MNCDHH makes influencing public policy and technology access and service delivery to children and adults who are deaf, deafblind or hard of hearing a priority. We work to make sure the state’s online services are accessible to all.
NEW – Information Technology (IT) Accessibility Training Resources Available
MNCDHH and the state’s Office of Enterprise Technology (OET) have co-produced accessible video-based training resources to help State of Minnesota employees, vendors, and customers learn about the state’s information technology (IT) accessibility standards and how to meet them.
Get started now to learn how to make your online information, websites, and applications accessible.
These resources are made accessible through open captions, voiceovers, and Microsoft Word transcripts of audio content with video descriptions included.
Minnesota Government Web, Software and Hardware Accessibility Standards
MCDHH led, along with the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities and State Services for the Blind, in passing legislation that created Level AA Web Content Access Guideline Standards and 508 standards for all state websites, hardware and software. In other words, the legislation, the strongest in the U.S. currently, requires full accessibility for all people.
The Minnesota Disabilities Agencies Forum set the goal of having accessible state websites and hardware.
Colleen Wieck of the Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities brought together a group that tried to convince the Office of Enterprise Technology to voluntarily adopt Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1978 and the Web Content Access Guidelines 2.0 as standards for the state.
- MCDHH members voted to introduce legislation requiring the state to adopt Section 508 and WCAG 2.0 as information technology standards.
- Senator Ann Rest and Representative Bill Hilty agreed to be chief authors. The legislation passed. In August, the first Technology Accessibility Advisory Committee met.
In September Commissioner Gopal Khanna officially adopted Section 508 and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 Level AA as the standard with Level AAA as preferred. This is one of the highest accessibility standards in the country.
A link with more information about standards will be posted here when it becomes available.
The legislation was funded by a Telecommunications Access Fund and America Recovery and Reinvestment Act appropriation without raising the TAM phone tax. The funds allocated for fiscal years 2010 and 2011 were:
- $200,000 for MCDHH to create video content in American Sign Language (ASL) and to provide technical assistance to meet Level AA Web Content Access Guideline standards. With this money:
- DeafMD.org and Minnesota Department of Health created five ASL videos about H1N1.
- MCDHH, in partnership with Zenmation, created “Making Your Case,” an online course in ASL and English. This course teaches people, particularly those who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deafblind, how to influence public policy. View the Making Your Case course
- MCDHH and Zenmation also created “Video Captioning Essentials”, an online course that teaches how to caption online videos. View the Video Captioning Essentials course
- $200,000 for the Legislative Coordinating Committee (LCC) to caption floor sessions and committee hearings online. MCDHH continues to provide technical assistance to help the LCC find the most cost-effective service with the highest level of accuracy. The LCC recently conducted a survey of the echo-captioning service that they chose, and the results will be shared on this website. MCDHH will also help the LCC convene a focus group for feedback on access improvements for FY2011.
- $467,000 to the Office of Enterprise Technology and the Minnesota Department of Administration for the Technology Accessibility Advisory Committee. This committee is comprised of people with disabilities and state chief information officers.
The Technology Accessibility Advisory Committee was extended to 2013 and $800,000 was allocated from the TAM fund for the biennium (less than .1% of the $361 million that the Executive Branch spends annually on IT needs). The funds will be used for the following:
- Office of Enterprise Technology
- $460,000/yr for a program to provide support to ensure agency wide implementation of accessibility standards:
- Creation of a Chief Information Accessibility Officer position (ensures implementation and compliance)
- Accessibility Support Resource (provides training, testing, advice and information to agencies)
- Advisory Committee Report – $10,000 to continue to report to legislature (committee representation balanced between CIOs and people with disabilities who have IT expertise who will monitor outcomes, expenditures) and oversee Consolidated Access Fund
- Legislative Coordinating Commission
- $200,000/yr for real-time captioning of online streaming at the legislature
- $100,000 for a Consolidated Access Fund to help agencies comply with the law.
- Commission of Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans
- $40,000/year for ASL & Captioned Video Production and Online Course Updates for state agencies (incorporates costs of production, translation and captioning),
E-Government: Accessibility Problems/Compliments
Having accessibility or usability problems with any Minnesota state government website or software? Or have you used a state Web site or software that works especially well for people with disabilities? We want to hear about your experiences. Visit the Minnesota E-Government Accessibility/Usability Compliments and Concerns Line
MCDHH organized presentations on Section 508 and WCAG 2.0 at the 2009 Minnesota Government Information Technology Symposium and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Technology Conference in 2010. Currently MCDHH is getting ready to present a workshop on video captioning at the 2010 Minnesota Government Information Technology Sympossium
NEXT GEN 911
MCDHH participated in the Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) NEXT GEN 911 Advisory Committee and convinced the department to make the transition from analog to digital service for 911 accessible to deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing people. MCDHH coordinated meetings between DPS and community members to ensure that DPS understood the importance of accessibility. For more information, please visit Minnesota’s 911 website
Tele-Health and Tele-Education
MCDHH has worked with the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Human Services in creating a pilot program that provides Deaf Mentors services through the Web in Greater Minnesota and the Metro area to increase service provision to families who are learning sign language. The Great Plains Telehealth Resource and Assistance Center assisted in developing the plan and an evaluation of the pilot program. A small-scale pilot program is underway in Duluth. The results will be evaluated and apply the lessons learned from the pilot to the development of a statewide plan. We hope this pilot will lead to the full array of services that families need for their child to succeed being offered in their own home.
Tom Lehman, Commission member, participated in the Blandin Foundation conference, Broadband 2010, held in the Brainerd area in mid-October. He was part of a panel focused on underserved populations for broadband, speaking on the opportunities broadband use holds for people with disabilities and the unique challenges to realizing those opportunities.
Tom reports that access to broadband services is quickly becoming a baseline infrastructure element alongside others such as dependable power and effective transportation systems. As such, Minnesota has set a goal of reaching all residents and business with broadband access as soon as possible but no later than 2015 with service that provides a minimum of 10 megabits download and 5 megabits upload capacity. These are minimum requirements and are likely to be considered barely adequate within a few years. Hopefully most areas will have higher speed services available. Outstate deployment of broadband is taking advantage of fiber optic technologies to deliver high speed service options to businesses and residents that often surpass that which is available in urban areas.
High speed access would meet the video and audio requirements of many assistive technologies used by deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing individuals. Many of these technologies are expensive to acquire and complex to set up and use. Beyond the higher speed networks, there needs to be educational and financial resources to enable people to take advantage of these capabilities.
To learn more on the state’s efforts to implement its goal of broadband access for all Minnesotans, please visit the High-Speed Broadband Task Force’s Website