Leading Edge Resources: Real Work

Workers with disabilities get a boost from digital conversions
H.J. Cummins, Star Tribune (Minnesota), October 5, 2005

With 20 percent of its floor space consumed by file cabinets, the crowded Minnesota Department of Human Services realized it had a problem with paper.

The agency's solution might be a sign of things to come.

It hired 16 of its own clients with disabilities, trained them to convert paper documents to digital images, and 18 months later this corner of state government has 3.5 million fewer pages of documents in storage boxes.

To get the job done, the department turned to the piece of its Minnesota State Operated Community Services that finds and supports employment for people with disabilities.
It provides 16 to 19 clients at a time, and some coaches to train and supervise them, placement coordinator Heidi Forbes said.

The clients work four-hour shifts, and have organized themselves in four teams – the Early Birds, Vikings, Stars and Wild. Most of their work is "document preparation" – taking out staples and anything else needed to make a sheet of paper ready to be scanned.

The department got the idea from the Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities. That advocacy agency converted all its paperwork, including decades of mental health research, to a website, council director Colleen Wieck said.

On June 5, 2006, Computerworld gave an award to the Minnesota Department of Human Services for this project.