filled Anne Sullivan Center to celebrate the anniversaries. Many state officials and community leaders were involved in the celebration.

More than 200 people gathered in Washington, D.C. to discuss the changing role of consumers in today’s health care system. The “patient summit” brought together many people to discuss the health care environment and how it could meet their needs better. Patients had become less passive and more outspoken in their care, signaling a change in the traditional doctor-patient relationships.

Longtime disability community advocate Leah Welch passed away. She was the founder of Independence Crossroads and worked on disability-related issues at the state and national levels.

 

September 2000

The focus was on the Social Security Administration and PASS, with a regional forum to discuss federal policy and state opportunity for inclusive workplaces. Meetings were held throughout the nation to discuss how the programs affected the lives of people with disabilities. The hope was to fully integrate more people with disabilities into the workforce.

The Demonstration Project for People with Disabilities (DPPD), a recently ended state effort to enroll community members in managed care plans, was outlined. The effort won praise for allowing ongoing face-to-face discussions between people with disabilities and health care providers. Although DPPD was finished it still was cited as highlighting issues in health care that need to be corrected.

 

October 2000

Arc Minnesota presented awards at its state convention. ACT was recognized for its Tools for Change program. Legislators of the year were Rep. Linda Wejcman, DFL-Minneapolis and Sen. Leo Foley, DFL-Coon Rapids. Star Tribune columnist Kay Miller, New Directions founder Jonathan Kigner and Disabilities Ministry of the Evangelical Free Church in Crystal were also honored. Health Risk Management of Edina was employer of the year. Many award recipients from Greater Minnesota and several Arc chapters also won awards.

PACER Computer Resource Center established a new and comprehensive Minnesota Assistive Technology Information and Referral Service.

Candidates for U.S. Senate and House weighed in on the ADA and federal work incentive programs.

 

November 2000

The State of Minnesota adopted new hiring goals for people with disabilities. But the goal was soon suspended by Julien Carter, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employee Relations. He said the data and methodology used to propose a 12.8 percent goal wasn’t sound. The goal was to be set using U.S. Census data and should reflect a percentage of the total work force. Carter’s decision led to a task force’s formation. But that group was frustrated by a lack of clear information on state residents with disabilities. The working group was to reconvene and look for more opportunities for people with disabilities to work at the state level.

David Skilbred was introduced as new executive director of the Minnesota State Council on Disability.

 

December 2000

A complaint was filed against Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center and Ah-Gwah-Sing Nursing Home. Five people in the two facilities were the subject of a complaint filed by the State of Minnesota Office of the Ombudsman for Mental Health and Mental Illness. The complaint stated that the five residents were discriminated against due to their developmental disabilities, under the ADA. The facilities where the five were living weren’t considered to be most appropriate for them. The institutions focused on mental illness, not on developmental disabilities, and that the five residents weren’t benefiting from available programs and services.

Access Press columnist Pete Feigal and his work as a motivational speaker, writer and advocate were highlighted. Feigal focused on issues of mental illness and on living with MS.

 

January 2001

The Minimally Invasive Care Center, which housed the Abbott Northwestern Wound Clinic, closed. High costs of care and other issues doomed the clinic, which served many people with disabilities. One problem was poor reimbursement rates from medical payers such as Medicare.

Legislative priorities for the 1991 session were shaping up. A broad-based coalition formed to help address the Medical Assistance (MA) income standard issue. The income standard is the amount of income seniors and persons with disabilities who need MA are allowed to have if they are unable to work. Coalition members wanted the standard raised from $482 to $695 per month.

New features were added to a government website that helps employers accommodate workers with disabilities. www.disAbility.gov had a new employers’ resource section.

 

February 2001

Ventura’s proposed 2002-2003 budget was regarded as mostly bad news for programs for people with disabilities. Metro Mobility was proposed for full funding in 15 years but proposals that would get people back to work, raise pay for home health care workers, reduce the waiting list for developmental disability community services and provide adequate funding for consumer support grants didn’t have the governor’s support. Changes proposed to MA for Employed Persons with Disabilities (MA-EPD) were seen as forcing more people out of their jobs.

Citizens of Poland were facing the same challenges the U.S. disability community faced 50 years ago. John Tschida, director of public policy and research at Courage Center, shared his observations after a trip to that country.

 

March 2001

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in University of Alabama Board of Trustees versus Garrett was seen as having a chilling effect on the ADA. The highest court ruled that state employees couldn’t sue their states for monetary damages in federal court under the ADA. The ruling was seen as removing a key incentive for states to examine and correct existing policies and practices, if the threat of having to pay monetary damages went away. Lawsuits to force states to change policies and end existing practices weren’t affected by the ruling.

Ways to help young people with disabilities achieve independence were outlined. Making plans early, educating youth about their disabilities, working with schools and knowing about community resources were suggested.

 

April 2001

DHS announced it would allow all Minnesota counties to offer a limited number of MR/RC waiver allocations between March and June 30. This rare opportunity would help families on waiting lists for waived services. Arc Minnesota was urging families to act quickly and take advantage of this opportunity.

After a three month reassessment, Abbott Northwestern Hospital announced it would reopen the wound clinic it recently closed. A working group had met and developed ways to address problems that hampered the original clinic.

Access Press received a $10,000 Medtronics grant, for operating support. The grant would allow the newspaper to have a presence on the Internet as the newspaper planned to go online. Tim Benjamin was hired as advertising sales manager to help strengthen the paper financially.

 

May 2001

Access Press Editor and co-founder Charlie Smith lost his battle with cancer. He was remembered as a strong advocate for the disability community. He became disabled as a result of a diving accident at age 14 and used his experiences and a desire to help others in similar situations by starting the newspaper. “He developed a style of advocacy that was fierce in its passion and commitment to the civil rights of people with disabilities, His gentle, quiet power put him at the core of the heart and soul of the disability community. If decision-makers wanted to know what the community was thinking, Charlie was one of the first to be consulted,” an article stated.

Acting Editor Jeff Nygaard wrote the editor’s column but left Smith’s picture in its place, saying those involved with the paper weren’t ready to remove it quite yet.

 

June 2001

Repetitive motion disorders were described as an “unseen disability.” This disability resulted from various types of injuries from repetitive stress or strain. More people were reporting problems with disability related to these disorders but it was believed many cases went unreported.

Patricia Scott, a Brooklyn Park mother who uses a motorized wheelchair, sued the City of Brooklyn Park. Her son played a variety of sports, but Scott wasn’t able to sit with the other parents at the games, practices or related events. She was concerned about lack of accessible facilities at all of the city’s parks and recreation areas, which included a lack of accessible paths, no handicapped parking spaces, lack of accessible restrooms and physical barriers that prevented her from getting to park facilities.

 

July 2001

The new state budget meant changes for Minnesota’s disability community. Cost of living increases for nursing home and community-based health workers were welcomed, but cuts to MA-EPD were troubling. Premiums for about 4,000 workers with disabilities would increase. Disputes between Ventura and lawmakers nearly shut down state government.

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court cases involving the University of Alabama, Minnesota officials decided to waive immunity in such cases. The state agreed to be sued under specifically stated federal statutes, under legislation passed this spring.

St. Paul’s annual Peanuts on Parade event, with statues placed all over the city, included a deaf Charlie Brown, painted with ASL symbols by artist Helene Oppenheimer and the Deaf Art Club.

 

August 2001

Jay Johnson was remembered as a remarkable man and a fearless champion for people with disabilities. The founder and executive director of Options Interstate Resource Center for Independent Living in Grand Forks, Johnson died in an accident while riding an off-road vehicle. He had founded Options after being told that his spinal cord injuries and disability would force him to live in a nursing home. Options was extensively involved in the rebuilding of Grand Forks after the devastating 1997 floods, which destroyed Johnson’s home, Options’ building and more than a decade’s worth of records, books, equipment and software.

Better Medical Care celebrated 30 years of providing medical supplies to the community. The business continued to be owned by the Prose family, its founders.

 

September 2001

A threatened state employee strike in turn would threaten services for people with disabilities, ranging from direct care services to day training programs. State officials were scrambling to provide services in case workers walked off of the job. Advocacy groups urged people with disabilities and their families to also plan ahead.

Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno won the National Courage Award from Courage Center. She was the nation’s first female attorney general and was a staunch supporter of the ADA.

Access Press held an open house to show off its new Griggs Midway Building offices and welcome new Executive Editor Benjamin. Benjamin and Nygaard had edited the paper together since Smith’s death.

 

October 2001

A new division of DHS was being discussed. The new Quality Community Initiatives Division would provide a coordinated approach to quality assurance for community services. DHS did sponsor quality assurance projects in the past but the new division would provide better coordination of these projects.

Susan O’Connor, a professor at Augsburg College, described her visit to Hadamar, Germany, to see where thousands of people with disabilities were put to death by the Nazi regime during World War II. People with all types of disabilities were sent to Hadamar where they were killed in gas chambers. “Official” causes of death were listed on falsified documents. An exhibit of photos from Hadamar was on display at Augsburg, sponsored by several organizations.

 

November 2001

MCIL celebrated its 20th anniversary, with a look back at the push for consumer-driven, community-based resources. Hancox described the independent living movement as “one of the last great civil rights movements.” The center was one of more than 500 centers for independent living around the county. Ninety percent of MCIL’s board and 80 percent of staff were people with disabilities.

Gillette Hospital opened its new Lifetime Specialty Care Clinic, to help adults with cerebral palsy. The clinic would provide specialized care.

Parents in the Anoka-Hennepin School District filed a lawsuit alleging that children with disabilities weren’t being served under the IDEA law. Children were having trouble getting needed assistive technology and services.

 

December 2001

After accepting health are advocacy and service coordination clients on a voluntary basis since 1999, AXIS Healthcare was changing. The federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services authorized AXIS to take on paid clients for the first time. AXIS had had some bumps in the road at its start but was working to establish itself as a quality service provider and provide its worth to the disability community.

The Minnesota AgrAbility Project, a joint effort by Minnesota Extension Service and Goodwill/Easter Seals of Minnesota, offered education and assistance to accommodate disabilities and overcome barriers in rural areas. The intent was to keep people involved in agriculture and provide them with ideas for safe and affordable modifications.

 

January 2002

The state faced a serious budget deficit, of $1.96 billion. The combination of tax cuts, the recession and loss of 23,000 jobs hit state coffers hard and there were fears that publicly funded services and supports available to the disability community were in danger of being cut. Community members were urged to be more active at the state capitol than ever before and to be ready for difficult decisions over the next four years.

The difficulty in bringing about any major changes during the session was eyed by disability service organizations. Many had decided to take a defensive posture at the capitol, rather than push for new initiatives or expanded programs, due to the focus on balancing the state budget.

 

February 2002

The Williams versus Toyota Motors U.S. Supreme Court case was outlined. Plaintiff Ella Williams sustained disabling carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis after years of working at Toyota. She sued after Toyota refused to provide reasonable accommodations. The court ruled that Williams hadn’t proved that her impairments were severe enough to limit a major life activity and she didn’t fit the definition of an individual with a disability. The case was seen as setting a bad precedent for future ADA employment discrimination cases.

Hearing and Services Dogs of Minnesota hosted a graduation for 11 service dogs. Some of the graduates were shelter dogs before going through training to assist their new owners. The dogs had mortarboards hats and carried rawhide diplomas. Dogs were of many breeds, from dachshund to Siberian husky.

 

March 2002

NAMI-Minnesota celebrated its 25th anniversary. The group began as a kitchen table coalition concerned about the lack of services for the mentally ill in Minnesota. It grew to become a force for change in the mental health system. Changes at NAMI-MN included new Executive Director Sue Abderholden, new Program Director Shelley White and a newly expanded board of directors.

The state budget shortfall was only growing worse, from $1.95 to $2.3 billion. Minnesota is required constitutionally to have a balanced budget so fears grew about cuts to programs and services crucial to the disability community. Ventura proposed a number of tax increases and budget cuts to bring things into balance. Proposed cuts would affect children’s mental health, prescription drug coverage and the developmentally disabled.

 

April 2002

The situation at the state capitol didn’t get any easier. Mental health advocates viewed it as a disaster, as the children’s mental health collaborative lost 100 percent of their wraparound dollars and funds for new collaborative. That would affect 4,200 children and their families. Regional treatment centers took an $8 million cut. The Senate partially restored both reductions but additional cuts, including a proposed cut to General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) prompted fears among community members.

The History of Bowling, a play at Mixed Blood Theater, focused on people with disabilities. The play was inspired by a friend of playwright Mike Ervin. The friend, who has epilepsy, tried to get out of school gym classes but was instead required to write an essay about each sport the class participated in.

 

May 2002

Twelve brand-new wheelchair-accessible taxis were unveiled by Metro Mobility. Additional accessible cabs, operated by private companies, were expected to hit the street soon.

People First of Minnesota, a statewide disability organization, won a $40,000 state grant to support self-advocacy groups throughout Minnesota. People First would work with ACT to start groups and lead workshops, promote collaboration among groups and help people with developmental disabilities improve their public speaking abilities.

Deb Sunderman was a winner of the Ann Bancroft Award. Sunderman was a former college basketball player whose hip degeneration forced her to quit playing – but not for long. She soon became a member of Courage Center’s Rolling Gophers, later Rolling Timberwolves, women’s basketball team. She then went out to coach women’s wheelchair basketball at the Paralympics.

 

June 2002

What was described as a “very successful unsuccessful” legislative session drew to a close. Disability groups worked hard to preserve the status quo for funding and had success in most areas. Health and human services spending was cut by $96 million during the current biennium and $192 million during the next. The full implications of the cuts were still being fleshed out. Still, that was less of a cut than many expected,

An ADA rights and responsibilities conference was to be held in Minnesota. Several disability community groups were hosting the conference as an update on the ADA and the changes made over the past 12 years.

Courage Center’s wagon train marked its 25th year. Riders, horses and covered wagons traveled to Camp Courage as a fundraiser.

 

July 2002

Nationally known disability rights advocate Justin Dart passed away. The Washington, D.C. power broker was remembered for his tireless efforts on behalf of the ADA and people with disabilities. He was born to privilege but was someone who worked hard for community integration and inclusion of all.

Rep. Kevin Goodno, R-Moorhead, was retiring. Goodno, who chaired the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee, was a champion of programs including the 1999 work incentives act and MA legislation. He had been honored by many disability community groups in recent years. Goodno wanted to spend more time with his family.

Ventura announced be wouldn’t seek another term, prompting Access Press cartoonist Scott Adams to say he’d miss him, adding, “He’s easy to draw.”

 

August 2002

Athletes and spectators were preparing for the 26th National Wheelchair Softball Tournament, to be held in St. Paul at Aldrich Arena. The St. Paul Rolling Thunder was prepared to defend its national title. Minnesota Telephone Revoice Service was a sponsor.

The Rehabilitative Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America held its annual conference in Minneapolis. Participants were able to see the latest in assistive technology and learn about advances in home modifications and robotics, as well as new vocalization technology and direct brain interface devices.

Gubernatorial candidates discussed disability community issues with Access Press. Candidates were Roger Moe, DFL; Tim Pawlenty, Republican; Tim Penny, Independence and Ken Pentel, Green.

 

September 2002

Minnesota’s candidates for U.S. Senate responded to issues concerning the disability community. Candidates were Norm Coleman, Republican; Ed McGaa, Green; Jim Moore, Independence and Wellstone, DFL. In his column Benjamin noted that none of the four addressed the Medicaid Community-Based Attended Services and Support Act, which had been languishing for years in Congress.

Disability community members were reminded of the availability of absentee voting, which made it easier to cast a ballot.

Judith Heumann’s speech to ADA Minnesota was highlighted. She spoke about the civil rights of people with disabilities and how the community could continue to fight for those rights. She used her speech as a way to remind people with disabilities to be politically active and to vote,

 

October 2002

After filling the airwaves since 1993, Martha Hage retired from her popular KFAI radio show. Disabled and Proud: It’s NOT an Oxymoron. She would be replaced by her producer and co-host Sam Jasmine. She had interviewed celebrities including Justin Dart and John Hockenberry, and used her show to discuss and promote disability culture. Her interviews featured people with a broad range of disabilities, and brought forward many perspectives.

The Disability Institute announced a new program called Breakthrough. This program would give college students with disabilities the opportunity to gain meaningful work experiences through corporate internships. 3M, Northwest Airlines, Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Deluxe Corporation were among the participating companies, as was the Minnesota Business Leadership Network.

 

November 2002

Minnesota was in mourning after a plane carrying U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone, his wife Sheila and four campaign staff members crashed. Two pilots also died. Wellstone was in the midst of a hard-fought re-election campaign. The Wellstones were remembered for their tireless work on behalf of Minnesota’s disability community. Remembrances of the Wellstones appeared throughout the issue.

Arc Northland was profiled. The Duluth-based organization provided services for people with developmental disabilities and their families and was one of two Arc organizations in northeastern Minnesota. The organization has had to broaden its focus in recent years as other organizations in its region ran into funding difficulties and closed their doors. One of the organization’s focuses was fetal alcohol syndrome and the disabilities linked to it.

 

December 2002

The state faced another massive budget deficit, this time of $4.5 billion. This amounted to more than 15 percent of the state’s biennial budget and was a source of deep worry in the disability community. DHS was facing the possibility of huge cuts in services, eligibility for services and provider rates.

Kevin Goodno, a champion of disability rights issues as a legislator, was named commissioner of DHS. The appointment was greeted with enthusiasm by community members who knew Goodno and had worked with him over the years.

Lab in a Bag was unveiled as a U of M pilot program, to help students with disabilities when they needed computer lab access. Backpacks containing laptop computers, flatbed scanners, speech recognition software and a headset were provided on the St. Paul campus, which lacked an adaptive technology computer lab.

 

January 2003

Professor Peter Vaill of the University of St. Thomas School of Business spoke at the Courage Residence grand opening. An expert on the topic of change management, Vaill’s personal experience included a disabling injury and intensive therapy for life. That in turn affected his teaching and approach to change. His key points included learning to let go, not being afraid to ask for help and realizing that the only health attitude is humor.

Minnesota was eyeing a $4.6 billion budget shortfall, which meant MN-CCD and its member organizations had to approach the deficit carefully in their legislative requests. For most programs the effort would be to maintain current funding levels.

Many Minnesotans contributed to development of the new Web site, www.DeafBlindinfo.org

 

February 2003

The budget crisis deepened as state leaders debated the extent of cuts to disability community programs and services. Pawlenty warned that if the House and Senate couldn’t agree, he’d make cuts through unallotment. GAMC, MA employment programs and waivered services were threatened.

The Minnesota Disability Law Center was looking for people who had been denied voluntary hospitalization due to a bed shortage. A work group of the State Mental Health Advisory Council was looking into a serious shortage of inpatient psychiatric beds, particularly in the Twin Cities area.

United Cerebral Palsy Minnesota worked with Now Bikes and Fitness and Kurt Manufacturing to host the Great Minnesota Stationary Bike Race at Merriam Park Recreation Center in St. Paul. Ten-member teams would participate; wheelchairs and adaptive bikes were welcomed.

 

March 2003

The governor’s health and human services cuts were outlined. All new service funding for persons with developmental disabilities would be eliminated, affecting about 600 people. Limiting access to the traumatic brain injury waiver program was also recommended. GAMC was proposed for elimination. Community members rallied to try to block the cuts. The budget proposed by Pawlenty also zeroed out the State Council on Disability, sparking outrage.

Nine youngsters from the Shriners Hospital for Children-Twin Cities went to Winter Camp Achieve to enjoy downhill skiing, using adaptive equipment. The equipment was provided by Courage Center.

 

 

April 2003

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights announced a settlement with Abbott Northwestern Hospital. The hospital agreed to improve its services to patients who are deaf and hard-of-hearing. The settlement stemmed from a complaint alleging that the hospital failed to provide properly trained interpreters.

The Minnesota State Council on Disability found itself back in the state budget, after being zeroed out by the governor. Without the funding, the council would have been forced to shut down June 30. While that was hailed as good news, many health and human services cuts on the table prompted worries.

Faces of Inclusion: Including People with Disabilities in Faith Communities was the topic of a conference planned for clergy and the lay community.

 

May 2003

Four individuals with disabilities and Arc Minnesota filed a lawsuit in federal court to prevent DHS from implementing a proposed “rebasing” program. DHS wanted to limit the amount of money available for MR/RC (mental retardation/related conditions) waivers. Recalculations by DHS, called rebasing, would cause serious shortfalls in available funding and affect home and community-based services. The Minnesota Disability Law Center worked with the plaintiffs to prepare the complaint, which sought to restore services.

Wadena County residents announced a new “friendly rider” public transportation system. The program included three new lift-equipped buses.

The Gillette Lifetime Clinic expanded its services to adults with disabilities. The clinic provided services to adults with spina bifida, cerebral palsy and other conditions. One feature was coordinated appointment to help save patients’ time.

 

June 2003

The legislative session ended with many program cuts, shifts, changes and unallotment of some programs. About $1 billion was cut from health and human services spending. As anticipated about 600 new slots for MR/RC waivers were eliminated. Families on Minnesota Family Investment Plan would lose $125 a month. Community service provider rates were cut. Other programs were cut, had fee increases or had waiting lists extended.

Despite opposition from many national parent and advocacy groups, as well as teachers, IDEA was reauthorized by Congress. The action was controversial because it rewrote sections of the law and deleted many provisions considered essential to children’s rights.

Sister Kenny Institute celebrated its 60th anniversary but faced a challenging future with many program and job cuts.

 

July 2003

The 2003 legislative session’s impacts on mental health programs were explored. The many cuts revealed the very fragmented nature of the mental health system and the issues advocates faced in defending against cuts. Day treatment for adults, children’s mental health, prescription drug coverage, residential services and commitment act changes were among issues under scrutiny.

Cardenas discussed his struggles with sleep apnea. How sleep apnea and other sleep disordered affect the disability community was explored. People with certain disabilities, such as Parkinson’s disease, were at higher risk for sleep disorders. Some people assumed sleep disorders were “part of the territory” when it came to living with a disability but health care professionals urged treatment.

 

August 2003

Medicaid narrowly escaped drastic reform and cutbacks by the Bush administration. Nationally Medicaid covered 47 million low-income people. It covered people with disabilities, so community members were very concerned about potential cuts.

Jerry Smith wrote about his work with disability community members in the nation of Cyprus, who were concerned with increasing opportunities and obtaining better services. The group wanted to develop a series of public service announcements. This was a challenge in a country where there was no culture of organized self-advocacy. Another challenge was working in a country were public service announcements aren’t commonly used.

The governor signed the Resource Facilitation for Persons with Brain Injury in Minnesota, providing improved resource facilitation and information.

 

September 2003

Access Press was seeking nominees for the first-ever Charlie Smith Award, to honor people with exceptional commitment to the disability community. Abilities in networking, achievement and changing perceptions were to be considered. The award, which honored the newspaper’s founding editor, would be presented at an upcoming banquet.

Kevin Sullivan, owner of In-Home Personal Care, was profiled. Sullivan broke his neck in a diving accident at age 24. While at Courage Center he gave a tour to Anne Reeve Lindbergh, granddaughter of aviator Charles Lindbergh. That resulted in a grant to help integrate people with disabilities into their environment. Sullivan used the grant to purchase a van and continue his education. He ran a flight school before founding In-Home Personal Care.

 

October 2003

Anne L. Henry of the Minnesota Disability Law Center was inducted into the Public Interest Hall of Fame, created by the White House Office of Management and Budget Watch (OMB). The hall honored people who worked on issues including government accountability, citizen participation and social justice. OMB watch was well known for tracking many causes, beyond simply focusing on OMB.

A lawsuit brought by eight deaf Minnesotans was settled. They and others experienced problems in obtaining qualified sign language interpreters for court proceedings in the state’s courts and sued. The Minnesota Supreme Court provided notice that acknowledged the problems and outlined a number of corrective actions.

ACT launched its self-advocacy resource network, to provide more sharing of information among self-advocates.

 

November 2003

Margot Imdieke Cross was the first recipient of the Charlie Smith Award. Her long resume of community service included working as accessibility advocate for the Minnesota State Council on Disability. She also served on the Minneapolis Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Disability and had served on the Access Press and MCIL boards. The banquet drew a large crowd to the Como Park Pavilion in St. Paul.

Courage Center won the 2003 New Freedom Initiative Award from the U.S. Department of Labor. The award honored those who worked to provide Americans with disabilities with opportunities to learn and develop skills, engage in productive work and participate fully in their communities. Courage Center CEO Eric Stevens accepted the award at a Labor Department luncheon in Washington, D.C.

 

December 2003

Congress passed sweeping changes that would affect Medicare. These could affect millions of Americans, including the five million of Medicare recipients under 65 who have disabilities. The major change was to prescription drug coverage. The new law authorized the development of private prescription drug plans, with varying levels of benefits. One concern was that the changes in Medicare were geared more toward senior citizens, with far less attention to the needs of the disability community.

Interact Theater’s recent trip to England was featured. 2003 was the European year of the Disabled and disability arts were in full flower there.

 

January 2004

New federal election reform measures were announced by the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office. Several vendors of assistive equipment were displaying their wares. Minnesota was preparing to implement the federal mandated Help America Vote Act and a variety of assistive technology items for voters were being studied but there was concern about finding equipment that could meet a wide range of disabilities.

The Minnesota Travel Guide for Persons with Disabilities was published. The guide, published by the state, included useful information about restaurants, lodging, entertainment and tourism venues.

IDEA continued to be debated in Congress as the Senate blocked major changes sought by the House. The Senate adjourned from its first session without acting on the controversial changes, which were opposed by parents, teachers and advocacy groups.

 

February 2004

Members of MN-CCD released their position papers for the 2004 legislative session. One focus would be rectifying cuts made in previous session, as those cuts continued to forcer the costs of services to go up. Many people already faced hardship with higher fees and co-payments. Some service providers were balking at providing services when the amount available for service was capped.

One focus was on the human side of budget cuts, as people told their stories to state lawmakers. Families with children with disabilities were effective in describing how cuts to Consumer Support Grants had affected them.

Parents of a young woman with cerebral palsy planned and developed The Cardinal’s Nest, a drop-in center for young people with disabilities.

 

March 2004

Joan Willshire was named executive director of MSCOD.  She had worked for the council for several years.

Assistant U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Roy Grizzard gave an overview of the employment outlook for people with disabilities. Despite a difficult national and state economy, he said people with disabilities shouldn’t be discouraged in their quest for employment. He described federal programs and how they could help community members find and retain work. Grizzard pointed out that assistive technology has greatly changed the playing field for people with technologies.

MN-CCD was rallying community groups to stave off a proposed $40 million in state health and human services cuts, saying enough is enough.

 

April 2004

Metro Transit workers went on strike, sending the transit system into chaos. Although the strike didn’t affect Metro Mobility, it did affect people with disabilities who used regular route bus service. People found themselves on foot, asking others for rides or in many cases, stranded. Many with disabilities were hard-hit by the strike. Many picketed outside of Metropolitan Council an office, including a number of self-advocates.

PACER Center outlined what could be done to help children with disabilities who are bullied. Children may not want to tell a parent or teacher what is happening. Ways to discuss bullying and work with schools were suggested.

Access Press published its first issue with full color pictures.

 

May 2004

The Help America Vote campaign, meant to encourage people with disabilities to vote this fall, was announced. Access to voting, through assistive technology, accessible polling places and other methods, was a focus. Assistance to help voters with disabilities register and vote was another focus. Some polling place locations would have to be moved due to a lack of access.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent out an advisory warning that certain anti-depressant drugs should be monitored if usage increased risks of suicide. Many types of anti-depressants were ordered to have label language added to warn of those risks.

Boston-based performer and poet Michael Mack would perform as part of Mental Health Awareness Month events in May. Mack would discuss his life with a mother with schizophrenia.

 

June 2004

The 2004 legislative session ended in a deadlock over funding and with no state bonding bill. Agreement couldn’t be reached on how to address a $160 million budget deficit. The capitol gridlock meant many changes harmful to the disability community would remain in place. But efforts to hold a special session were underway.

Access Press columnist Pete Feigal won the Courage Center Judd Jacobson Memorial Award, for his work on behalf of mental health issues.

New ways to garden were outlined. Adapted gardening tools were growing in popularity, as were raised garden beds and other equipment meant to make gardening easier. A companion article outlined accessible public gardens in the Twin Cities that gardeners and non-gardeners could visit and enjoy.

 

July 2004

A series on the potential impacts of universal health care on Minnesota’s disability community outlined pending federal proposals and the pros and cons. Whatever happened, Minnesota disability community and its programs would be impacted. That made it all the more important to have community involvement when new programs and services were planned.

The need for emergency preparedness for people with disabilities was outlined. People needed to be ready for any type of emergency, ranging from a power outage that would shut down elevator access to a chemical leak or spill.

The new free statewide Disability Linkage Line was announced. It would provide information and referrals to a wide range of services, both by phone and on the Internet.

 

August 2004

Clients turned out in force to protest the closing of Fairview’s Tamarack Clinic and to object to Medicare policies. The clinic was forced to close because Medicare provided inadequate reimbursement for customized wheelchair seating systems. Most clients were adults with spinal cord injuries or multiple sclerosis. Without proper seating clients could develop sores and dangerous infections. Fairview officials said there would be other services available but community members were skeptical.

Mid-Minnesota Legal Assistance reminded readers of the changes in guardianship laws that could affect voting by people with disabilities. The bill passed contained many loopholes and was very confusing. The new law was seen as undoing much of the process made when persons under guardianship had their voting rights more clearly spelled out by legislation adopted in 2003.

 

September 2004

Online technology and learning should be a boom for many students with disabilities but few colleges were using technologies that could help more people get an education. Persons with disabilities seeking to continue their educations said schools weren’t prepared to work with students who are deaf, blind, or physically disabled. Attention was focused on assistive technology in general as Congress was considering reauthorization of the Assistive Technology Act, which provides federal funding for such technology.

The Social Security Administration’s outreach to Hmong refugees was described. PASS Specialist Nou Vang spoke at several venues to explain available programs and services. The outreach was prompted by the recent arrival of immigrants through the Wat Tham Krabok resettlement.

Access Press sought nominations for its second annual Charlie Smith Award.

 

October 2004

Navy Corpsman Ted Bittle, who sustained traumatic brain injury in a suicide bombing in Baghdad, was interviewed. The former combat medic and Desert Storm veteran struggled not only with his injury but a difficult and confusing government bureaucracy. “Every crack that was available to slip through, I slipped through,” he said.

The University of Minnesota reported increasing cases of mental illness among college students. That was a focus during Mental Awareness Week on campus, so that students could get the help they needed. NAMI worked with university officials to debunk myths and disseminate accurate information.

Presidential candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry presented their viewpoints on disability issues, through an American Association for People with Disabilities questionnaire.

 

November 2004

Rick Cárdenas was honored as the Charlie Smith award winner. He was recognized for his years of providing leadership to the disability community through ACT, through community organizing, work on accessibility issues and efforts on behalf of the Latino community. He also worked as an architectural consultant.

Actor-turned-disability-spokesman Christopher Reeve passed away. In his editor’s column Benjamin noted that while Reeve generated conflicting opinions as a spokesman on spinal cord injuries issues, in part due to his focus on the need for a “cure.” But Reeve also generated admiration and respect for his tireless efforts to raise money for research and to draw attention to quality of life issues.

Steve Thovson, director of Southwestern Center for Independent Living, won the Earl Warren Award for Outstanding Rural Advocacy.

 

December 2004

After six years CEO Eric Stevens was leaving Courage Center. His accomplishments included the grand opening of the renovated Courage Center residents, national and regional award and the center’s 75h anniversary. Stevens would take a sabbatical before deciding his next career path. Nancy Larkin would serve as interim leader.

MN-CDD was preparing for the 2005 legislative session, by bringing forward a comprehensive plan to help legislators see the overall negative impact of budget cuts and the positive solutions the disability community proposed. The organization had approved a 65-page position paper on various legislative initiatives.

Several free computer software programs and adaptations were described, in the form of freeware and shareware. Programs for people with low vision and text-to-speech programs were among those available.

 

January 2005

Another Budget Deficit was the headline for the 2005 legislative preview. A state shortfall of $700 million was projected. Pawlenty had singled out what he called a “state health care spending problem” and there were fears that programs were again at risk. The situation was made all the more serious by the fact that cuts made during 2003 had yet to be restored. Those cuts affected everything from waiver slots for persons with developmental disabilities to dental care.

Wilderness Inquiry and its work in providing outdoor adventure opportunities for people with disabilities were highlighted. The organization had served more than 80,000 people, through integrated outdoor adventures, training fort recreation service providers, information on recreation resources and surveys of parks, trails and other facilities to determine accessibility.

 

February 2005

Disability Day at the Capitol drew a record turnout of more than 300 people. The detrimental impacts of budget cuts made in 2003 and 2004 were highlighting, including fee increases, reduced service levels, additional co-payments and caps on some benefits. Several disability advocacy organizations planned the event.

Pawlenty was already proposing a number of cuts, including elimination of MinnesotaCare for childless adults, and limits on home and community waiver programs. Nor did Pawlenty propose to restore any of the cuts made in recent years.

HousingLink’s accessible housing referral information service was featured. The service provides customized matches to accessible rental properties and provided information prospective renters couldn’t find in the typical ways of seeking an apartment.

 

March 2005

The Minnesotans with Disabilities Act, a comprehensive package of health care policy and funding improvements, cleared its first hurdle by passing the House Health Policy and Finance Committee. MN-CCD brought forward the legislation to show how many different parts of government should be working together to coordinate programs and services to help people with disabilities.

Disney characters visited children at Gillette Specialty Healthcare Clinic, which Disney held its annual corporate meeting in Minneapolis.

More than 1,300 children and adults participated in the Roll and Stroll for Fraser at Mall of America. The event raised more than $56,000 for Fraser services for children and adults. This was the fifth year for the event.

 

April 2005

Metro Mobility planned a series of forums to discuss proposed changes. Possible fare increases generated some concern but there were more questions over the idea of changing where service is delivered. Rather than defining service by communities where it was and wasn’t offered, changes would be made to encourage more people to ride Metro Transit buses. But bus routes also faced reductions in service.

Opportunity Partners’ Karlins Center was highlighted. The center, based in Plymouth, provides services to people with autism.

The Twin Cities prepared to host the 25th National Veterans Wheelchair Games, the largest sporting event in the world for wheelchair athletes. More than 2,500 volunteers were sought for the event, hosted by Minneapolis VA Medical Center and Minnesota Chapter, Paralyzed Veterans of America.

 

May 2005

Major differences were seen in the Minnesota House and Senate’s proposed health and human services legislation. Both bodies proposed policy changes for private agencies that assisted people who wished to leave nursing facilities and transition back into the community. Cost-of-living adjustments were proposed for community services and long-term care providers. But both the House and Senate wanted to adopt significant caseload restrictions for home and community waiver programs for people otherwise eligible for CADI, traumatic brain injuries and developmental disabilities. The House wanted to eliminate MinnesotaCare and included several of Pawlenty’s proposals for cuts.

Proposed cuts to bus service were debated. Metropolitan Council Chairman Peter Bell responded to those fearing cuts, saying that while no one wanted to cut service, a $60 million shortfall loomed for transit.

 

June 2005

Jan Malcolm was named new CEO at Courage Center. Her career included work in health care policy, leadership positions at Health Partners, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Allina, and a term as Minnesota Commissioner of Health.

The 2005 legislative regular session ended with no agreement on packages for health care, education and transportation. A special session would be needed, frustrating many who worked hard on bills affecting the disability community.

Metropolitan Council couldn’t make decisions of service reductions yet but did decide to implement a fare increase.

Can headaches be considered disabling? That was a focus of Access Press this issue. National Headache Awareness Week was marked, and ways to treat migraines and other chronic headaches were outlined.

 

July 2005

CONNECT/US-RUSSIA promoted greater understanding and connections between the United States and Russia. Its focus expanded to include people with disabilities. Seven Russians with disabilities visited the United States to learn more about programs and services here. One of there stops was at the Minnesota Business Leadership Network at Medtronic. Access Press staff and board members participated in the visit and shared information.

With no state budget deal in place, parts of government shut down. Critical agencies that affect Minnesotans with disabilities stayed open but other programs and services closed. Rural paratransit service shut down. Applications for MinnesotaCare and Medical Assistance were put on hold. State Services for the Blind, the Work Incentives Connection and MSCOD also closed.

 

August 2005

A special legislative session reopened shut-down programs and services, much to the relief of many community members. Several core components of MN-CCD’s Minnesotans with Disabilities Act were implemented, including lower parental fees for families, choice of community care provider for those leaving in nursing homes, lower prescription drug co-payments and an increase in the personal needs allowance. Many state health programs were protected, including MinnesotaCare, thanks to an additional 75 cents per pack charge on cigarettes. The “health impact fee” was opposed by smokers but would raise an estimated $401 million per year.

Another bright spot was increased Metro Transit funding and preservation of services. But limits placed on Medical Assistance waiver program were a worry.

 

September 2005

The Age & Disability Odyssey Conference in Duluth provided useful information on a wide variety of topics. Linda Morrow of Elder Circle was one of the conferences’ many award winners.

Two important changes to PCA services were announced by DHS. A new law would prevent a PCA from working unsupervised unless his or her agency had submitted the results of a background check to DHS and received clearance from DHS. This change was meant to eliminate a loophole that allowed people with criminal backgrounds to work as PCAs. A second change required individual PCA, not just their employers, to have a state registration number. This would improve recordkeeping and make it clear when services were provided, and by whom.

 

October 2005

For the first time, Access Press printed an article in two languages, in Hmong and English. The article described how parents could find resources and services for children with disabilities and how parents could help their children.

Luther Granquist retired after 36 years with the Minnesota Disability Law Center. His many accomplishments included work on the 1972 Welsch versus Likens case, a landmark lawsuit which sought to improve and change the way Minnesotans in state institutions were treated. As a result most state institutions closed and people moved into community settings. He worked on numerous cases that improved the lives of Minnesotans with disabilities. Granquist was also honored as recipient of the Vincent L. Hawkinson Foundation for Peace and Justice Award.

 

November 2005

MN-CCD was given the third annual Charlie Smith Award, at the annual Access Press banquet. It was one of several awards the statewide disability advocacy coalition had won. Co-chairs Joel Ulland of National Multiple Sclerosis Society Minnesota and John Tschida of Courage Center accepted the award. MN-CCD had started informally about five years and quickly became a force at the state capitol.

November was set aside to recognize the work of family caregivers. The National Family Caregivers Association noted that about half a million Minnesotans served as caregivers for family members. These volunteers provided services that often went unrecognized.

The Access Press Web site had passed the 10,000 visit mark for 2005.

 

December 2005

The National Council on Disability called for changes in federal policy. The organization wanted to see more creativity in program design, more accountability in measuring civil rights compliance for people with disabilities and greater cross-agency coordination in managing disability programs. Gaps in these services and supports meant that many Americans with disabilities were underemployed or unemployed.

Changes in the history books and use of Braille were described. Braille writers, which produce documents for the blind, were once noisy, heavy and costly to repair. Now computerized transcribers could quickly and quietly convert electronic documents into Braille hard copies.

Home accessibility issues for holiday guests were discussed. How to accommodate visitors with disabilities was described. Ideas included raising dining room table legs with blocks, use of temporary exterior door ramps and rearranging furniture.

January 2006

The U.S. Senate passed an agreement with the House on the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which was seen as having significant negative implications for people with disabilities. The agreement succeeded by a very slim margin, with Vice President Dick Cheney casting the deciding vote. While many agreed that the proposal contains several valuable items, including the Family Opportunity Act and the Money Follows the Person Rebalancing Demonstration, opponents assert that the benefits of the widely agreed upon portions do not outweigh the cuts to programs depended upon by families and individuals in need. Supporters stressed the immediate need to slow government spending in order to control our nation’s deficit.

The VotePAD, an assistive device to help people with hand mobility impairments, was tested.

 

February 2006

Thirteen-year-old Josh Scanlon of Delano was selected to attend the 2006 Paralympics Academy at the 2006 Paralympics Games in Torino, Italy. He and other young people would get to meet the athletes and attend the games. Scanlon was active in sports at Courage Center.

Artis Sandstrom was named executive director of the Brain Injury Association of Minnesota. She succeeded Thomas Gode.

The Oregon Death with Dignity Act (ODDA) and its ethical implications were explained. The ODDA enables terminally ill individuals, defined in statute as individuals with a permanent and irreversible condition that is expected to result in death in six months or less, to request a lethal dose of medication for the purposes of ending his or her life in a “humane and dignified manner.”

 

March 2006

A group of blind people filed a class action lawsuit against Minneapolis-based Target Corporation, centering on alleged problems blind people have with a website that is not totally compatible with screen reading programs. The National Federation for the Blind charges “that Target’s website, www.target.com, is inaccessible to the blind, violating the California Unruh Civil Rights Act and the California Disabled Persons Act.” But Target officials argued they have always been committed to respecting diversity.

A consortium of Minnesota hospitals announced a partnership with Communication Services for the Deaf, Inc. of Minnesota, to respond 24/7 to sign language requests.

VSA Arts of Minnesota launched its 20th anniversary year.

 

April 2006

Members and friends of the disability community gathered in front of the Ted Mann Concert Hall at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis to protest philosopher Peter Singer. It was the first disability-related protest on campus in more than a decade. Although the focus of Singer’s lecture was on factory farming and vegetarianism, he was challenged by people with disabilities for his controversial views advocating the right to euthanize babies and in some cases adults with severe disabilities.

Jason McElwain of Rochester, a student-athlete with autism, was featured. He’d managed his high school team before getting the chance to play in the final game – and scored 20 points. Most of his points were on three-point shots. He was enjoying the media attention.

 

May 2006

DHS implemented a new registration process to track PCAs and home health aides who perform services in the community. The program was meant to provide accountability. Approximately 21,000 PCAs were assigned identification numbers. As a part of this process, DHS determined 230 people shouldn’t be providing services, due to failure to pass criminal background checks or tax issues. But some questioned whether the screening process would lead to delays in obtaining PCA services and would add to costs.

May’s observance of Mental Health Month put the spotlight on issues and services, including St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church and its ministry to the mentally ill. Support, ministry and a resource library were among the church’s offerings.

 

June 2006

Barb Smith of the Minnesota Work Incentives Connection received the Skip Kruse Memorial Return-to-Work Award for “tireless energy, compassion and vision, demonstrated in promoting the use of Social Security Administration (SSA) employment support programs for people with disabilities.” In 1993, Smith initiated the Minnesota Work Incentives Coalition, which sponsored training on a variety of Social Security, Medical Assistance and other work incentive topics. Smith was also the coalition’s liaison to MN-CCD.

Changes loomed ahead for managed care as a result of changes adopted by the 2006 Legislature. One key change was that people eligible for MA were now required to join a managed care plan. That change affected more than 286,000 people.

 

July 2006

The AutoMARK voting machine was making its debut in many Minnesota polling places. People with disabilities hailed the ballot marking machine because it made it easier to vote independently and privately. Voters could use a keypad or touch screen to vote. The device aided blind and deaf voters, and had audio and written instructions. “This is an exciting breakthrough for blind Minnesotans and for other people with disabilities. For the first time, blind people will be able to vote without any assistance from another human being,” said Steve Jacobson, National Federation for the Blind of Minnesota.

The need to keep TTY technology, in a time of emails, instant messaging and relay services, was debated in the deaf community.

 

August 2006

Mark Olson, president of the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP), announced the first-ever national credentialing program for direct support professionals. The program was voluntary. Anyone interested had to complete a training program before seeking credentials. Those seeking credentials also had to show a clear understanding of the NADSP code of ethics. NADSP had 28 affiliates in 19 states.

Medtronics announced first first-ever formal mentoring program for college students with disabilities. Awareness Benefiting Leadership and Employees about Disability (ABLED) promoted workplace inclusion.

Candidates for governor and U.S. Senate and their positions on disability issues were featured.

 

September 2006

Minnesota native and stand-up comedian Josh Blue was featured. Blue, who grew up in St. Paul, didn’t let cerebral palsy stop him from having a successful career. He won top honors on the television show Last Comic Standing and won the 2004 Royal Flush Comedy Competition in Las Vegas. His humor centered on how he perceives life and how he has been seen as a “victim” of cerebral palsy.

Breaking the cycle of problems for disabled and homeless veterans was the challenge facing the St. Cloud Veterans Administration Center and other Minnesota programs and services. One huge need was for more transitional housing for veterans.

MCIL celebrated its 25th anniversary.

 

October 2006

After a whirlwind tour of Minnesota to educate people with disabilities and their families on state and federal health care policy changes, leading disability advocates were excited about the many families they connected with. “We reached hundreds of families, particularly in rural Minnesota,” said Joel Ulland, cochair of MN-CCD. “People are hungry for this kind of information and eager to know how they can get involved to preserve these critical health services.” MN-CCD partner organizations prepared for the 2007 legislative session and wanted community members to be ready to speak out on budget issues.

Courage Center opened a chronic pain clinic, to replace one that had recently closed at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.

 

November 2006

Remembering With Dignity was seeking people with knowledge of the City of Rochester, to help them find the Rosemont Cemetery, where the earliest residents of the Rochester State Hospital are buried. A plat map was found, showing the location of graves and names of each of the 75 people buried in the cemetery but the exact location had not been located. Remembering With Dignity was in the process of marking 12,500 graves like those at Rosemount, with patient names and dates of birth and death.

John G. Smith was honored as 2006 Charlie Smith Award winner. Smith was a longtime advocate with various Arc organizations in the Twin Cities and with People First Minnesota. He was also recognized for his work at U of M Institute on Community Integration.

 

December 2006

High school students and St. Cloud residents Heather Breitbach, Amelia Boos, Ashley Antonelli, Craig Roering and Charles Schumacher wanted to learn to drive. But their deafness became a roadblock. After private drivers’ education schools in their community refused to provide sign language interpretation they and their parents contacted the Minnesota Disability Law Center. Attorneys told the students and parents that the schools were violating the Minnesota Human Rights Act and ADA by refusing to provide an interpreter. The center filed a lawsuit, which resulted in a settlement. The students were able to take drivers’ education with the services of an interpreter.

Actor and playwright Kevin Kling and Interact Theater were performing in Australia. They would perform with Australia’s Tutti Ensemble, which included performers with disabilities.

 

January 2007

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie focused on barriers to voting. Although Minnesota is a national leader in voter turnout, Ritchie noted that Minnesotans with disabilities are less likely to vote than other eligible voters. He was looking at ways to improve voter turnout.

Mary Bailey Bustos of St. Paul won Metropolitan State University’s fall 2006 Outstanding Student Award. She wrote poetry and took part in many activities despite short-term and long-term memory loss as a result of traumatic brain injury. She majored in human services, chemical dependency and corrections. She made many accommodations to get through college.

Nationally known disability activist Robert G. Sampson died. He earned a law degree when few people with muscular dystrophy did so. He served on many national boards, commission and committees.

 

February 2007

Local disability community leaders debated the “Ashley Treatment.” Parents of a physically and cognitively disabled nine-year-old Seattle girl, Ashley, were having her undergo medical treatments so she wouldn’t mature into womanhood. Ashley’s family defended the treatment, saying they would make her care easier. Many advocates were horrified, saying convenience shouldn’t usurp the girls’ rights. But some parents said that Ashley’s parents shouldn’t be judged, citing the challenges in caring for their children as they grew up.

Local disability activist Chuck Frahm was remembered after his death for his work with United Cerebral Palsy, especially his community organizing efforts and work to make voting more accessible.

Gillette Lifetime Specialty Healthcare announced it was expanding its adult services clinic.

 

March 2007

A survey by the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disability showed that Minnesotans’ attitude toward people with developmental disabilities had changed favorably over the past 45 years. A vast majority of people favored full integration into the community, as well as use of public money to assist families. Advocates were pleased with the findings and saw an impetus to seek continued change.

The 2007 Minnesota Legislature was looking at several changes to managed care. Expansion was being considered for enrollment in prepaid health plans. People with disabilities would benefit from expansion, as well as other changes.

Pet Crossings’ Animal Hospital and Dental Clinic in Bloomington and its hiring of employees with developmental disabilities was highlighted. Five employees there came from the Partnership Resources Inc. Program.

 

April 2007

Restoration of rights under the ADA prompted discussion throughout the nation. Since the ADA was adopted, U.S. Supreme Court cases were seen as eroding its effectiveness. Several members of Congress planned to introduce legislation to restore legal rights and reverse impacts court decisions had had.

A new statewide network had formed. SAM or Self-Advocates Minnesota was meant to help people with developmental disabilities and other disabilities assert their rights to self-determination and independence. ACT had worked for almost two years to help set up the network.

Litchfield resident Brian Heuring wrote about his years of misdiagnoses before being found to have high-functioning autism. He had worked to live independently, attend school and find a career. He credited several advocacy groups for helping him.

 

May 2007

Representatives of the United States sparked outrage when they skipped a United Nations ceremony to mark the signing of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Disability community advocates urged a letter-writing campaign to members of Congress and the White House to urge the United States to sign the convention.

Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) rewrote its taxicab guidelines after dog guides and their users were denied cab rides. Cab drivers who failed to allow access to their cabs faced fines, suspension and in the worst cases, revocation of their licenses.

Dudley Hansen showed off the Liberator three-wheeled motorcycle. The rear-engine vehicle helped Hansen, who had lost his legs in a farm accident, enjoy the open road again.

 

June 2007

Brave New Workshop’s new show, Rise of the Celebretards, drew protests for the offensive title. Many individuals and disability organizations protested, including the Arc of Minnesota and Self-Advocates Minnesota. They flooded the theater website and mailbox with their comments. But Brave New Workshop defended the title, saying that in satire offensive language was sometimes used.

The health and human services legislation adopted by state lawmakers was analyzed. Significant improvements were seen for the mental health, deaf and hard-of-hearing communities. Another plus was the reduction in co-payments for MA and GAMC users. Advocates were also pleased that funding was retained for the Disability Linkage Line. But many other key pieces of legislation, from improved voter access to more help for transit, were shot down.

 

July 2007

Access Press hosted visitors from Uzbekistan, through the Minnesota International Center’s International Visitor Leadership Program. Two visitors brought copies of their disability newspapers they published in their homeland. We Want to Talk About Ourselves is a publication for children. Dignity is a publication for adults.

Minneapolis City Council passed an ordinance requiring that new taxicab companies have at least 10 percent of their fleet be wheelchair accessible within 60 days of getting licensed. Existing cab companies had until the end of 2007 to comply.

Area celebrities played the Midway Lions Beepball Team in a game at Midway Stadium. Beepball players are blind or wear shades to block their vision. A beeping ball and modifications to the game of baseball are used. The Lions easily won.

 

August 2007

Disabled Vietnam veteran John Fields fought unsuccessfully for years with the Veterans Administration over benefits. He and his family worked closely with other disabled veterans. He claimed disability due to war-related physical and mental injuries but the VA denied his claims for disabled veterans’ life insurance. His family lost their home after his death from cancer.

Controversy over the Brave New Workshop and the “R” word continued with community forums and a call to action. Many called for a broader campaign to combat negative references in popular culture.

The Road to Freedom bus tour stopped in Minneapolis and St. Peter. The bus museum was full of information about the history of the disability rights movement.

 

September 2007

The Minnesota News Council upheld two of three complaints centered on Minneapolis artist Mari Neumann and the play The Mad Woman of Chaillot. Newman complained to the News Council that she was unfairly depicted in an article. The Minnesota Daily staff defended the writing, saying the intent was to draw parallels to real life, and to speak critically about societies that label people as “crazy.” But some panel members said the writing had an underlying negative tone that was unfair to Newman. The council debated whether Newman was a public figure.

Blind customers were filed complaints with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to force change in the cell phone industry. The cited poor access to phone service and a growing need for accessible cell phones.

 

October 2007

ADAPT members in Chicago confronted the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFCME) over the union’s support of reopening an Illinois institution for people with disabilities. AFSCME and ADAPT also clashed over the union’s refusal to endorse legislation support home and community-based services for people with disabilities. More than 120 ADAPT members and supporters were arrested for blocking AFSCME office doors.

Two major Stillwater construction projects, Washington Park and Lift Bridge renovations, were criticized for violating or ignoring the ADA. Curb cuts weren’t installed in some places. In others they were made incorrectly.

Minnesota North Stars quad rugby’s intersquad event was a hit at the Abilities Expo in Minneapolis.

 

November 2007

A DHS photo exhibit of Minnesota state hospital history and nursing homes was criticized for what it didn’t show. While there were many pictures of buildings on display, little was shown about the people who lived in the facilities. Information was displayed about the 1949 decisions to stop using restraints and other steps taken to improve the treatment of people who lived in the institutions. But exhibit visitors said they would like to have seen more about the facility residents.

Northwestern College in Roseville conducted eye-opening activities during Disabilities Awareness Week. Many buildings were marked due to their lack of access.

People Enhancing People founders Jim and Claudia Carlisle were honored as winners of the Charlie Smith Award.

 

December 2007

ACT members traveled to New York City to launch a new human rights manual, lead training sessions for people from around the world and celebrate the recently adopted UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The Minneapolis City Council would soon equip 11 crossings with accessible pedestrian signals. APS technology would make it safer for people with low vision or blindness to cross intersections. The city hoped to add the technology at more intersections on the future.

United Cerebral Palsy Minnesota hosted its fourth annual Celebrity Waiters’ Dinner fundraiser. Figures from sports and television served as waiters for the event, which raises funds for the nonprofit’s operations and services.

 

January 2008

Advocacy groups rallied to block proposed new rules which would make it more difficult to move people from nursing homes back into their own homes. The rule allowing for 180 days of coordinated relocation services was eyed for a change to 60 days. The MCIL Nursing Home Relocation Program, which helps people make the move, was publicizing the proposed change. The story featured Toni Mitchell, who had just moved back to her home after a nursing home stay with the help of the MCIL program and the funding from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS).

A new chapter of ADAPT formed in the Twin Cities. Organizer Galen Smith answered reader questions about the 25-year-old grassroots disability advocacy organization.

February 2008

MN-CCD prepared for the 2008 legislative session, which began this month. Healthcare reform, transportation needs statewide, caregiver tax credit and other issues were to be brought forward at a time when the state faced a general fund deficit of $373 million.

Pat Mellenthin was named to head The Arc of Minnesota. She replaced Steve Larson, who became public policy director. Mellenthin previously worked for the agency’s branch in southwestern Minnesota. There she worked on the merger of several local chapters into a larger regional group.

ACT and its Disability History Exhibit were invited to the Hungarian Eotvos Larand University and other destinations. ACT Co-Director Rick Cardenas said the exhibit would spread the word about disability as a human rights issue.

 

March 2008

The Institute on Community Integration at the University of Minnesota hosted an art show featuring works by artists with developmental disabilities, from Partnership Resources Inc. The show was held at Pattee Hall and began with an open house where many of the artists were on hand to discuss their works. The artists received art instruction and studio space at PRI’s facilities.

Writer and wheelchair user Tiffiny Carlson was out to redefine the American concepts of beauty. She has written for many websites and national magazines and has her own blog, BeautyAbility.com. She also writes the Tiff’s Corner column on the lovebirds.com website, dispensing relationship and dating advice.

The Work Incentives Connection provided information about how to receive federal economic stimulus checks and what the eligibility standards are.
April 2008

Disability Day activities at the state capitol drew a large crowd. About 360 people attended the sessions and visited legislators. Participants came from around the state, including many organizational representatives, self-advocates and family members of persons with disabilities. Many participants feared a repeat of the 2003 session, when the state budget was balanced on the backs of those with disabilities. The state budget projected out for 2009 had ballooned to $935 million.

The Social Fun-Joyment Program was featured. This program is a unique therapy program for teens with Asperberger’s Syndrome and highly functioning autism. Reach for Resources was offering five groups and planning to add several more. Participants got to meet other teens, participate in fun activities and develop social skills.

 

May 2008

Health care reform was still being debated at the state capitol. The main sticking point was how to pay for changes to the system and how to expand coverage to more uninsured Minnesotans. Pawlenty wanted to use some of the Health Care Access Fund to help cover the state’s budget deficit. Legislators wanted to use the funds only to pay for health care. Other ways to streamline the health care system were being sought. Impacts on the disability community were still debated.

The Courage Center’s Junior Rolling Timberwolves varsity wheelchair basketball team was honored for placing first in a national tournament in Seattle. The group, which includes nine boys and girls ages 13-18, was honored by state lawmakers during a visit to the capitol.

 

June 2008

The 2008 legislative session wrapped up. The biggest challenges for persons with disabilities during the session were the budget deficit, as health and human services had been targeted for substantial cuts. As a result home and community-based waiver services limits were set for persons with traumatic brain injury and for persons eligible for nursing home care. Limits mean more people will have to wait for services.

Education for persons with disabilities also faced challenges. Pawlenty vetoed the E-12 Educational Policy Bill and the E-12 Omnibus Education Budget Bill. Only a handful of items eventually did pass, including an increase of $51 per student in state aid.

The first Service Dog census was underway, to count the number of service dogs in the United States.

 

July 2008

The proposed Central Corridor light rail line was well into the planning stage yet few people were speaking out about platform and train access issues. The 11-mile rail line, which will connect downtown St. Paul to downtown Minneapolis and the Hiawatha line, was the focus of a series of public meetings. One issue that had to be sorted out was how plans for public art at the stations would affect rider access and ease of use. One challenge with Hiawatha is that stations can be difficult to navigate.

Living at Home/Block Nurse programs around the region lost state grant funding and had to lay off staff. The programs are praised for keeping persons with disabilities and senior citizens in their homes, by providing home nursing care and other needed services.

 

August 2008

St Paul skyway access generated debate. The City Council adopted regulations calling for skyways to be open between 6 a.m. and 2 a.m. but many building owners were asking for exemptions. Closing segments of the skyway system would mean that persons using the skyways would have to navigate to an elevator to get to street level, and then find another open door and elevator to get back inside. Building owners argued that requiring longer hours would add to their security, utility and maintenance costs.

Elections were on many community members’ minds as they made preparations to vote. The prospect of long lines in November prompted a push for more information about absentee voting and how it can be an option for persons with disabilities.

 

September 2008

For very different reasons, two movie premieres captured the attention of community members. The movie Tropic Thunder was released despite protests from activists and community members objecting to the release of a movie full of “retard” slurs. The documentary Offense Taken was released to cheers. It was produced locally by the Self Advocates of Minnesota and filmed and directed by Jerry Smith of the Institute on Community Integration. It was based on a 2007 Brave New Workshop play and protests there.

Finding gainful employment and adaptive services were among the barriers disabled job seekers were facing. The Statewide Independent Living Council, Minnesota State Rehabilitation Council and Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) hosted a jobs forum, which drew numerous individuals with disabilities.

 

October 2008

Target Corporation settled a lawsuit with the National Federation of the Blind over website access. Lack of accessibility for customers who use screen readers was at the center of the lawsuit, which was filed in 2006. The settlement resulted in changes for the Target website and $6 million set aside for lawsuit plaintiffs to share.

Target and NFB officials announced that they were satisfied with the settlement and that they hoped this would better serve visually impaired Web users. Website access for persons with visual disabilities was also the subject of this month’s Web sittings column.

Access Press published an extensive elections edition in preparation for the November 4 national, state and local elections.

 

November 2008

The significance of the ADA Amendments Act or ADAAA was outlined. The act, which takes effect January 1, 2009, restores the ADA to its original intent. More than 200 organizations throughout the U.S. lobbied for Congress to make the changes to the ADA. The ADAAA basically undid a number of court decisions and federal actions that had undermined the ADA’s intent since the ADA was adopted in 1990. Advocates hailed the changes as long overdue.

Speaker, writer and artist Pete Feigal was honored as the 2008 Charlie Smith Award Winner.

The brutal attack of Justin Hamilton, a developmentally disabled man, was detailed. The Lakeville resident was attacked and tortured by a group of people he considered to be his friends. Five people were charged in connection with the attack.

 

December 2008

The disability community said a heartfelt thank you to outgoing State Rep. Shelley Madore. The Apple Valley DFLer, who had lost her bid for another term in the Minnesota House, was honored at the annual MSCOD banquet and awards ceremony. She is the parent of a son with autism and a daughter with spinal bifida. Madore was inspired to run for office after the state cut budgets in 2003.

Disability advocates from around the country watched a situation unfold in Iowa, where parents and adult children were trying to prevent disabled family members from voting. A developmentally disabled man from a group home was allowed to vote against his mother’s wishes. Also, a woman challenged her elderly mother’s right to vote.

 

January 2009

Minnesotans and the state agencies that serve them were looking at a difficult 2009 legislative session. Unallotment of state funds was one worry. Another was Pawlenty’s announcement that he would not support spending reductions for the military, veterans, K-12 education and public safety. That meant human services programs would be vulnerable to cuts. The state budget deficit was $35 billion.

Disability organizations planned a Disability Advocacy Day in February, and organized other rallies to draw attention to disability community issues and the need for continued state funding. However, most community leaders conceded that it would be a very tough year.

The People and Places column featured photojournalist Dan Habib’s film, Including Samuel. The film focused on Samuel, who has cerebral palsy. Samuel is Dan Habib’s son.

 

February 2009

Newman, a service dog belonging to eight-year-old Wally LaBerge, couldn’t accompany the boy to classes in St. Paul Public Schools. LaBerge is autistic. LaBerge’s parents Victoria and Tim were considering their options in light of the school district’s decision. LaBerge’s parents said Newman keeps their son calm and focused, and helped him in school. But after a trial period school district officials said the dog couldn’t remain in school. Schools allow dogs to be tried in a classroom on a case-by-case basis, looking at whether or not a student is making progress with the help of a dog, and how student and dog relate to other students.

A state audit of personal care agencies and the assistants they provide was released, and immediately generated debate.

 

March 2009

The federal economic stimulus and how it would affect struggling state budgets was outlined. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) would provide needed help to education and health and human services. But how federal money would play into looming state budget cuts was still a question mark. Budgets were expected to sustain deep cuts but federal funds would have a variety of impacts. Some levels of federal funds for Medicaid and Medical Assistance would increase.

Columnist Stephen Gold, an attorney and ADA expert, explained the economic stimulus would affect Medicaid programs, and how effects would vary.

Writer Mai Thor introduced readers to baby Matthew Nam Loob McIntosh. His birth marked the final chapter in Pregnancy Journal, which described how disability can affect a pregnancy.

 

April 2009

The difficulties of being a long-distance caregiver during a natural disaster were described in Two Sisters’ Story. Cynthia, who lives in St. Paul, and other family members set up a care network for Diana, who lived in Fargo. Diana was developmentally disabled, had mobility issues related to cerebral palsy, and dementia. Diana was in hospice care in Fargo when the 2009 Red River Valley flooding hit. Her family found she had been taken to a small town in rural North Dakota. A companion article provided information on emergency planning and preparedness.

Thousands of Minnesotans with disabilities rallied at the capitol to draw attention to the looming problem of budget cuts. Rallies were being held throughout the session to spotlight programs that were threatened with cuts.

 

May 2009

Minnesota’s disability community braced for severe budget cuts, as one of the most difficult legislative sessions in recent memory wound down. The inability of the House, Senate and Pawlenty to reach agreement on spending meant unallotment would take place. MN-CCD and many other groups rallied community members for a final round of outreach. MN-CCD Coordinator Anni Simons told members, “We are at one of the most critical times in the evolution of our community-based service system – maybe the biggest challenge to the system we have ever faced. Individuals and programs are all at great risk.”

MN-CCD filed a federal Department of Justice complaint against Minnesota Department of Transportation and other governmental agencies, alleging that highways, streets, bridges and sidewalks aren’t in compliance with the ADA.

 

June 2009

The dust settled at the capitol after a difficult legislative session. Inability to reach agreement on budgets meant Pawlenty would soon start the process of unallotment. The state had a $4.6 billion hole. A majority of lawmakers wanted to use taxes and budget shifts to fill the gap but the governor vetoed those proposals. What did get signed into law were many substantial cuts in healthy and human services programs affecting people with disabilities. Especially hard-hit was the PCA program. Those cuts would affect more than 8,000 Minnesotans.

Other legislative actions that would have huge impacts included a line-item veto of funding for GAMC, cuts to disability waiver programs, cuts to care providers and foster home operators and dental service cuts.

 

July 2009

The threatened unallotment of funding became a reality. The impacts were wide-ranging for the disability community. The PCA program was further hit, with the number of hours per month for a worker was cut from 310 to 275. While that would save the state money it would result in persons with disabilities not getting access to needed PCA hours.

The Minnesota Disability Health Options (MN-DHO) program, the state’s only integrated managed care program for people with disabilities, had been threatened with $6.7 million in cuts as a result of actions during the session and unallotment, but the cut finally came out to $4.7 million.

2009 marked the 30th anniversary of the Sister Kenny Institute’s Golf League and the 26th year of the annual golf tournament.

 

August 2009

Improper use of restraints at the Minnesota Extended Treatment Options (METO) facility in Cambridge sparked a lawsuit in U.S. Federal District Court. Employees at the state mental health treatment facility were accused of routinely restraining patients, causing injury. Patients were placed in seclusion rooms for extended periods and deprived of family visits. METO was insisting that use of the restraints is “essential” but family members said otherwise. “This lawsuit is about human dignity and respect for people with developmental disability and their families,” said attorney Shamus O’Meara.

Changes were coming in 2010 to the many dial-a-ride programs in the Twin Cities, which serve many elderly and people with disabilities. The service would become Transit Link. Service would be curb-to-curb, hours of service cut and assistance from drivers limited.

 

September 2009

Anne L. Henry, staff attorney for the Minnesota Disability Law Center, was honored as 2009 Charlie Smith Award winner. For more than 30 years Henry has advocated for the rights of people with disabilities. She was involved with a pivotal court case that led to the closing of state hospitals for persons with developmental disabilities.

A proposal to provide needed housing for young people with disabilities met a hostile reception in the Twin Cities suburb of Centerville. Zumbro House, which owns and operates more than dozen similar facilities in the region, dropped its plans to purchase and develop two group homes in Centerville. Anoka County Social Services was in support of the plan. But some Centerville and Anoka County officials lobbied hard against the proposal.

 

October 2009

Two types of flu—the seasonal ailment and H1N1—hit Minnesota hard. The Minnesota State Council on Disability, Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and other agencies spread the word about how to cope with the diseases, how to recognize symptoms and when to seek medical help. Two different vaccines were needed to fend off the two types of flu. But in some cases, health care providers recommended ill people stay home, rather than spread the flu. Persons with disabilities and their care givers were advised to be especially vigilant against the spread of flu.

ACT celebrated its 30th anniversary with a cruise on the Mississippi River and a dance. The grassroots social change organization began when there was no self-advocacy movement in Minnesota.

 

November 2009

How the planned Central Corridor light rail line would affect disability service-related businesses, clients and employees was discussed. Construction of light rail would start in 2010, with operations underway in 2014. One huge concern was that about 85 percent of the on-street parking would be lost. That would affect businesses including Handi Medical and the Low Vision Store. It would also affect businesses that had petitioned the city and paid extra for on-street parking spots signed for persons with disabilities.

The Justin Hamilton case ended, with the conviction of the fifth and final person who had assaulted the developmentally disabled young man. Hamilton was beaten, kicked, burned and tortured over a two-night period in October 2008.

 

December 2009

MN-CCD was gearing up for the 2010 legislative session, with proposed legislation on PCA regulations, housing, employment, health care and transportation. With another state budget deficit, the main issue for the upcoming session was maintaining services and funding, rather than trying to restore past cuts. Another concern is that not all of the issues raised could be addressed by the whole coalition during the upcoming session. Instead, each advocacy groups would have to take leadership roles on specific bills.

The biggest concerns remained the looming cuts to PCA services and GAMC.

The Arc of Minnesota and other community members honored the late Gerald Walsh, who led The Arc on a major change of course as its executive director from the 1950s into the 1970s.

 

January 2010

GAMC was set to end March 1. Protestors appealed to Pawlenty and the Minnesota Legislature to preserve at least part of the program, which serves many of the state’s poorest and most vulnerable residents. About 36,000 people would be affected by the end of GAMC, many of them mentally ill or living with other disabilities. Pawlenty’s administration urged people to transition to MinnesotaCare but that program wouldn’t be able to expand enough to serve them.

Everyone was reminded to participate in upcoming precinct caucuses, to have a say in choosing candidates for Congress and state office.

Arc Mower County volunteer Lavonne Marie Mallan passed away. She was a longtime Special Olympics coach and friend to many people in southern Minnesota.

 

February 2010

The end of GAMC was postponed for a month as state funding was extended. Legislators worked to find a compromise solution, which could go into place until federal health care reform took effect. Advocates flooded hearing rooms to make their case for a continued program in some form.

In Minneapolis, city officials and disability advocates disputed the levels of city staffing for ADA compliance and the qualifications of a staff member hired to handle those concerns.

Two notable community leaders passed away. Richard Mathison was a longtime ACT and Arc volunteer. Ken Nitsche, Sr. served on the Minnesota Association of Children’s Mental Health Board of directors, volunteered with and was a foster parent for children with disabilities.

 

March 2010

A projected state budget deficit of $994 million has brought a proposal for deep cuts in state budgets. The cuts include $347 million in various health and human services programs. This devastating budget news comes on top of the current efforts at the capitol to save GAMC. The crush of issues added a sense of urgency to upcoming disability community events at the capitol.

Four hundred self-advocates family members, advocacy staff and direct care staff gathered at the capitol that day to make their case at Arc Disability Day. ACT, Arc Greater Twin Cities Brain Injury Association of Minnesota, People First of Minnesota, Self-Advocates Minnesota and The Arc of Minnesota organized and sponsored the event. Many people spoke about the impact of cuts.

 

April 2010

A small part of GAMC was preserved through a legislative compromise but quickly became undone as hospitals around the state opted out. Many health and human services programs remained on the chopping block as the legislative session continued.

Paralympics skier and biathlete Kelly Underkofler was profiled. The Highland Park High School graduate competed in events at the Vancouver games. This marked her third competition, as she also was on the U.S. team in Salt Lake City and Torino, Italy.

Polar Plungers were recognized for raising more than $1.4 million for Special Olympics Minnesota, at events in lakes throughout Minnesota. Many wore costumes as they took the plunge into frigid waters.

 

May 2010

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s 2009 emergency budget cuts or unallotments were illegal, sparking fears of an even deeper cut to GAMC, which provides coverage to low-income people. Many people with disabilities who rely on GAMC had seen the program end in the spring. Unhappiness was expressed about the replacement program, by hospitals, patients and advocates.

Access Press marked its 20th anniversary with a special issue, including articles and a history timeline.

VSA Minnesota was honored with a Sally Ordway Irvine Award, for its visionary work in providing arts opportunities for people with disabilities. The Courage Center Junior Rolling Timberwolves won a third national title.

 

 

June 2010

An apology for past treatment of people with disabilities was passed by both the Minnesota House and Senate, and signed into law by Pawlenty. The law was hailed as a breakthrough by those who had been in state institutions and those whose loved ones had been forced to be institutionalized. ACT and Remembering with Dignity had pushed for the legislation.

The legislative session ended following a brief special session. Lawmakers had to plug a $3 billion budget hole. News was mixed for the disability community. While there was relief that service provider rates were spared, and some 2009 rate cuts were restored, the slashing of the GAMC program was still cause for worry.

Chrestomathy marked 25 years of offering its adult day training and habilitation programs. The West Metro Miracle League unveiled its new field at Bennett family Park in Minnetonka.

 

July 2010

A situation where young staff members abused residents of an Albert Lea nursing home generated headlines as well as lawsuits against the nursing home’s parent company, Good Samaritan Society. Six young women were charged with abusing residents. Outraged family and community members demanded justice.

St. Paul activists lost a court battle over skyway access, after renovations at Galtier Plaza resulted in the loss of skyway space. The renovations took away space from those who use the skyways, but a judge ruled that the group Citizens for Skyway Access lacked legal standing to file a complaint. City officials stepped in to address the concerns.

Inventors displayed their creations, including assistive technology, at the Minnesota Inventors’ Congress. One item that drew much attention was an all-terrain wheelchair.

 

August 2010

Minnesota’s 20th anniversary celebration of the ADA drew a large crowd to Nicollet Island in Minneapolis. Past accomplishments were celebrated and the challenges ahead were outlined by speakers. Comedian Josh Blue had the crowd laughing. Hennepin County also hosted an ADA celebration.

More than a year after it was filed, a lawsuit centering on maltreatment of persons at METO continued to make its way through the court system. Attorneys were preparing to make arguments in U.S. District Court against the use of seclusion and restraints at METO, calling the use of such measures unconstitutional.

The end of the MDHO Program was described. Not everyone who needed to transition to a new program had done so, and the January 1, 2011 end date was drawing near.

 

September 2010

Renaissance of the Minnesota Deaf was the theme for the Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens’ 125th anniversary celebration. The group held a number of special events to commemorate the anniversary, including a big homecoming celebration at the Minnesota State Academy of the Deaf campus in Faribault.

Redeemer Arms, which provides housing and supportive services for people with disabilities, had a new owner. The St. Paul apartment building was sold to Community Development Housing Corporation. Built as a nursing home in 1963 by the adjacent Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, the five-story building had previously been owned by another nonprofit group.

Two longtime disability community service providers observed 20th anniversaries. Vinland National Center provides a comprehensive chemical health program. Tamarack Habilitation Technologies provides a variety of products and services.

 

October 2010

Steve Kuntz, program specialist in rehabilitation services in the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), was the 2010 Charlie Smith Award winner. He was honored for his commitment in helping people find meaningful work.

The lawsuit centering on mistreatment at METO was settled, so the state and families involved had to sign off on a $3 million settlement agreement. The settlement, which required federal court approval, provided compensation to families as well as changes in the way people were treated. The lawsuit was filed by the family in 2008.

Guardianship, which had become an issue of debate in some states, was explained as it pertains to individual voting rights. The Free Rides to the Polls program was also gearing up for the November 2 election.

 

November 2010

The City of St. Paul was honored with a White Cane Award, for its efforts to install audible pedestrian signals. The award was given by the American Council of the Blind of Minnesota. The installation of signals throughout the capitol city was hailed as providing better access for people who are blind or have visual impairments.

Everyone was preparing for the 2011 legislative session and focused on protecting services in the face of a ballooning $1 billion budget deficit. One need was to protect PCA programs from further cuts. Another effort was to pass legislation to deal with bullying in schools.

The Minnesota Department of Health and other agencies were warning everyone to get a flu shot and avoid illness this winter.

 

December 2010

An apology ceremony was held in St. Paul, at the ACT annual meeting. The ceremony was in response to recent state legislation apologizing for the treatment of those who lived in state institutions. Several people who had lived in institutions spoke at the event and told of their lives in deplorable conditions.

St. Paul’s Park Square Theater showed off newly renovated facilities, including view spaces for theater patrons with autism or who use ASL to enjoy a show. New wheelchair access points and more space for chairs are other plusses.

Ken Tice was remembered after his death as a lobbyist for ACT and effective self-advocate, and as someone who refused to give up when working on civil rights issues.

 

January 2011

All eyes were turned to the state capitol. With Gov. Mark Dayton heading the executive branch and Republican majorities steering the Minnesota Legislature, the 2011 session began Jan. 4 with a daunting task: plug the state’s $6.2 billion budget deficit before the fiscal year ended July 1. The budget gap dominated pre-session planning. Other wild cards included the fact that one in three lawmakers were rookies.

St. Paul city officials, restaurant owners and people with disabilities debated a proposal to allow more sidewalk cafes. One huge concern was that the cafes would cause access problems on sidewalks and make it hard for people in wheelchairs, or those who use canes or walkers, to pass.

Northern Minnesota-North Dakota health care providers Sanford Health and North Country Health Services were poised to merge, to better serve residents of that region.

 

February 2011

More than 330 self-advocates with disabilities, their family members, support staff and other disability advocates packed the state capitol rotunda for the Disability Matters Day. With massive state budget cuts looming, it was an early mobilizing event for what would become a long and grueling session.  The Wheel of Misfortune was spun to illustrate the challenges Minnesotans with disabilities faced.

Access Press unveiled a series of blogs on employment and education, the arts and service animals, under the umbrella of Access Press Unbound.

Looming cuts to health care programs prompted MN-CCD to mobilize its members and oppose the measures. They denounced a report on Minnesota health care, saying the health care organizations that commissioned the report were threatening the ability of many people to live independently. Opponents of the report held a press conference to note its shortcomings.

 

March 2011

Roll With It, which serves people with disabilities in the St. Cloud area, was a feature article. Lily Schreifels, who has cerebral palsy, was profiled as a program participant. The teen enjoys wheelchair basketball. Roll With It is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to providing sports training, competition and recreation with a variety of wheelchair and adapted sports activities for children and adults.

Community members were unhappy with Dayton’s budget and its impact on services. Many feared cuts and questioned why the budget couldn’t increase in light of a positive state budget forecast. Rallies were held to spotlight the need for maintaining services.

Delta Airlines was penalized to the tune of $2 million, after people with disabilities complained to the U.S. Department of Transportation about poor service and lack of accommodations. The civil penalty was the largest ever assessed to an airline.

 

April 2011

State Rep. John Kriesel (R-Cottage Grove) was featured. He was part of a large group of new legislators. Kriesel had lost part of both legs while serving with the National Guard in 2006. During his first legislative session, Kriesel was proud to be working with the Amputee Coalition on a bill that would ensure fairness in medical coverage for those who have lost limbs. He was part of a rally calling for fair coverage.

A tough legislative session was grinding on, with uncertainty about the health and human services budgets. A state deficit still loomed, which complicated budget talks. One huge concern was a proposed cut to PCA reimbursement rates, for family members who provide care.

Veteran disability rights attorney and Access Press writer Luther Granquist was honored by the Arc Minnesota for his decades of commitment to Minnesotans with disabilities.

 

May 2011

Ramsey County and St. Paul public safety officials, along with the St. Paul Mayor’s Advisory Council for People with Disabilities, unveiled a new program for people with disabilities. An emergency response form helps the Ramsey County Communications Center, law enforcement and medical personnel provide accessible and adapted response to emergency situations. All people had to do was fill out forms and have them on file at the communications center.

Advocates continued to rally at the state capitol and put pressure on legislators to stave off budget cuts. Legislators were hurrying to meet a May 23 adjournment date. One of the many signs held at one rally stated, “We are not dollar signs. We are people.”

Minneapolis’ Minnehaha Falls Park was slated for a new accessible playground, thanks to the all-volunteer Falls 4 All and People for Parks groups. The playground would be at Wabun Picnic Area.

 

June 2011

All eyes were on the state capitol as everyone anticipated a legislative shutdown, which happened July 1 and lasted for most of the month. Dayton and state lawmakers couldn’t agree as to how to handle Minnesota’s plus-$5 billion budget deficit. State leaders were deeply divided on the state’s budget woes and how those should be addressed. For Minnesotans with disabilities and others, concerns were raised about how service would be delivered without funding in place. The impacts of a shutdown would be wide-ranging.

Film student Tristan Radtke drew on his experience with Asperger’s Syndrome to make teaching videos and share information about social skills. He was studying at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.

Minneapolis’ Mixed Blood Theater announced efforts to make its productions more accessible. That didn’t mean just more access for persons with disabilities. The theater also made some performances more affordable.

 

July 2011

A $3 million settlement of a court case was announced. U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank approved a class action settlement in a case centered on mistreatment of persons with disabilities at the Minnesota Extended Treatment Options (METO) facility in Cambridge. The facility closed in late June. Families whose loved ones were mistreated praised the settlement.

State government shut down July 1, and more than 23,000 people were thrown out of work. More than 1,000 people turned out of a sweltering day to protest the shutdown and demand action.

Minnesota’s loss was the nation’s gain as the highly respected Charlie Lakin left the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Community Integration. After more than three decades here, Lakin became Director of the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education. Many people praised Lakin’s legacy of service.

 

August 2011

When the 2011 Minnesota Legislature adjourned July 20 and ended the longest government shutdown in state history, Minnesotans with disabilities and their families faced a dizzying array of changes. Many people saw cuts to services or changes in how services are delivered. Advocates warned that some impacts might not be seen right away.

The health and human services budget adopted during the July legislative special session had mixed impacts on community members and organizations that provide services. There was much frustration with budget cuts that materialized and passed quickly without adequate community notice. One huge concern was that the state health care system, was expected to function with less money than needed, to the tune of about $1 billion.

Longtime State Rep. Linda Berglin (DFL-Minneapolis) stepped down after 39 years. She was widely regarded as a “go-to” lawmaker on health and human services issues.

 

September 2011

The ripple effects of the state shutdown and budget cuts continued to be felt. Open Access Connections was among the groups affected by agreements made during the legislative special session. The group lost a $37,000 operating grant, or about 14 percent of its budget, and was forced to lay off staff. Open Access Connections provides free voice mail for people with disabilities, low income people and the homeless. The nonprofit continued to operate but was hampered by the cuts.

St. Paul residents with disabilities continued to battle building owners and city officials over downtown skyway system access. Many were focused on the need for a skyway connection to and from the new Green Line light rail service that was under construction.

Rise, Inc. celebrated 40 years of work with people with disabilities. The organization was started by the Tollefson family, so that their son Loring could receive services.

Tim Nelson, leader of Hammer Residences, and board chairman of the Arc Minnesota, passed away suddenly.

 

October 2011

2011 Medtronic National Courage Award winner James S. Krause, Ph.D., was profiled. The Minnesota native has a long and distinguished resume of academic accomplishments. Kraus is a professor and associate dean for Research in the College of Health Professions at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston.

Deaf, deaf/blind and hearing impaired Minnesotans celebrated when St. Paul’s Thompson Memorial Hall was granted a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. The Commission of Deaf, Blind and DeafBlind Minnesotans worked on the nomination, with the State Historic Preservation Office and Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens. The St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission applauded the award.

A new Dunwoody Institute-Opportunity Partners-The Arc Greater Twin Cities program was helping Minnesotans with disabilities get back to work. The retail training program was designed around the needs of employers.

 

November 2011

Cuts to medical assistance reimbursement rates, which affect family members who provide care for loved ones, were at the center of a lawsuit against the state. The lawsuit was filed October 25 in Ramsey County District Court on behalf of eight home health care agencies, employees and their clients. The lawsuit centered on a new law that cut funding for those who care for family members. Foes of the law called it unconstitutional.

Courage Center’s Jennifer Mundl was honored for her many accomplishments, including her work to promote assistive technology, with the Shining Star of Perseverance Award from Assurant Employee Benefits.

St. Paul City Council members and people with disabilities celebrated Full Mobility Day. Months of work to reach a compromise between advocates and restaurant owners wanting sidewalk cafes had resulted in success. Cafes could open but access would be preserved.

The Arrowood Alliance of Artists with Disabilities worked on a mural to be displayed in Duluth.

 

December 2011

U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank approved the settlement based on mistreatment of residents at the METO facility. The settlement called for financial compensation for those abused, as well as changes in how the state worked with people with disabilities.

Area colleges were scrutinized. One article described how accommodations are made for service animals at two Twin Cities schools. Another described the challenges schools face in providing short-term and long-term accessible rooms, given the growing demand for such dorm facilities.

Priorities for the 2012 legislative session were shaping up. Word of an $876 million state surplus was cause for cautious optimism. One focus would be to undo the damage of the 2011 special session and cuts to programs and services.

MN-CCD was planning a reorganization of the 17-year-old organization, which members were to vote on this month. The group would later hire its first-ever executive director and make changes to the bylaws.

 

 

January 2012

Fifteen-year-old wheelchair athlete Rose Hollerman sued the Minnesota State High School League. The Waterville-Elysian-Morrison High School student wanted the right to compete against runners at high school athletic events. Hollerman stars in basketball for Courage Center and is a Paralympics athlete. Her lawsuit resulted in more track and field events for wheelchair athletes and rule changes.

The Arc Minnesota warily eyed proposed cuts to special education programs, as the 2012 legislative session got underway. Some state lawmakers claimed programs caused a paperwork burden; Arc leaders and self-advocates said the cuts would gut important programs.

Partners in Policymaking promoted its self-advocacy program. Plymouth residents Jeff Pearson and daughter Abby, who has epilepsy used their training to advocate for services.

 

February 2012

Serious injuries to two young Minnesota hockey players put the spotlight on the sport’s dangers, especially rough checking in the sport. Courage Center responded by stepping up its efforts to educate athletes about the risks of spinal cord injuries. Spinal cord injuries to the athletes from Benilde-St. Margaret and St. Croix Lutheran schools made the news.

St. Paul’s Thompson Hall, a historic social hall for the deaf and hearing impaired, won final approval for a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. The hall, built in 1916, is now eligible for funding to preserve the property and interpret its history.

People Incorporated Mental Health Services announced it would be taking over several programs from Children’s Home Society and Family Services.

 

March 2012

Bullies got attention, but not for being mean. “All About Bullies. . . Big and Small!” won a Grammy Award for Best Children’s Album.  All sale proceeds go to PACER Center’s National Center for Bullying Prevention. Philadelphia-based Cool Beans Music produced the CD.

Maltreatment of patients at the Minnesota Security Hospital at St. Peter was scrutinized. Use of metal handcuffs, seclusion, mesh blankets and face coverings roiled the troubled mental health facility.

Lee Perish was remembered for work for theater access. As a deaf woman who also used a wheelchair, Perish made the quest for accessible performances a priority. She also was involved in a legal case against Abbott-Northwestern Hospital, changing how hospitals work with deaf and hearing-impaired clients.

 

April 2012

Family members who provide PCA care made their case at the state capitol. About 6,000 Minnesotans provide care to family members with disabilities. But they are paid 20 percent less than non-relative care providers, as a result of a cut made during the 2011 special legislative session. The cut mean some workers had their wages drop from $10 to $8 per hour.

Kathleen Martinez, a lead disability employment issues advisor to Pres. Barak Obama, appeared in the Twin Cities to discuss job opportunities for people with disabilities.

Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, announced he wouldn’t seek a second term in the Minnesota Legislature. He had worked on disability issues while he was a legislator but was also known for his outspoken activism for equal rights for all people.

 

May 2012

State lawmakers restored some 2011 funding cuts when the health and human services bill was sign by Dayton. Restoration was thanks to funding that health care plans returned to Minnesota’s coffers. Many community advocates attended the bill signing. One huge win for families who provided personal care attendant services was temporary restoration of a 20 percent pay cut.

The Arc of Mower County marked 60 years of providing service to southern Minnesotans with developmental disabilities. The group had a long history and ties to many other service groups.

News was less favorable for longtime disability service organization United Cerebral Palsy of Minnesota. Funding cuts ultimately closed the organization, which was founded in 1949.

 

June 2012

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights announced a settlement with Greyhound Lines. Changes were made to serve passengers with disabilities, in response to a complaint filed in 2010 by Shoreview resident Mark Hughes. An investigation by state officials found that Greyhound violated the state human rights act.

Willmar resident Kevin Haakenson won the Participant of the Year award from Goodwill/Easter Seals Minnesota. He was honored at the organization’s Power of Work event. After sustaining a traumatic brain injury, Haakenson struggled to maintain work until enrolling in a supported employment program.

VSA Minnesota had to make cuts to art programs and services, due to loss of all of its federal funding. Ways to make up for the cuts were being explored.

 

July 2012

To disclose or not to disclose? A forum on disability disclosure for employment and community integration drew a full house to Ramsey County’s Roseville library. Representatives of state agencies, employers and people with disabilities discussed whether or not prospective employees should disclose disabilities.

The 2012 Minnesota Legislature placed the question of Voter ID on the November ballot, in the form of a constitutional amendment. Proponents said requiring voters to show identification would reduce fraud. Opponents said it could disenfranchise people with disabilities,

A park in St. Paul’s Midway area, Dunning Park, was eyed as the first Miracle Field site in the capital city. The field would have a cost of $250,000 and could be used by young baseball players with disabilities.

 

August 2012

Voters prepare for the upcoming primary and general elections. Absentee voting was suggested as an alternative to long lines and crowded polling places. The change of the primary from September to August brought additional concerns about less-than-ideal air quality in some polling places, due to hot weather and a lack of air conditioning.

Beep baseball or beepball athletes from two Minnesota teams competed in the sport’s World Series in Iowa. The Millers are the competitive team while the Fighting Lions offer a more relaxed game. The 2012 season marked the first year of two beepball teams. In another baseball-related story, supporters were working to build the city of St. Paul’s Miracle Field for children with disabilities.

 

September 2012

Charles “Chuck” Van Heuveln was honored by Access Press as the 2012 winner of the Charlie Smith Award. The longtime disability rights advocate, whose work dates back to the 1970s, was a leader in efforts to make changes to the Medical Assistance- (MA-ED) Program. MA-ED allows people with disabilities to pay a percentage of their earnings as an insurance premium toward medical services. Van Heuveln and others would have been forced to give up assets, including their homes, had changes not been made to the law.

A horse named Taco delivered food and smiles as he and his owner delivered Meals on Wheels in Twin Valley.

Courage Center’s new Todd Anderson Field in Brooklyn Park was unveiled as Minnesota’s first field for competitive wheelchair softball.

 

October 2012

Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare and the United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) national organization announced a new partnership. Gillette would become the newest UCP affiliate and the first hospital to join in UCP’s 64-year history.

Accessible rides to the polls were promoted as the November 6 general election neared. The ride program began in 2008 and was popular with voters with disabilities.

Minnesotans were proud to be among the competitors at the Paralympics in London. Ten Minnesotans competed in more than half a dozen sports, including swimming, track and field, and basketball. Seven medals were brought home by competitors. Gold medalists were won by two swimmers, Eagan resident Mallory Meggemann and Justin Zook of Plymouth.

 

November 2012

Dale Street Place, which provides affordable and supportive housing for people with mental illness or chemical dependency, opened its doors in St. Paul. Community Housing Development Corporation purchased and renovated the property and BDC Management was in charge of operations. The building has 150 units.

MN-CCD announced its 2013 legislative priorities. One focus would be the permanent repeal of the 20 percent cut to family members who provide PCA services. Staving off additional health care cuts is another priority. Task forces spent months studying various issues and members.

St. Paul-based Handi-Medical was honored by the publication Home Medical Equipment News as the equipment provider of the year.

 

December 2012

The Affordable Care Act requires all people to have health insurance. Minnesotans with disabilities need to be informed, concerning the upcoming health insurance exchange (method for purchasing insurance) and how it will affect them. A task force was working on details of the exchange. When the exchange goes into place, it could serve an anticipated 1.2 million Minnesotans. In 2011, state officials estimate that more than 490,000 Minnesotans lacked any health insurance and this will be a key target group for the exchange.

A committee working on the state’s long-awaited Olmstead Plan was seeking public comment on its interim report. The plan outlines how the state should provide services for people with disabilities.

The Northland 300 snowmobile run announced its 25th anniversary.

 

January 2013

The merger of Courage Center and Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institution was underway. The merged organization took the name Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute under the umbrella of Allina Health.

Family caregivers, who had taken a 20 percent pay cut in 2011, celebrated a legal victory. The Minnesota County of Appeals ruled that family caregivers shouldn’t be paid less than non-family caregivers. The case, Healthstar Home Health Inc., et al, vs. Jesson, was filed in the fall of 2011.

The Arc Minnesota honored Jane Donnelly Birks, Sally Swallen Helmerichs and Molly Woehrlin were recognized as pioneer lobbyists and advocates. Their work began in the 1960s, at a time when it was uncommon to see women lobbyists at the capitol.

 

February 2013

The 2013 Minnesota Legislature and Dayton wound up an eventful first month. Dozens of bills affecting people with disabilities were introduced. Legislators and advocates were working toward their first deadline, March 15, when bills needed favorable action from the House or Senate. Dayton announced two major initiatives for people with disabilities. A package of reforms would provide better health care for 100,000 Minnesotans and lower costs for taxpayers. In an effort to further improve the state’s Medicaid program, the Minnesota DHS partnered with six health care providers to test a new payment model. The governor also jump-started efforts toward completing Minnesota’s long-awaited Olmstead Plan. A group would develop and implement a plan to support freedom of choice and opportunity to live, work and participate in the most inclusive setting for individuals with disabilities.

The ReelAbilities Film Festival announced its first showings in Minnesota. Partnership Resources, Inc. was leading the planning.

 

March 2013

Minnesota DHS officials were criticized in a Minnesota Legislative Auditor’s report. The report indicated that new ways must be found to manage state-operated facilities and services for people with mental illness, chemical dependency and developmental disabilities. A number of problems were found, topped by what was described as inadequate oversight and accountability. Auditor James Nobles told state lawmakers that the audit revealed “significant and persistent problems.”

Medical suppliers and their clients were coping with a federal change that restricts where supplies and equipment can be purchased. Minnesota-based Key Medical Supply had sued federal health and human services officials over a new federal competitive bidding program. The Key Medical case was dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank on technical grounds. The case was later refiled. The restrictions on where clients can purchase supplies and equipment, and get equipment repaired, were causing great concern.

 

April 2013

Minnesotans with disabilities and senior citizens objected to a new state law limiting earnings for those on Minnesota’s Medicaid or MA program. The change is tied to the federal Affordable Care Act. It was criticized by the state’s disability groups because it specifically leaves out Minnesotans with disabilities, while allowing other medical program participants to earn more. The push to support fair health care policy for all was a key focus during the 2013 legislative session. MN-CCD and ADAPT-MN were among the groups working to address the issue. The objection centers on the fact that people with disabilities and seniors who don’t have earned income and who live on income from Social Security must give the state hundreds of dollars through a spend-down before they can gain access to the MA program.

More than 190 farmers and ranchers with disabilities, speakers and vendors took a break from spring work to attend the National AgrAbility training conference held April 8-11 in Bloomington. Farmers and ranchers with disabilities are served by the AgrAbility project, which just marked its 20th anniversary nationally. Minnesota AgrAbility also celebrated its 20th anniversary.

 

May 2013

Cuts to services for people with disabilities have devastating effects on families who are draining savings accounts and selling assets to pay for their children’s medical supports. Adults without assistance are struggling to meet even basic needs. But until state legislators raise revenues, challenges will continue. That was the message self-advocates and families took to the capitol during the annual Disability Day at the Capitol April 25.

When light rail trains begin operations on the Central Corridor or Green Line route in 2014, getting to some stations may be easier said than done. Sidewalks leading to University Avenue are broken, narrow, overgrown with brush and trees, or are poorly lit. And that’s where there are sidewalks. The Green Line Walkability Study: Routes to Rails in the Central Corridor was released by the District Councils Collaborative. It is seen as the first step in making changes. Activists were also campaigning to get downtown St. Paul skyway connection to light rail.

 

June 2013

For Minnesotans with disabilities, family members and caregivers, the 2013 session of the Minnesota Legislature was remembered for key gains and major disappointments. A number of investments in health care marked the session. MinnesotaCare was preserved and Medicaid expanded. Steps were taken to implement the Affordable Care Act, including the creation of an insurance exchange. More money was found for special education, with an additional $40 million passed as part of the $15.7 billion education budget. Autism insurance changes also met cheers. But not everyone benefited from the state’s $38.3 billion budget. Personal care attendants saw only a modest rate increase, which meant planning got underway for 2014.

After a combined 27 hours’ debate on the floors of the Minnesota House and Senate, about 21,000 Minnesotans who provide state-paid personal care attendant services or child care won the right to unionize. Foes of the measure vowed to take legal action to block it but unionization did happen.

Longtime job service organization Midway Training Services changed its name to Ally People Solutions.

 

July 2013

July 1 was a significant date for Minnesotans who rely on medical supplies for daily living. New federal regulations on competitive bidding for Medicare suppliers took effect in the Twin Cities region. People questioned where supplies would come from and if costs would increase. While some suppliers contend that needed medical goods would arrive with little disruption and at the same or lower costs, clients and other suppliers worried about quality of products, long shipping delays and how equipment would be serviced. Some suppliers feared lost business and ultimately economic survival, as well as client harm.

The chance to review and comment on the state’s 83-page draft Olmstead Plan and opportunity to comment drew a large crowd June 19 to the DS Event Center in St. Paul.

Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid celebrated its centennial. The agency, which includes the Disability Law Center, has a long tradition of representing the legal rights of people with disabilities, senior citizens and low-income Minnesotans.

 

August 2013

Just 5 percent. That is what Minnesotans with disabilities, aging adults, care providers, family members and advocates were requesting from state lawmakers. The 5% Campaign was gaining momentum to reverse years of funding cuts to reimbursement rates to home and community based services. Advocates with disabilities, older adults, caregivers, providers, and family members throughout Minnesota sought what they call a “long-overdue” rate increase. Nursing home workers received a 5 percent reimbursement increase from state lawmakers in 2013. But facilities and direct support providers for people with disabilities and aging adults only saw a 1 percent increase in the final health and human services bill.

Voting changes took effect. The most anticipated change starts in 2014 when No Excuses Absentee Voting begins. Many Minnesotans with disabilities and senior citizens use absentee voting as a means to cast ballots without waiting in long lines or arranging transportation. The law allows the voter to claim permanent absentee voter status, getting an absentee ballot mailed before each election.

 

September 2013

Construction was underway on a new vertical connection between downtown St. Paul streets and the skyway system. The elevator and stairway tower would connect to bus routes and the new METRO Green Line light rail, which opens in mid-2014. Rick Cardenas, co-director of Advocating Change Together, was the leaders in getting the $1.7 million connection built. A combination of funders paid for the elevator project. Advocates pushed their case for the connection to state and federal officials before tower plans won approval.

Longtime services provider Dakota Communities had a new name and logo. Living Well Disability Services was the chosen name to better reflect the agency’s work in providing residential care in client’s homes, as well as in its own group homes.

Camps of Courage and Friendship (now True Friends) announced a new partnership with Creative Learning Ideas for Body and Mind or CLIMB Theater. The camping program added the theater program to its extensive list of offering.

 

October 2013

Computer problems at the state level delayed paychecks and hiring of staff bedeviled home health care and personal care attendant agencies around the state. DHS’ Minnesota Information Technology Services (MN-ITS) system, which is used by Minnesota Health Care Programs providers, had been malfunctioning for almost a month. Agencies that file receipts through the system must do so to get Medicaid reimbursements. About 52,000 providers use MN-ITS to issue payroll and to check the backgrounds of prospective workers.

The Olmstead Plan Subcabinet was wrapping up its work. The subcabinet posted a final draft of the plan on the DHS website, including comments gathered from hearings around the state.

Planning was underway for the Twin Cities’ hosting of Reelabilities, a film festival dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories and artistic expression of people with disabilities. The festival began in 2007 in New York City.

 

November 2013

The 5 Percent Campaign continued to gain momentum, with a huge rally at the capitol and statewide outreach.  The goal was to get legislators to pledge support for a 5 percent personal care attendant wage increase before the session began.  Gov. Mark Dayton told advocates that while he agreed with the pay equity issues being raised, he was concerned about long-term impacts on state spending.

The Olmstead Plan was released to criticism and praise.  State leaders said that plan would be an evolving document with regular reviews and updates.

Access Press Charlie Smith Award winner Cal Appleby was honored by a full house at the newspaper’s annual award banquet.  Appleby and two deceased Augsburg College colleagues, Vern Bloom and Wayne “Mo” Moldenhauer did much to serve people with disabilities, especially in providing access to higher education.

 

December 2013

The 5% Campaign made itself heard. Hundreds of supporters jammed all three levels of the capitol rotunda November 12; in a show of force before the 2014 Minnesota Legislature convened in February. Old tangled and broken piles of Christmas light strings could be recycled through January 31 and provide jobs for people with disabilities. Recycle Your Holidays is a one-of-a-kind statewide holiday light recycling program in Minnesota created and managed by the Recycling Association of Minnesota.

Access Press released The Real Story in October after a year of production and offered DVDs for sale. The documentary examines media coverage of disability issues in Minnesota and nationally and examines the role of mainstream media in reporting on issues important to all people with disabilities. It had its first premiere at the University of Minnesota’s McNamara Alumni Center in late October.

 

January 2014

Remembering With Dignity, the initiative to properly mark graves at Minnesota institutions, enjoyed nationwide recognition. The program of the statewide self-advocacy group Advocating Change Together (ACT) was featured on two PBS shows, News Hour and Religion and Ethics Newsweekly. The reports featured work at the Faribault State Hospital cemetery.

U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank scolded Minnesota DHS officials after it was learned that Minnesota Specialty Health Systems facility in Cambridge had operated without a proper state license for 10 months and then tried to hide that status. The facility, which was at the center of a major federal lawsuit for mistreatment of residents, closed later in 2014.

Sen. Torrey Westrom (R – Elbow Lake) launched his campaign for Congress. Westrom, who is blind, lost in the general election to incumbent DFLer Collin Peterson.

 

February 2014

Minnesota’s deaf community mourned the death of Douglas Bahl. Bahl was a strong proponent of teaching American Sign Language. He was considered Minnesota’s deaf community historian. He was involved as an activist at the local, state and federal levels, and made headlines as result of a 2006 traffic stop. The case resulted in many police and jail procedural changes for people who are deaf or hearing impaired.

Debate continued over how to implement the Community First Services and Supports Program (CFSS), which was supposed to take effect April 1 or when it obtained federal approval. The change from the Personal Care Attendant (PCA) program, would affect 25,000 Minnesotans. State-specific waiver issues were seen as causing delays. The switch from PCA to CFSS is still months away.

As the start of the Minnesota 2014 legislative session neared, disability community members were scoping out parking lot changes caused by capitol complex construction.

 

March 2014
Minnesota’s disability advocacy community said farewell as John Tschida became the new director of the National Institute on Disability Rehabilitation and Research in Washington, D.C. While Tschida’s new appointment is a huge plus nationally, colleagues agreed his depth of knowledge, advocacy skills and political savvy would be missed here. He had worked at what is now Courage Kenny Institute for many years. In part of the U.S. Department of Education, Tschida would help to lead much of the nation’s work to understand and reduce barriers in education, employment and community participation for people with disabilities. Tschida succeeded fellow Minnesotan Charlie Lakin.

The 2014 legislative session began with a flurry of bills and many rallies. Momentum seemed to be in the disability community’s favor, but it meant moving quickly as a myriad of bills and amendments move through the process. All eyes were on the state’s $1.2 billion surplus.

 

April 2014

The 5 % Campaign’s high-profile effort to raise wages for caregivers dominated legislative attention and was the focal point of the annual Disability Day at the Capitol. The caregiver wage increase made it into both House and Senate budgets and got Gov. Mark Dayton’s signature. The caregiver wage increase will cost $84 million a year to implement and will affect about 91,000 workers statewide. It was seen as helping the 92.500 people with disabilities and elderly Minnesotans who want to remain in their home communities. The increase for care workers was seen as consistent with a 2013 five percent increase for nursing home workers.

A brutally cold winter didn’t deter the Polar Plungers, the Minnesotans who jump into frigid waters to raise money for Special Olympics Minnesota. Statewide 17,748 plungers raised more than $3.7 million. The number of plungers was about the same but pledge amounts had increased.

 

May 2014

Work on Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan continued, with a round of listening sessions and plan revisions underway through the spring and summer. The plan’s subcabinet sent its latest plan revisions to the federal court for review, to make sure the state was on track toward the goal of achieving integrated and inclusive communities in Minnesota.

The television program Disability Viewpoints was eyeing major changes at its longtime home with the North Suburban Communications Commission. Proposed changes to a franchise agreement with Comcast would mean major funding cuts for community interest, youth activity and sports programs including the show. Program, leadership studied options in case the show had to move. Changes had been delayed as the year ended.

Longtime Access Press writer and disability community activist Clarence Schadegg was remembered after his death as someone who made a difference, through his coverage of issues as well as his many years of volunteer work.

 

June 2014

The 2014 legislative session had produced many more gains than losses for the disability community. The 5% Campaign celebrated its accomplishments as did those who had work for capital projects, programs for people with autism, mental health programs, and various health, education and job training programs. Groundwork was laid for 2015 efforts to change the Medical Assistance spend down rate and make other needed changes.
The biggest winner in bonding programs may have been the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter, which was awarded more than $65 million for various facility improvements.

Self-advocates visited the historic Fergus Falls state hospital buildings, which were in danger of demolition. Saving the buildings was a priority for preservationists but the structures’ age and condition was a challenge.

 

July 2014

Changes were made at Metro Mobility, effective July 1. The changes affected the “no show” practices and the maximum ride times. Adding an automated phone system, reducing the number of paratransit providers and restricting service were also in the works and would be rolled out in the months ahead. Metro Mobility provides more than 1.7 rides each year in the Twin Cities region.

Completion of a stairway/elevator tower would provide needed access from St. Paul’s skyway system to buses and Green Line light rail. Getting the tower in place had taken years of lobbying by self-advocates, downtown residents and St. Paul city officials. Rick Cardenas, co-director of ACT, spoke at the dedication on behalf of transit riders and downtown residents with disabilities.

PrairieCare announced plans for a new child and adolescent psychiatric hospital, to be located in Brooklyn Park. The planned hospital will be the largest of its kind in Minnesota.

 

August 2014

New regulations for Medicaid, Home and Community-Based Services could alter the lives of many people with disabilities. That’s why people were urged to weigh in on proposed federal community settings regulations and their impacts. The Minnesota Disability Law Center provided information about the potential impacts.

Work on Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan continued as the new office director, Darlene Zangara, introduced herself to community members. Zangara was a featured speaker at the 24th anniversary Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) celebration in St. Paul. She gave an overview of plan progress as to date and urged everyone to get involved. Celebration participants were also urged to start getting involved with plans for a big ADA 25th anniversary celebration in 2015.

 

September 2014

Home care providers voted to form their own union, capping a process that had extended over several years. About 60 percent of workers voting approved forming a union with the Service Employees International Union. This would allow workers to bargain with the state for wages and benefits. It was the largest union election in Minnesota history, with 5,800 people voting.

Christine Marble and Wendy DeVore were honored as winners of the 2014 Access Press Charlie Smith Award. The women, who run Career Ventures in St. Paul, were honored for their tireless in helping people with disabilities find meaningful employment and social activities. They work closely with deaf, blind and deafblind Minnesotans.

St. Paul city officials were eyeing proposed regulations for so-called alternative transportation service companies, including Uber and Lyft. One concern about the companies is accessibility for riders with disabilities.

 

October 2014

Citing vagueness and a lack of measureable goals, Judge Donovan Frank sent back Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan. That sent Olmstead office staff and a subcabinet of state officials back to the work table to make plan changes and resubmit. The plan was criticized for having “significant shortfalls” and not showing that people could be successfully moved into integrated settings. The judge’s concerns mirrored what a number of disability advocates had said about the plan.

Mike Bjerkesett stepped down from his longtime post as leader of the National Handicapped Housing Institute (NHHI). He founded the nonprofit in 1975, to improve housing options for people with disabilities. Bjerkesett and his staff created more than 2,000 specialized housing units over the years. The longtime community leader planned to take some time off and then do consulting.

 

November 2014

Efforts to unionize home health care workers could move ahead, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Davis decided. He denied an injunction sought by the National Right to Work Foundation. Davis’ 25-page opinion indicated that it would be unlikely for union foes to win in court. He also cited the benefits of worker unionization.

The Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities announced its work on equity for persons receiving Medical Assistance. The focus is to increase the income standard, raise the asset limits and reduce spend downs, to help 12,000 people with disabilities and older adults. Campaign leaders were gearing up for the 2015 legislative session, as the issue would be the consortium’s top priority.

The state capitol would be a more challenging place to navigate during the upcoming session, with much renovation work going on. Rallies would have to be moved outdoors or to places other than in the capitol rotunda.

 

December 2014

Reliable Medical Supply, Inc. celebrated 25 years in business in 2014. The company had grown over that time, with additional locations including one near Mayor Clinic in Rochester. Company owner Jeffrey Hall and his staff not only had the anniversary to celebrate, the company was enjoying an award from Home Medical Equipment News.

A Summit Avenue mansion being converted into a luxury boutique hotel needs changes to be accessible. But how to do that prompted debate between the owner and the St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission. Some commissioners wanted side or rear doors used, but the owner and other commissioners wanted modifications made to the building’s front door instead. The issue was tabled until early 2015.

AXIS Healthcare announced its move from St. Paul to the Park Avenue Medical Services building in Minneapolis. The new quarters are in a wing of the Phillips Eye Institute on the Allina campus.

 

January 2015

The 2015 legislative session began with many expectations and also many uncertainties. A plus-$1 billion state surplus raised hopes for some additional spending. But a DFL-led Senate, DFL governor and Republican-led House set the stage for gridlock. The 5 Percent Campaign was back for another run at additional funding for staff, as were efforts to change MA and MA-EPD.

The ABLE Act’s passage was celebrated. ABLE stands for Achieving a Better Life Experience and allows families to save for higher education for people with disabilities. Federal passage triggered the need for states to pass their own laws.

ALLY People Solutions was in a bind as one of its accessible vans was stolen from St. Paul’s East Side.

 

February 2015

Mental health services, education and families fared well in Gov. Mark Dayton’s two-year, $42 billion budget. But the budget proposal met dismay from the 5% Campaign and groups calling for Medical Assistance (MA) reforms, as those priorities were left out. When Dayton’s budget was released Jan. 27, there was relief that many disability services programs were spared cuts. But there was disappointment that more needs weren’t met.

EquipALife, a statewide nonprofit organization that provides all kinds of adaptive equipment for Minnesotans, received a generous gift from Crippled Child Relief Inc. (CCRI). The $85,000 gift will be used to jumpstart the new Grants to Individuals Program. The new program will help EquipALife help even more Minnesotans and make their dreams of self-sufficiency come true. CCRI was shifting its focus after many years.

 

March 2015

As the 2015 Minnesota Legislature approached the session’s mid-point there were concerns about the pace of legislative activity. There was also frustration about the lack of attention to state spending and disability community needs.

Jesse Bethke Gomez took the helm at the Metropolitan Center for Independent Living, succeeding longtime director David Hancox.

The play was the thing for southwest Minnesota self-advocates, who had graduated from ACT’s Olmstead Plan Academy. Disability Pride and Power was the theme of the project for the self-advocates from The Arc Southwest. The group not only staged a play, members launched Born This Way Here to Stay groups. Self-advocates from around the state took part in the 12-month training.

Audrey Benson, a founder and former president of the United Handicapped Federation, passed away at age 76.

 

April 2015

Interact Center for the Performing and Visual Arts moved to St. Paul’s Midway area, after 18 years in the Minneapolis Warehouse District. The new space offered more room for classes, displays and performances by the adult day program participants.

Access to transit was the focus of a meeting in St. Paul, where the need for better connections to Green Line light rail was discussed. More than 9,000 people with disabilities live in the neighborhood served by the light rail line, so good connecting business and accessible sidewalks are needed.

Educator Bruce Kramer, who used his experience with ALS to chronicle with life with illness, died just as his book came out. The book, We Know How This Ends: Living While Dying, was well-received.

 

May 2015

Hamline University prepared to host the U.S. Paralympics Track and Field National Championships in June. The event drew top athletes from around the nation, and served as a selection event for the 2015 Parapan American Games and 2015 world championships. This marked the first time that the national championships were held in Minnesota

Preparations were also underway for the ReelAbilities Film festival in June. The event, held at multiple places throughout the Twin Cities, included the showing of films, an acting workshop, opening reception and closing ceremony. This was the second time for the Twin Cities to host the film festival, which is held at venues around the nation.

Partners in Policymaking was again offering its classes for people with disabilities and their family members. Classes would start in the fall.

 

June 2015

Saying the Olmstead Plan still needed work, Judge Donovan Frank sent the 158-page document back to its planning sub-cabinet for more work. It marked the second time in eight months that Frank had scolded state officials about what he saw as shortcomings in the plan. He gave state officials until July 10 to submit a new draft. One of Frank’s greatest concerns was a lack of measurable outcomes.

The end of the 2015 regular legislative session came with uncertainty on some issues, joy on others and disappointment on a few fronts. The 5 Percent campaign vowed to come back in 2016 with its plea for a wage increase. Proponents for reforms in MA and MA-EPDF got positive news, as did advocates for mental health. Mental health programs saw some of their greatest gains in years. Education and other issues were still up in the air, pending a special session.

 

Join us! 2023 Virtual Legislative Forum. December 16th, 2022. MN Council on Disability