Current and Past Legislation
The Commission of Deaf, Deafblind, and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans is an advocacy organization that ensures individuals who are Deaf, DeafBlind, and hard of hearing have equal access to services, programs, and opportunities that are available to others. Here you will find listed the various legislative measures which the Commission has been successful in proposing and passing, year by year. We are grateful for all the support we have garnered in this process. Thank you!
2015 Legislative Agenda Team Key Talking Points
1. Employment supports for adults and youth who are deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing
HF 1023 (Hamilton) / SF 486 (Schmit)
• The state used to dedicate funds to deaf, deafblind and hard or hearing workers and their employers in the Metro area who needed training and assistance to overcome communication barriers and become successful employees. Before these funds were in place, there was a revolving door
• Other disability groups are guaranteed funds for employment supports—deaf and hard of hearing are the only disability group that was put into a competitive pool—from year to year they apply and don’t know if they will receive funds. They now receive only half of the funds they used to get and still only serve the metro area.
• This has been a good investment of state dollars: for every $1 spent, $3 was returned in wages
• 90% of youth in programs like VECTOR are employed or enrolled in post-secondary education at the time of graduation.
• Without funding, the organizations that offer these critical services have to lay off staff and cut back—not expand the way we need them to.
• The bill will expand services from just the metro area to Greater Minnesota. Organizations already providing the services and others could apply.
• The proposal is for $1.2 million per year and would provide grants in the metro area and Greater Minnesota for both transition-aged youth and adults.
2. Establish a Central Accommodation Fund for State Agencies
HF 1078 (Urdahl) / SF 989 (Metzen)
• With the worker shortages in Minnesota, the State needs to do more to encourage people to join the labor force and attract and retain the best workers as state employees
• A best practice for hiring more workers with disabilities is to have a Central Accommodation Fund that all state agencies can tap into to pay for special software, equipment, sign language interpreters or other technology.
• Then hiring managers won’t have to worry about the cost of accommodations in their budgets, especially at small agencies
• It will show that the state is committed to hiring workers with disabilities
• Private companies, like IBM, SunTrust and Microsoft, use Central Accommodation Funds
• The federal government and the U of M also use Central Funds.
• The proposal is for $500,000 per year, which should be enough for accommodations and to cover the Department of Administration’s cost of overseeing the fund.
3. Require Closed Captioning be Activated on TVs in Public Places
HF 253 (Newton) / SF 987 (Johnson)
• Activating closed captioning makes TVs in public places (restaurants, bars, gyms, hospitals, etc.) accessible to people who are deaf and hard of hearing
• It is helpful to hearing people in noisy environments and people learning English.
• The ADA requires that content be captioned and that TVs are able to display captions. This requires that the captioning be activated.
• When there is an emergency, it ensures everyone can access important safety information.
4. Additional funding for DHS’s Deaf & Hard of Hearing Services Division, for Mental Health Services, and for Support Services for DeafBlind Children and Adults
HF 1341 (Pierson) / SF 1272 (Hawj)
• The Deaf & Hard of Hearing Services Division (part of DHS, different than the Commission) provides critical services to the community in six offices around the state.
• An additional $1 million a year would:
-Help eliminate the waiting list for deafblind children and adults.
o Provide deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing children mental health services in ASL.
-Provide funds needed for Regional Advisory Boards to meet and for staff to have funds to travel to provide training and meet with consumers
-Do an analysis of how to best provide services statewide. Offices in Bemidji and Rochester have closed, meaning that those in Greater Minnesota may have to travel up to 4 hours one way to get services
-Do an analysis of whether there is a simpler way to administer deafblind services
5. Funding for the Minnesota State Academies (for the Deaf and for the Blind) for Technology
HF 1224 (Daniels) / SF 920 (Jensen)
• The Academies need $1.2 million for FY16 and FY17 for computers, portable devices and software, access to electronic books, Wi-Fi connectivity, internet access to participate in current approaches to teaching and learning.
• The bill includes funding for technology in future budgets too.
6. Preschool at Metro Deaf School (MDS)
HF XXXX () / SF XXXX (Governor’s Education Policy bill- hasn’t been introduced yet)
• MDS is a special education charter school that offers bilingual English / ASL education. Students have two ways to enroll: 1. through district placement (resident district), or 2. through Parent Choice—where parents can choose to enroll their child at any school they wish. Parent Choice currently only applies to grades K – 12. This bill adds preschool students to Parent Choice.
• Having the choice of MDS is especially important for parents of deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing children, who may otherwise struggle to learn. Waiting until kindergarten is too late.
7. Use state bonding funds to install Looping Technology and Good Acoustics
• The state sells government bonds to pay for construction projects around the state, including arenas, civic centers, museums, buildings at the University of Minnesota and MNSCU.
• Loops conduct sound to t-coils in hearing aids or to receivers and amplify just what is said into a microphone, not all of the sound in the room. When received by a hearing aid, it delivers the sound as it was programmed for that specific person.
• We are exploring a requirement that all bonding projects that have public meeting spaces include Loops and good acoustics.
• Another alternative would be to establish a grant program to help cover the costs of installing loops in publicly owned facilities.
8. Text-to-911 Capability
• Until now, Minnesotans could only contact 911 in case of an emergency by telephone or TTY.
• The Governor proposed funds to allow Minnesotans to send a text message to 911.
• This is important for many deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing Minnesotans to contact emergency personnel.
For further information, contact Beth Fraser at beth.fraser(at)state.mn.us or 651-431-5974.