MNCDHH: Making a Difference
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WORK OF THE COMMISSION OF DEAF, DEAFBLND AND HARD OF HEARING MINNESOTANS
All of our policy initiatives are developed by convening diverse stakeholders to create a five year strategic plan. We develop public policy solutions to barriers faced in education, health care, technology, access to public services and employment. We work across agencies, branches of state government and nonprofit organizations. Before we come to the legislature we have met many times and vetted our proposals with stakeholders including national experts in health care, education, employment and technology. We provide full access including sign language interpreters and CART (captioning) at all of our meetings.
We have led the following initiatives:
- 2003 Passage of Hearing Aid Insurance mandate for children birth to 18.
- 2005 Strengthened consumer protections for purchasers of hearing aids.
- 2005 Increased funds for Support Service Providers and Interveners for children and adults who are deafblind. Interveners and Support Service Providers are to deafblind people, what Annie Sullivan was to Helen Keller.
- 2007 Passage of Newborn Hearing Screening Mandate, Deaf Mentors, Parent Guides, Hearing Aid Loaner Bank , establishment a statutory of Newborn Hearing Screening Advisory Committee (we continue to be active members of the advisory committee).
- 2008 Initiated with the Minnesota Department of Commerce the Interpreter Services for Patients in Medical and Dental Settings and participated in the development of the findings to increase patient access to spoken and sign language interpreters.
- 2008 Provided technical Assistance to Deaf Community Health Workers obtain a Robert Wood Johnson Community Health Leadership Award and grant.
- 2012 Production of an online education video series that explains to deaf patients their right to interpreters at clinics and hospitals. (The Disability Law Center has 5 to 6 law suits going against clinics or hospitals during a year. This online course teaches people what their rights are and where to go for help when they are denied access. http://www.mncdhh.org/health/
- 2012 Passage of a bill that provides MA coverage for out of state treatment for children who are deaf and use American Sign Language in treatment centers that provide services in American Sign Language.
Collaborated with MDH and stakeholders on the following:
- 2009 Production of ECHO program with MDH for TPT and posted online in collaboration with MDH on Early Hearing Detection and Intervention to families in Hmong, Spanish, Somali and ASL and of HIN1 Videos with the Minnesota Department of Health
- 2009 Series of H1N1 Education Videos in American Sign Language http://www.mncdhh.org/health/185/should-i-get-vaccinated-if-i-have-had-the-flu-since-the-spring-of-2009
Health Care Reform:
- 2012 Submitted public comments and testified before the Health Care Reform Committee on the impact of hearing loss on the health care delivery system. Collaborated with the Citizens League in two deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing health care forums.
National data says that kids who are deaf and hard of hearing have a mean reading level of 3 grade 8 months when they graduate and that outcomes have not improved significantly since the first special education laws passed in the 70’s. We work with stakeholders to make public policy changes to improve outcomes. 2002 Mandate that all sign language interpreters who work in schools have national certification. Prior to the law only 5 interpreters had certification. Now over 300 do.
We led the following efforts:
2004 Adoption of National Access Board and American National Standard Institute Classroom Acoustic Standards by MDE for new school construction. Research shows that 90% of all classrooms are so noisy students in the back of the room can’t hear their teacher. The new guidelines help planners incorporate good acoustics into their design.
2007 Mandate that the state have a Coordinator of Early Hearing Detection and Intervention in the Minnesota Department of Education
2009 Mandated Outcome and Improvement Plan Report for Children who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing that is sent to members of the House and Senate Education Committee- the state and the feds don’t require that the statewide testing results have disaggregated data on the 13 disability groups that are covered by IDEA. We advocated for Deaf and Hard of Hearing data to be disaggregated so we could use the data to improve outcomes and used evidence based research to make recommendations on improving outcomes.
Engagement in special education re-licensure process with the Board of Teaching. Created a website that explained the history of deaf education law in Minnesota and created a website that describes the requirements needed to become a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing in Minnesota. Encouraged broad stakeholder engagement by publicizing comment periods. We now have an evidence based set of standards that will help kids get the kind of teacher needed to help them succeed.
Host the Minnesota Collaborative Outcome Plan for Children Who are Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing. Cross agency Steering committee with MDH, MDE, DEED (VR and SSB) and yearly education summit. Over 30 school districts, nonprofits, parent and deaf and hard of hearing advocacy organizations have committed to using and collecting data to improve outcomes for kids birth to 21 who are deaf and hard of hearing.
Conducted a reliable and valid survey conducted by the Management Analysis Division paid for by interagency agreements and contributions by MDH, MDE,VR and SSB. to obtain data that can be used to set benchmarks for goals to improve outcomes for children who are deaf and hard of hearing.
The unemployment rates of people with disabilities the highest of any minority group in the country. People who are deaf and hard of hearing face discrimination in the workplace because employers are reticent to hire someone if they have to cover the cost of sign language interpreters. The National Governor’s Association has made increasing the employment of people with disabilities its priority for the year. It’s ours every year. The level of employment of people with disabilities within Minnesota State Government has plummeted since 1999- from a level of 10.1% to 3.8% today.
Our work has resulted in:
- 2007: Successfully advocated for funds for specialized employment programs for youth who are deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing and adults.
- 2010 Engaged stakeholders in the process of VR and SSB rulemaking to ensure the services include the needs of this population.
- Since 2012: MNCDHH Employment Task Force collaborates with the Governor’s Workforce Development Council. Stakeholders include representatives from Vocational Rehabilitation, State Services for the Blind, Adult Basic Education, Job Placement Specialists, FastTRAC, MNSCU, the GWDC, Minnesota Management and Budget Human Resources ADA State Coordinator, Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf, VECTOR Youth Transition Program, and Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens.
- Audit of all job descriptions in state government by Humphrey Institute Students- 45% were found to have discriminatory language- the descriptions are being rewritten.
- Rewriting of all State Affirmative Action Plans to make it easier to recruit, hire and retain state workers who are deaf and hard of hearing.
- Promotion of the state ADA Coordinator as a direct report to the Assistant Commissioner Ann O’Brien.
- Working with Higher Education and the College Board to eliminate test bias in the Accuplacer and to identify alternative assessments that better predict academic success in the MNSCU system.
- Developing an Executive Order that requests the Governor to make the hiring of people with disabilities within Minnesota State Government a priority.
- Attempting to make FastTRAC more accessible to people with disabilities.
ACCESS AT THE AIRPORT
- The Commission worked collaboratively with the Metropolitan Airports Commission to make the MSP airport compliant with the U.S. Department of Transportation Air Carrier Access Act rules. We assigned staff, created committees of people with disabilities and now MSP airport is considered to be one of the most accessible airports in the world. They have visual paging throughout the airport, service animal relief stations inside the airport; American Sign Language has been added to the hundreds of languages that are available.
ACCESS AT THE CAPITOL
- In collaboration with the Legislative Coordinating Commission created a 9 part video series that provides a guide to accessibility features at the capitol in ASL that is captioned.
- Advocated for and obtained funds for the LCC to provide real-time captions of live floor sessions and committee hearings.
- Provide training to legislative staff on how to communicate with and arrange for interpreters for constituents who are deaf, deafblind or hard of hearing.
- Coordinate Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing Lobby Day at the Capitol during budget years. Over 500 people attend. This year we had 180 people schedule appointments, coordinated all interpreters for the appointments.
ACCESS TO VOTING
- 2012 Collaborated with the Secretary of State and created a four part online course on voting resources called Minnesota Votes: Introduction to Voting Video Series.
- 2010-2012 Monitor compliance with legislation that requires that candidates who receive Campaign Finance Funds caption their online and TV ads. Offer technical assistance on how to add caption online and provide information about resources for TV captioning to candidates.
- 2012 Collaborated with the Secretary of State’s office and provided voter rights workshops with the Minnesota DeafBlind Association and a separate one with the Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens.
- 2012 Provided rides to the polls and coverage of the cost of Support Service Providers for DeafBlind Vote Ride
- 2012 Provided six voter rights workshops in six schools, Metro Deaf School, Adult Basic Education (2 locations), Humboldt Senior High, Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf and Metro Deaf School.
- 2008 Developed an online course in American Sign Language called “Making Your Case” that teaches people how to advocate on a state, local and national level on policy issues.
- 2012 Nonpartisan information about the 2 constitutional amendments was provided in American Sign Language.
ACCESSIBLE E-GOVERNMENT SERVICES
In 2009 led a group of disability advocates that led to the passage of statewide technology accessibility standards, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1978 and Web Content Access Guidelines 2.0 and:
- funds for MN.IT to hire staff to implement the law with matching funds from the ARRA and TAM.
- funds from TAM to the LCC for real-time captioning of floor and session hearings.
- funds from TAM for the Commission to provide content that is available online in English and other languages in ASL and to provide technical assistance.
- established the Technology Accessibility Advisory Committee comprised of people with disabilities and state CIOs.
- In collaboration with OET created the online video: Electronic Curb Cut Video, the online course :Creating Accessible Documents in Microsoft Word 2010 and the Online Webinar “Creating Accessible Websites and Applications Using WCAG 2.0 Standards”
- Created the online course “Video Captioning Essentials”.
- Creation of the website DeafRights that lists all state rules, session laws and statutes related to deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing and links to contacts related to the topic.
- Archived historic photos and documents with the Minnesota Digital Library in collaboration with Charles Thompson Memorial Hall, the Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens, and the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf Alumni Association Museum to record and make accessible the vibrant lives and celebrated accomplishments of the deaf community.
- Produced and made accessible 54 interviews with deaf, hard of hearing and deafblind leaders in collaboration with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Metro Division (DHHSD) of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Digiterp Communications, the Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens (MADC), the Minnesota Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (MRID), and the St. Paul Neighborhood Network.
- Applied for and obtained National Historic Register status for Charles Thompson Memorial Hall, the first building in the United States specifically designed as a meeting place for people who are deaf by Olaf Hanson, an architect who is deaf. The building is a national treasure and is still used every day by the community.
Recognition of our Work:
Antonia Brancia Maxon Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Excellence Award:
from the Center for Disease Control and the National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management
Liberty Bell Award:
From Ramsey County Bar Association
Age and Disabilty Public Policy Award:
From Minnesota Department of Human Services
Outstanding Contributions Award:
From Minnesota Academy of Audiology
Mary Blum Community Award
Dispute Resolution Center