That’s a wrap! MNCDHH and advocates have had a great year at the Capitol. Thank you for your advocacy. Together, we introduced seven bills. Five bills passed. Two bills did not pass. MNCDHH’s Request for Increased Funding – Passed! MNCDHH will receive an increase of $450,000 per year from the Telecommunications Access Minnesota (TAM) fund. We will use the increase for several important things: To bring together groups to work on policy change in education, health care, employment, technology, access to public service that benefit the whole state, and encourage civic engagement. To cover the costs of a new policy analyst and a government relations director. With more staff and more work, our need for accommodations such as interpreters and CART has increased. This will help us cover the costs. This brings MNCDHH’s annual budget from $1.2 million to $1.7 million (not $1.6 million). Health & Human Services: Renew the Newborn Hearing Screening Advisory Committee – Passed! The Newborn Hearing Screening Advisory Group was scheduled to sunset, which means it was scheduled to end. Thanks to supporters, this committee will continue. The Newborn Hearing Screening Advisory Group evaluates Minnesota’s Early Hearing Detection & Intervention (EHDI) program outcomes. They make sure that the program is effective, culturally appropriate, and that children and families are getting the services they need. Committee members have influence on Minnesota’s programs and services, including language acquisition. There is already a seat for a culturally Deaf person, typically someone from the Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens (MADC) and a seat for a hard of hearing person who primarily uses spoken language. This year, the law added seats for someone from the Deaf Mentor Family Program and someone from the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf. Education: Add a definition of interveners for deafblind children so it is clear they are an option to parents and to districts – Passed! A definition of the work of intervenors for deafblind children is now in statute. The state has provided funding for interveners for deafblind children for almost 30 years but never defined the specific tasks and duties that they perform.
National advocates asked MNCDHH to lead this effort because it will support advocacy efforts to get the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act passed, a bill that will strengthen IDEA and require more customized services for children who are blind, deaf, deafblind, and hard of hearing. Minnesota is the first state to define intervenor services and duties, which we hope will lead to recognition of this service as a best practices and a requirement in all 50 states. Employment: State employees with disabilities provisions modified, working group created, and report required – Passed! Thanks to this new law, the commissioner from each state agency is required to have a plan for implementing the state’s IT accessibility standards. All agencies are required to report the use of the state’s accommodations reimbursement fund and include the number of accommodations required, approved, and denied. Minnesota Management & Budget (MMB) is required to consult with Vocational Rehabilitation Services and the State Services for the Blind (SSB) to improve the state’s hiring and retention rates if they identify problems in the Affirmative Action report. In 2018, the state’s Affirmative Action report reported that 56% of state employees with disabilities leave state work within a year. We need to find out why. An advisory group will be established. This group will make recommendations to the legislature and MMB on how to improve the recruitment and retention of state employees with disabilities. MMB will need to continue to track and report the percentage of state employees with disabilities. The law also removed an old line that allowed the state to not pay employees with disabilities for trial work programs. Accessible IT at the Capitol – Passed! The Legislative Coordinating Commission (LCC) will establish a work group to decide on the Legislative IT Accessibility Standards for the Capitol, including the House and the Senate. This work group will also develop an implementation plan so that legislative staff, legislators, and citizens with disabilities can participate in the legislative process and not experience barriers with digital technology. MNCDHH is excited and looking forward to the work group’s results. For the rest of the transcript go to http://mn.gov/deaf-commission/news/index.jsp?id=1063-401255

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