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Employment Task Force

In 2011, Alan Parnes, a former MNCDHH board member, proposed that an Employment Task Force be established to address deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing individuals' unmet employment needs. The task force convened from 2011-2015. The members met in 3 focus groups.

Focus Group: Accessibility

  • Alan Parnes, MNCDHH
  • Diane Currie Richardson, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) - Chair
  • Elise Knopf, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED)
  • Joan Distler, RISE and Minnesota Employment Center (MEC)
  • John Lee Clark, MNCDHH
  • Marie Koehler, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division (DHHSD)
  • Nick Maryns, Governor's Workforce Development Council (GWDC)
  • Sherri Rademacher, State Rehabilitation Council (SRC)

Focus Group: Employer Relations

  • Alan Parnes, MNCDHH
  • Ann Feaman, Minnesota Management & Budget (MMB)
  • Blaine Lashbrook, Minnesota Employment Center (MEC) - Chair
  • Brad Harper, Minnesota State Academies
  • Christine Marble, Career Ventures
  • Dave Smith, State Services for the Blind (SSB)
  • Mary Jo Duncan, Minnesota Employment Center (MEC)
  • Sonny Wasilowski
  • Steve Kuntz, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED)

Focus Group: Work Skills

  • Alan Parnes, MNCDHH
  • Dann Trainer, Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens (MADC)
  • Don Lavin, RISE
  • Elise Knopf, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) - Chair
  • Jessalyn Frank, Communication Services for the Deaf (CSD)
  • Katy Thorpe, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED)
  • Lisa Holden, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED)
  • Nick Maryns, Governor's Workforce Development Council (GWDC)
  • Tina Sundae, VECTOR
  • Wendy Devore, Career Ventures

Task Force Goals

The task force addressed the concerns in the areas of: 

  • transition from school to work 
  • job-seeking skills and placement services 
  • maintaining employment 
  • advancing in employment 
  • and employment discrimination.


The group set goals that were incorporated into the Commission's strategic plan and work plan. These goals are categorized into three areas:

Employer Relations

  • Establish the State of Minnesota as a Model Employer of people with disabilities
  • Accountability- State agencies set employment goals for people with disabilities, develop strategies to meet them and report outcomes in a centralized report to the legislature
  • Internship and Work Opportunities- Increase the number of people with disabilities
  • Staff training- Ensure that training programs for state hiring managers address benefits and opportunities of hiring people with disabilities


  • Consolidated Accommodation Funding - create a centralized pool for accommodations for people with disabilities- eliminate the disincentives for employers.
  • Workforce Centers - make them accessible

Skills training

  • Increase Adult Credential Attainment
  • Increase Post-Secondary Readiness


We've had some big wins! They are as follows:

  • Governor's Executive 14-14, signed August 4, 2014, which requires that at least 7% of state employees be people with disabilities. In 2014 the employment level was 3.8%. The Commission staff and board were the lead negotiators. The order includes that staff is trained on the benefits of hiring people with disabilities, reinstates a state law that allows qualified applicants with disabilities to be hired without a competitive process and that a website track and monitor the state's progress on meeting the hiring goals. The Commission helped to develop the website in collaboration with Minnesota Management and Budget. We also sit on the cross-agency committee that meetings bi-monthly to ensure implementation. Download PDF of executive order
  • Creation of a State Centralized Accommodations Fund: In FY15, the commission was successful in getting legislation passed that requires that a centralized accommodations fund be created to cover the cost of interpreters, CART, and other accommodations. The fund will be administered by the Minnesota Department of Administration. We believe this will eliminate intentional or unintentional bias based on a hiring manager's ability to pay for accommodations.
  • Passage of Minnesota Statute 163a.16 that requires that statewide employment supports and transition supports be provided to adults and transition-aged youths who are deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing (FY14) and $1 million annually added to base funding to support it (FY15).
  • Successful advocacy for pilot funding for career pathway grants through the Disability Employment Initiative and an opportunity to make Workforce Centers accessible to customers who are deaf and hard of hearing. We are in the process of working with DEED to make sure that our communities are included and served.
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