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Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans to Advocate for Communication Equity at the Most Accessible Event of the Year at the Minnesota State Capitol

Community rally and awards ceremony will be held

3/4/2019 3:47:22 PM


March 4, 2019

Contact: Anne Sittner Anderson


Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans to Advocate for Communication Equity at the Most Accessible Event of the Year at the Minnesota State Capitol

Community rally and awards ceremony will be held between 1:00 PM and 2:00 P.M., Wednesday, March 6, 2019 at the Minnesota Capitol Rotunda, with a special drum pre-show provided by students at the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf. The event will be captioned, have sign language interpreters, and tactile interpreters for advocates who are deafblind. Tours of the capitol will be provided in American Sign Language by Deaf tour guides. The press, legislators and staff are invited from 2:30-4:00 to a Deaf and Hard of Hearing Immersion experience in the L’Etoile du Nord Vault Room B15.

Saint Paul, Minnesota – On March 6, hundreds of Minnesotans who are deaf, deafblind, hard of hearing and their family and friends will gather at the Minnesota State Capitol to ask their legislators to support bills proposed or supported by the Minnesota Commission of the Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing.

“Support Communication Equity” is the theme of our Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing Lobby Day. Communication barriers prevent us from being able to get the education we need, the jobs we are qualified to do, and from participating in civic life. These bills increase communication equity for the 20% of Minnesotans who are deaf, Deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing and were developed with community partners.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman, Senator Torrey Westrom, and Representative Ruth Richardson will speak. All three are longtime allies for people with disabilities. Awards will be given to Minnesotans who have made significant contributions to the advancement of deaf, deafblind, and hard of hearing Minnesotans. Receiving awards are:

  • Shivali Choudhury, high school sophomore, for establishing an ASL Club at her school, Farmington High School (Youth Award);
  • Liza Sylvestre, an artist from Minneapolis who is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Illinois, for an “Art and Sensory Loss Symposium she hosted for sensory loss scientists (Citizen Advocate Award);
  • Stonearch Employment Solutions for their employment placement work for people who are deafblind (Civic Engagement Award);
  • Jay Fehrman, Principal Manager for ISD 916, for his advocacy work on education policy and dedication to working for better outcomes for students who are deaf, deafblind, and hard of hearing (Education Excellence Award);
  • the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Emergency Communication Networks for the statewide Text-to-911 rollout (Access Award);
  • the Honorable Donovan W. Frank Senior U.S. District Judge, District of Minnesota for presiding over a case which opened doors for people who are deaf or hard of hearing to work in delivery jobs (Making a Difference Award);
  • Mary Edwards, a Deaf Community Health Worker who specializes in working with deaf immigrants (Lifetime Achievement Award). 

More information about the award recipients can be found on the Commission's website.

Legislators will be asked to support:

  • HF975 (Richardson) / SF1107 (Senjem) - Support an increase in funds from the Telecommunications Access Minnesota fund for the Commission so we can continue to bring groups together to work on policy change in education, health care, employment, technology and access to public service that benefit the whole state and encourage participation in civic life. The additional funds would cover a government relations specialist, provide more support for our Education collaborative, support for our Age-Related hearing loss, leadership training and increased costs of accommodations.
  • HF1382 (Richardson) / SF1500 (Chamberlain) - Change state law so Metro Deaf School, a special education Charter School, can be reimbursed for providing preschool service to deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing children aged birth to three. They are able to get reimbursed for children four and older, but the way the current statute is written, they are unable to get reimbursed for younger children. Babies and toddlers need access to preschools with language-rich environments.
  • HF1983 (Loeffler) / SFxxx (Abeler) - Add a definition of interveners, paraprofessionals who work with deafblind children. This will help 1) Make expectations of the role of interveners clear to families and the state. 2) Help influence national legislation that will make interveners part of a national service delivery system 3) Lead to definition and certification in education settings.
  • HF910 (Edelson) / SF1021 (Abeler) - Renew the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Advisory Committee in the Minnesota Department of Health and amend the statute to include Deaf Mentors and the Minnesota State Academies on the Advisory Committee.
  • HF1968 (Hornstein) / SF2004 (Westrom) - According to the state’s Affirmative Action Plan, over 56% of people with disabilities leave state government within their first year of employment. Require the state to conduct a retention study, have state agencies on disabilities give input and change the affirmative action laws to strengthen implementation and reporting and update out-of-date language.
  • HF1962 (Nelson) / SF1727 (Westrom) - Pass legislation that requires Accessible IT standards for the legislature so everyone can participate and have accessible documents and websites. 
  • As well as bills being led by others that the Commission board has agreed to support.

For more information about the Commission’s legislative agenda, visit the agenda page on our website.

About the Commission 

The Commission of Deaf, DeafBlind & Hard of Hearing Minnesotans is a Governor-appointed Commission that advocates for communication access and equal opportunity for the 20% of Minnesotans who are deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing. For more information about the Commission, visit our website or join us on Facebook and Twitter.


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