Minnesota State Plan for Assistive Technology
Attachment 8: State Leadership Activities
8.1 Training and Technical Assistance Activities
Describe how the State will provide training and technical assistance to enhance the knowledge, skills, and competencies of individuals from local settings statewide, including representatives of State and local educational agencies, other State and local agencies, early intervention programs, adult service programs, hospitals and other health care facilities, institutions of higher education and businesses as described in section 4(e)(3)(B)(i) of the AT Act.
Training: Over the years STAR has presented a number of training sessions for state employees, AT professionals, employers and consumers and it will continue to do so over the next three years. Some of these training sessions will be based upon curriculum already established by STAR on relevant AT topics while others will provide training on new and evolving AT trends. Training activities will include:
- Training for education professionals: Schools in Minnesota may contact STAR to request AT training. STAR is a member of the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) AT State Leadership Team. As a member of this team STAR serves in an advisory capacity to MDE and assists with planning statewide professional development activities relating to assistive technology such as MDE's annual assistive technology conferences (Charting the Cs and Up to the MN*AT Summer Institute) that provide AT information and training for teachers and professionals statewide. Training sessions range from an overview of assistive technology in the classroom to sessions focusing on the use of specific devices, software, as well as, strategies teachers may use to implement AT into classroom curriculum. Future sessions will be developed on Universal Design in Learning. During year one STAR provided schools statewide with updated information regarding STAR services and training. In year two STAR will also contact charter school representatives to make sure that these schools are aware of STAR training and services.
- Training for employment professionals: STAR works with Rehabilitation Services staff to educate individuals with disabilities and employment professionals on how assistive technology can be used to break down barriers to employment. Training sessions, which are available upon request, cover a variety of topics on AT in the workplace or may be customized to focus on specific AT needs.
- Training for information technology professionals: STAR provides training on creating accessible electronic information technology and Web design on a quarterly basis and technical assistance upon request.
- Training for general public/consumers: Topics include AT and disability awareness, access to information, future trends, and other topics upon request.
- Training for Human Service professionals: STAR is available to provide training to Human Service Agencies on topics ranging from basic AT awareness to funding strategies and state resources.
Technical Assistance: STAR will continue to provide technical assistance upon request over the next three years. The type of technical assistance provided will be determined by future requests; therefore, STAR is unable to describe specific activities at this time. It is likely, however, that STAR will receive requests similar to past requests. Examples of technical assistance provided by STAR in the past include:
- Help America Vote Act (HAVA)-STAR was a member of the Minnesota Secretary of State's advisory council during the drafting of the Help America Vote Act. Technical assistance included testing accessible voting machine design and providing feedback. STAR also trained the Minnesota Secretary of State's office and the HAVA advisory council on assistive technology and the important role it plays in providing independence in voting.
- STAR provides technical assistance to a variety of agencies including Minnesota's Department of Human Services (MinnesotaHelp.info an information and referral Website), Department of Education, and. Agencies may request technical assistance from STAR while designing and creating electronic information and Web pages. STAR tests for accessibility and 508 compliance; provides additional guidance by reporting errors that hinder accessibility and provides information on how to correct the errors.
Transition: STAR will address the transitioning needs of Minnesotans through the following state leadership activities:
- Students--Year 1 - STAR conducted a transition event called Transition Day at the U in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE). This event provided transitioning students with access to assistive technology information, demonstration and hands-on training necessary for developing technological and AT advocacy skills that support successful transition. In addition, the camp provided an opportunity for peer mentorship and networking. Thirteen students and forty three adults attended the event. The evaluations stated that the event was valuable to the attendees. At the July AT Advisory Council meeting, members recommended that STAR should sponsor a similar transition event next year.
- Community Living--Year 1 - STAR developed and disseminated information on assistive technology devices, services and funding options that provide opportunities for maintaining or transitioning to community living. STAR included articles called Technology for Transition in its quarterly newsletter Constellations. These articles discussed assistive technology that supports the many aspects of transitioning to community living. STAR did not broadcast interviews with community transition experts on STAR Point, STAR's Internet radio program, but plans to as time and technical resources allow in year two. STAR worked with interagency transition teams to ensure that assistive technology was included in the transition planning process. In addition, STAR researched the costs and technology required to hold teleconferences and web conferences, but did not garner the necessary resources to sponsor one or more telephone/web conferences on transitioning to community living. STAR will attempt to use this format to host an open forum to discuss statewide community transition needs with consumers, caregivers, advocates and professionals in year two.
- Students/Community Living--Year 2 - STAR will partner with community organizations to offer information and training to individuals with disabilities preparing for academic, employment, or community transition. At the AT Advisory Council's recommendation, STAR will repeat the year one transition activity and explore a wider collaboration of partners relative to the above categories.
- Students/Community Living--Year 3 - Expand the year two transition activities to include workshops for professionals working with people with disabilities.
STAR purchased assistive technology to provide the transition event participants with hands-on training. During the rest of the year, the equipment became part of the statewide device loan network for use by agencies (schools, workforce centers, VA, county services, regional AT Centers) and consumers.
8.2 Public Awareness Activities
Describe how the State will provide information to targeted individuals and entities relating to the availability, benefits, appropriateness, and costs of assistive technology devices and assistive technology services as described in section 4(e)(3)(B)(ii) of the AT Act.
STAR provides Minnesotans with assistive technology related information through multiple forms of media as outlined below. All STAR materials are available in a variety of formats including Braille, electronic and audio.
Information and Referral: STAR provides information and referral to professionals and consumers locally and statewide through its toll-free phone number, e-mail and in-person at events and trainings.
Newsletter: STAR's newsletter Constellations is published quarterly (Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter) and has a circulation of approximately 7,200. Each issue covers a wide range of assistive technology topics such as new products and services, funding resources, tips and strategies, legislative updates, training opportunities and special events.
Web site: STAR maintains a Web site that provides information regarding:
- STAR Program mission and services.
- Assistive Technology - general information and resources.
- Funding strategies and resources - including an online version of STAR's funding directory in English and Spanish.
- Statewide resources including information on Minnesota's Assistive Technology Network (ATN), which consists of six Assistive Technology partners serving the Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, Southeast and Central regions of the state.
- A direct link to MATLN (Minnesota Assistive Technology Loan Network) operated by United Cerebral Palsy of Minnesota. The Web site is housed on the STAR server.
- Alternative Financing information and resources including a direct link to Minnesota's alternative financing program ATMn*.
- A direct link to Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Service of North America (www.RESNA.org)
- A direct link to Rehabilitation Service Administration.
- Online version of Constellations (STAR's newsletter) in electronic and audio format.
- On-demand Internet radio program (See STAR Point description below)
- Information and resources regarding access to electronic and information technology including a Web form for reporting inaccessible Web sites. STAR reviews each report and, if necessary, contacts the agency in question and works with them to improve accessibility of the site.
Internet Radio Show: Over the next three years STAR will continue to produce and broadcast STAR Point, an on-demand Internet radio program. STAR Point educates Minnesotans on a broad array of issues related to assistive technology, assistive technology services and legislation regarding access to information technology and accessibility issues. Each half-hour program features experts in their respective fields. Guests to date have included government employees (federal and state of Minnesota), educators, members of advocacy groups, as well as representatives from service providers, vendors and manufacturers. A transcript of each show is posted as an alternative access option.
Publications: Finding the money to purchase assistive technology can be a difficult and time-consuming task. That is why for the past eight years the STAR program has published its Directory of Funding Resources for Assistive Technology in Minnesota. This 105 page directory is available to all Minnesotans, agencies and organizations free of charge. Directory content includes:
- General information on assistive technology.
- A guide on how to develop a funding strategy.
- State and national resources.
- Sample letter of medical necessity.
- Sample Appeal letter.
- Listing of AT and disability related Web sites.
- Fact page for each identified provider available to Minnesotans. Each fact page includes a detailed description of the funding provider including who they serve (age, disability, region, etc.) eligibility criteria, as well as, contact information (address, phone number, Web site, etc.).
To date, STAR has given away approximately 10,000 copies of the most recent edition of its funding directory. An updated edition was issued in June 2006. Later in the year STAR will release its funding directory on CD, which will allow Minnesotans to choose a format that best meets their needs. The funding directory is also available online at STAR's Web site in English and Spanish and in alternative formats upon request. Approximately 9,400 visitors have viewed the online directory during the past 12 months.
STAR distributes its funding directory at various events throughout the year such as the State Fair and Charting the Cs, which is an annual statewide assistive technology conference. The directory is also given to a variety of agencies in Minnesota including AT centers, rehabilitation facilities to assist professionals and their consumers during the funding process. The directory may be requested by contacting STAR through its toll free number, Web site or e-mail. During year one STAR expanded its distribution of the directory to include public libraries, senior centers and other public institutions statewide to increase its reach to a diverse group of consumers. By providing this information in one easy to access directory, consumers of all ages, disabilities and needs and professionals statewide spend less time searching for funding resources. Furthermore, by providing consumers and professionals with a comprehensive directory of funding options and resources the likelihood of acquiring needed assistive technology is increased.
8.3 Coordination and Collaboration
Describe how the State will coordinate activities among public and private entities that are responsible for policies, procedures, or funding for the provision of assistive technology devices and assistive technology services to individuals with disabilities, service providers, and others to improve access to assistive technology devices and assistive technology services as described in section 4(e)(3)(B)(iii) of the AT Act.
Minnesota STAR Program currently collaborates and coordinates with public and private entities that are responsible for establishing policies, procedures, or AT funding. Activities include:
- Serving as a member of the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) AT State Leadership Team. This team serves in an advisory capacity to MDE and assists with planning statewide professional development activities relating to assistive technology. STAR participates in developing the annual assistive technology conference (Charting the Cs) and summer AT institute (Up to the MN*AT) that provides AT information and training for teachers and professionals statewide.
- A member of the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MN-CCD). This consortium is a broad-based coalition of organizations of people with disabilities, providers and advocates dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities. MN-CCD addresses public policy issues that affect people with disabilities by collaborating with others, advocating, educating, influencing change and creating awareness. STAR attends monthly meetings to discuss issues that impact the lives of Minnesotans with disabilities and participates in work groups to develop AT initiatives in the areas of health care, transportation, employment, education and housing.
- Advisory member to the Minnesota Disability Law Center.
- A member of Minnesota Regions AT Collaborative (MNRATC), which is a collaborative of the regional network of AT centers originally created by STAR. The collaborative meets on a bi-monthly basis to discuss what is happening statewide regarding AT. Members of the collaborative work together sharing information and, when appropriate resources, to maximize the capacity for AT use within Minnesota.
- Meets on a regular basis with a number of state agencies that work with individuals with disabilities (State Services for the Blind, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services, Rehabilitation Services, DD Council) to discuss disability issues, share legislative planning and funding strategies.
- Works with MinnesotaHelp.info (www.minnesotahelp.info) to provide networking opportunities with other agencies; shares information to make sure that MinnesotaHelp.info has current information regarding AT services in Minnesota; and, promote awareness of each other's services. MinnesotaHelp.info is an online directory of services designed to help people in Minnesota identify resources such as human services, information and referral, financial assistance, assistive technology and other forms of assistance within Minnesota. The Web site is especially rich in resource information for seniors and their caregivers; people with disabilities and their caregivers; parents and families; and low-income people. STAR distributes information on MinnesotaHelp.info to consumers at various outreach events and MinnesotaHelp.info refers to STAR individuals and professionals in need of AT assistance. In the next year STAR will formalize arrangements with MinnesotaHelp.info to assess their referral protocols to assure seamless services for consumers.
- Works with Disability Linkage Line a toll-free disability information and referral service (1-866-333-2466) through information sharing and by promoting each other's services. Disability Linkage Line is a single statewide information and referral resource for all disability-related questions. It provides free confidential assistance that links Minnesotans with disabilities to local and statewide resources. A resource specialist answers the call, listens to needs, explores options and provides information. STAR distributes information regarding Disability Linkage Line and they, in turn, refer to STAR consumers and professionals in need of AT assistance. In year one STAR formalized trainings about AT resources for the Disability Linkage Line staff. STAR will also do a joint data analysis with Disability Linkage Line to help assure seamless services for consumers.
- Collaborating with Medtronic, Courage Center, MCIL and PACER Center on an AT in business awareness exhibit for the National Business Leadership Network Conference scheduled for October 4-6, 2006.