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Communication Access

pair of hands using a mobile phone

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.

The 2014-2019 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 phone.

Public awareness: Increased capacity of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division (external link) 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: Increased 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 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 (external link) 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) (external link) 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 (external link).

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 state wide.

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) (external link) 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 (external link) 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 (check out their airport accessibility site - external link) 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.

Text to 9-1-1
Learn how Text-to 911 will provide those unable to make a voice call the option to request emergency assistance via text message.

Public Access
Learn more about accessibility requirements in public spaces including Government buildings, E-Government, airports and public spaces & venues.

Latest communication access updates

Text to 9-1-1 Project Summary
March 16, 2015 - Read this news article to find out about the exciting Emergency Communication Networks (ECN) Division of Department of Public Safety Text to 9-1-1 Project!

Past work

Technology Accessibility Standards: The Commission led advocates to get legislation passed that required that the state adopt 508 and WCAG 2.O standards. We created training videos on courses on making online content accessible. In 2011, we advocated for legislation that provided ongoing funding in the MN.IT to fund the Office of Accessibility (external link). 

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