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Communication Access

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MNCDHH is working to improve communication access statewide. We set as our priorities the issues that the community said were of greatest concern during our strategic planning process.

MNCDHH's Strategic Plan Communication Goal and Indicators: Increase communication access statewide

Key Indicators:

  • Bandwidth Increased access to bandwidth in areas of the state to increase access to vocational rehabilitation.
  • Phone options Increased options for equivalent accessible phones.
  • Public awareness Increased capacity of the Minnesota Department of Human Services Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division to respond to local needs and train public about deaf, hard of hearing and deafblind needs. There would be no waiting list for deafblind and mental health services.
  • Closed captioning Increased number of public facilities that have captioning activated on their TVs.
  • Looping systems Increased number of public buildings that are looped.
  • Document accessibility Increase in number of state employees trained on making documents accessible.
  • Law enforcement awareness Standardized training on deaf and hard of hearing required for police officers.
  • Airport access Increased communication access at the MSP airport, i.e. more captioning and more Video Remote Interpreting (VRI).

What are the issues?

  • Reduced services statewide: Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division (DHHSD) funds have diminished which limit its ability to respond to local needs. Prior to 2015, there was a waiting list for services for children and adults who are deafblind, a lack of mental health services in parts of greater Minnesota and equipment labs were. MNCDHH, through support from advocates and legislators, was able to get $1 million a year for two years for one time funding to help eliminate waiting lists, upgrade equipment in the technology labs and to conduct a study on how they can meet the needs of people who are deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing now and in the future. The study is underway.
  • Lack of functionally equivalent phone service: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) called for states to provide functionally equivalent phone service. The number of people who need accessible phones has declined as so many people are provided for by cell phone carriers. However, the cost of cell phone coverage prohibits many people from having a functional equivalent phone experience. A study is being conducted on the TAM fund to examine ways that fund could be used to increase communication access via phone and in their homes and communities. The study is being led by Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division Telephone Equipment Distribution (TED) program.
  • Lack of bandwidth in greater Minnesota: The lack of bandwidth prevents people in Greater Minnesota from accessing phone service and from accessing video remote interpreting. Working with other advocates who are trying to increase broadband will increase our chances of greater communication access statewide.
  • Lack of captions in restaurants, bars and hospital and clinic waiting rooms: Not being able to access information visually is difficult. We will introduce legislation to require captions in medical settings and have launched a closed captioning campaign to increase captioning in bars and restaurants.
  • Lack of looping for people with hearing aids that have telecoils (t-coils) prevents them from being able to participate fully in meetings or events. We will work to require that publicly funded buildings include loops.
  • Many state employees don't know how to make accessible documents: We will jointly advocate with MN.IT Services to require that all employees learn how to make documents accessible.
  • Most police officers and corrections staff do not know how to communicate with people who are deaf: This has led to misunderstandings that have had tragic consequences. We will work to make changes to public safety and the corrections system that protects the communication rights of deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing people.
  • Airports need to improve communication access. Our Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport (MSP) is better than most airports but there is always room for improvement. We have been working with them since 2006 and jointly created a Disability Airport Advisory Committee. Other airports across the United State need to improve access too. This year they will begin to provide Video Remote Interpreting at their Traveler Aid Stations.
  • The ability to text 911 in the event of an emergency is needed statewide.

Latest communication access updates

Ask MNCDHH: Questions about DHHSD
You ask, we answer. DHHS had been "neglected" for a long time until a crisis of funding arrived. Finally, action took place and got legislator additional funding. Will the deaf/DB/hoh see improvements; or, is there an obvious need to get more funding support?

Text-to-911 is Available Statewide in Minnesota
Watch announcement, learn more information. Please use this information so you are ready if you experience an emergency.

Now covering all of Minnesota, people who are deaf, deafblind, or hard of hearing can turn first to texting 911 in an emergency
From Roseau to Roseville or Barnesville to Burnsville, those who experience communication barriers gain increased access to emergency services.

Explanation about Minnesota's New Acoustics and Looping Law
MNCDHH & stakeholders' next steps. Good acoustic design benefits almost everyone.

Corrections: DHHSD Law for DeafBlind Services
How the new law impacts the DeafBlind Community.

New DHHSD Law Explained
New law for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division

New Accessibility Features at the Minnesota State Capitol
Improvements benefit all Capitol visitors

MN Campaign Law Requires Accessibility
MNCDHH sends notification to campaign candidates.

Explanation about Minnesota's New Closed Captioning Law
Minnesota's new closed captioning law takes effect starting August 1, 2016. More information is available about what the law means and who it affects.

Travelers with Disabilities Advisory Committee Meeting: Summary
A recap on the recent Travelers with Disabilities Advisory Committee Meeting that occurred at the Golden Rule.

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