Minnesota, as told through the pages of Access Press, is one of victories and defeats, activism and accolades. Come with us on a trip back through the past two decades. This installment covers the third five years of newspaper coverage.
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.
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.
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.
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 con summers 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.
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 abandoned it still was cited as highlighting issues in health care that need to be corrected.
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.
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 is 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.
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.
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 Web site that helps employers accommodate workers with disabilities. www.disAbility.gov had a new employers’ resource section.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 with his parents. “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.
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.
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 for employed people with disabilities 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.
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.
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.
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.
Metropolitan Center for Independent Living (MCIL) celebrated its 20th anniversary, with a look back at the push for consumer-driven, community-based resources. Executive Director David 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 Paul Wellstone, DFL. 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,
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Rick 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 force 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.
Joan Willshire was named executive director of the Minnesota State Council on Disability. She succeeded David Skilbred. She 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.
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.
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.
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 from Courage Center, for his work on behalf of the mental health community.
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.
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.
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.
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 Smooth Award.
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.
Rick Cárdenas of ACT was honored as the Charlie Smith award winner. He was recognized for his years of providing leadership to the disability community, 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 Southwestern Center for Independent Living, won the Earl Warren Award for Outstanding Rural Advocacy.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 raced reductions in service.
Opportunity Partners’ Karlins Center was described. 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.