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Farewell 2019, Welcome 2020

End of year review

12/31/2019 9:46:28 AM

2019 is displayed across a series of trees under a blue sky

In 2019, we experienced lots of changes. Together, so much has been accomplished and here are some of those accomplishments. Many thanks to community partners and stakeholders for their help and collaboration.


  • Opened registration for the 2019 Deaf, DeafBlind & Hard of Hearing Lobby Day and recruited nominations for Lobby Day Awards.
  • Launched Lobby Tuesday/Thursday for the first time ever. This is 1:1 and small group coaching on how to meet your legislators, and includes a personal tour of the Capitol!
  • Released video newsletter about grants, loan forgiveness and teacher licensure programs available to individuals interested in becoming DHH licensed teachers.
  • Held a full board meeting.
  • Kim Wassenaar served as our community representative for the 2019 Governor's Council on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration. 


  • Announced the Lobby Day Awards winners. Congratulations again to Shivali Choudhury (Youth Award), Liza Sylvestre (Citizen Advocate Award), Stonearch Employment Solutions (Civic Engagement Award), Jay Fehrman (Education Excellence Award), the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Emergency Communication Networks (Access Award), the Honorable Donovan Frank (Making a Difference Award), and Mary Edwards (Lifetime Achievement Award). 
  • Continued to provide Lobby Tuesday/Thursdays on a weekly basis.
  • Deputy Director E. David Dively was sent to Washington, D.C. as part of his Humphrey fellowship. 
  • The Age-Related Hearing Loss (ARHL) Task Force convened to work towards policy and program recommendations to help with healthy aging. 


  • Hosted Deaf, DeafBlind & Hard of Hearing Lobby Day on March 6, 2019. Over 200 people attended. We provided accessible tours of the beautiful Capitol building. Remember that Lobby Day happens every two years (not every year). The next Lobby Day will be in 2021. See you then!
  • Continued to provide Lobby Tuesday/Thursdays on a weekly basis.
  • Opened presenter proposals for the 2019 Collaborative Experience Conference.
  • Released video newsletter about the current and projected availability of DHH licensed teachers, with supporting data. 
  • Released video newsletter about the employment supports provided by organizations like the Minnesota Employment Center.
  • Released the 2019-2024 Collaborative Plan for Minnesota's System Serving Children who are Deaf, DeafBlind & Hard of Hearing. This plan was built by the members of the Collaborative Plan stakeholders and facilitated by Wilder Research. The four main strategic issues that will be worked on are 1) Increase consistency and organization of resources to ensure all children and families have access. 2) Collaborate and network across stakeholder groups to ensure programs and services are supporting (and not duplicating) each other’s work. 3) Promote mental health and using a “whole child” approach to help children develop a strong identity and ability to self-advocate. 4) Assess and address licensure and qualifications for teachers and interpreters to ensure quality and to improve shortages.
  • Released video newsletter about work that has been done to include ASL interpreters and live captioning to communicate emergency broadcasts.
  • Director of Communications Anne Sittner Anderson graduated from the Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI).
  • E. David Dively and Anita Buel attended a Health Equity Summit, which was hosted by the Minnesota Department of Health, to advocate for health disparities among people with disabilities.
  • E. David Dively spent a lot of time at the University of Minnesota; once to speak with students in interdisciplinary studies and learning about different kinds of sensory loss. He also met with the Minnesota Academy of Audiology to understand their concerns with hearing aid insurance reform.


  • Governor Walz signed Executive Order 19-15 (PDF), which replaced former Governor Mark Dayton’s Executive Order 14-14. This executive order requires the percentage of state employees with disabilities to increase from 7% to 10%.
  • The Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens (MADC) had its 6th annual Deaf Awareness Day celebration on April 27. We had a booth and were happy to celebrate with and connect to the community!
  • Distributed a survey to gather community input about what qualities they would like MNCDHH's next executive director to have. 


  • Celebrated the ten year anniversary of Minnesota's Digital Accessibility Law at a special event hosted at the Capitol. Then-executive director Mary Hartnett and current board member Jamie Taylor were recognized for their work in getting the law passed. 
  • Distributed video newsletter about resources for students, their families, and their teachers to prepare for life after high school. 
  • Partnered with the University of Minnesota's Disability Resource Center to share information about getting accessibility services for college students with disabilities. 
  • Distributed video newsletter about how to use Text-to-911. 
  • The legislative session ended. Despite it being a tough session, five of our seven bills passed. They are 1) MNCDHH's request for increased funding. 2) Renew the Newborn Hearing Screening Advisory Committee and get a new seat for the Deaf Family Mentor Program and a new seat for a staff member from the Minnesota State Academy. 3) Add a definition of interveners for deafblind children so it is clear they are an option to parents and to districts. 4. Update language in the law about state employees with disabilities. It also requires a report to be done on why 56% of state employees with disabilities leave state work within a year. In the future, this report will help the state set up a better work environment that sets up employees with disabilities for success.  5) Establish a work group to set up legislative IT accessibility standards. 
  • Held a full board meeting.
  • Launched the #CanDoAnything social media campaign. This showcases people who are deaf, deafblind, or hard of hearing at work, giving them an opportunity to share what they do at their jobs and explain how communication access works for them. This campaign shows what our community can do, which is... anything!
  • E. David Dively, along with other Humphrey fellows, hosted a summit of educators, advocates, job coaches, trainers, and administrators, to advocate for increased employment opportunities and trade education for marginalized communities, including people with disabilities.
  • E. David Dively attended a luncheon with Vice President Walter Mondale to discuss current issues and concerns within Minnesota and the United States.


  • Distributed the job posting for MNCDHH's next executive director. Many thanks to the search committee and the interview committee members who worked on this task and helped us find our new leader. 
  • Launched the Accessible Emergency Communications Campaign. The campaign is a call of action to ensure emergency communications are accessible.
  • MNCDHH supported "Pathways to Life," which is a program for transition-age students who are deaf/hard of hearing. Pathways to Life is sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Education, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development – Vocational Rehabilitation, the Minnesota Commission of the Deaf, DeafBlind & Hard of Hearing, the Collaborative Plan Stakeholders and various school districts. This was the first year of Pathways to Life and it was hosted at the Minnesota State Academies. Some members of the MNCDHH staff were asked to bring their lived experiences and their expertise to the campers by participating in and teaching some of the lessons and activities. Jessalyn Akerman-Frank shared her passion and skills in teaching self-care and yoga. Anna Paulson taught a Greek cooking lesson. Katy Kelley supported the camp with her organizational skills and logistical supports. Jessalyn and Katy both participated in a panel presentation sharing their lived experiences.
  • Maddy Schopf began her internship at MNCDHH, primarily working on closed captioning issues and helping the Collaborative Plan Conference logistics. 
  • E. David Dively attended the Big Think 6, a one-day event on different policy issues facing Minnesotans from education to employment, to preserving indigenous peoples’ rights. 


  • We welcomed six new board members! Tricia (Trish) Oyaas, Krista Dillman, Les Fairbanks, Christine Morgan, and Maisie Blaine were newly appointed. Peggy Nelson was reappointed. 
  • The Accessible Health Care Video Series was remastered and relaunched. 


  • Finalists for the executive director were announced and a conditional offer was given to Dr. Darlene Zangara!
  • Dalena Nguyen, Maddy Schopf, Lloyd Ballinger, Jessalyn Akerman-Frank, Xavier Arana and Dr. Mohamed Mourssi-Alfash attended the Minnesota State Fair to answer questions about MNCDHH and meet the community. Thank you Minnesota Council on Disability for sharing your booth!
  • Maddy Schopf wrapped up her internship. She stayed on a little longer to help with the office before finding her new position at another organization.


  • Published a dashboard that shows the success achieved under the 2014-2019 five-year strategic plan. 
  • Released an interview with Ade Haugen about the Minnesota Speaking DeafBlind Group (MSDBG).
  • Began preparations for the 2020 Census.
  • Held a full board meeting. 


  • Anne Sittner Anderson and Katy Kelley attended and spoke about accessible media reporting at the Minnesota Broadcasters Association's Annual Business Meeting in Duluth.
  • Attended the MADC-MRID Fall Conference in Faribault. 
  • Attended Metro Deaf School's Transition Fair.
  • Director of Civic and Community Engagement Jessalyn Akerman-Frank presented to Humboldt High School students about how to vote, how to lobby, how to advocates for their rights in school, how to advocate for rearview caption mirror at the movies, and how to advocate for accommodations for the job. 
  • Completed version 2 of the ARHL Recommendations report. 


  • Dr. Darlene Zangara started as our new executive director! 
  • Distributed the social-emotional support webinars, which includes 30 short real-life stories that provide strategies for teachers to support social and emotional development. The goal of this webinar is to encourage these adults to look at the whole child and understand the unique challenges of deaf/hard of hearing students.
  • Hosted the sold-out 2019 Collaborative Experience Conferences for professionals serving and parents of students who are deaf, deafblind, and hard of hearing in beautiful Breezy Point, MN. The Collaborative Experience Conference is held every 2 years and the next conference will take place in 2021. 
  • Joined the DeafBlind community's annual Thanks-for-Giving fundraiser event. 
  • Hosted transition-age students from the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf in our office where we shared voting and advocacy resources. 
  • Held a full board meeting.
  • Began planning the vision and goals for an upcoming leadership program that will be offered to community leaders in the near future. 
  • Finished a one-year-long effort to write, revise, and propose brand new policies that will improve MNCDHH’s operations, accountability to the board at the board meeting.


  • Katy Kelley began her Organizational Development courses at the University of Minnesota. 
  • MNCDHH staff had a retreat to plan for 2020 under Darlene's leadership. 
  • Released a video newsletter about the importance of accessibility and targeted towards anyone who provides a presentation. This message was crafted by Jamie Taylor. 
  • MNCDHH was approved by the Minnesota Census Bureau to be a Complete Count Committee. As a Complete Count Committee, we will be working with community organizations during the census. 
  • Pam Burry, Jer Loudanbeck, Cindi Martin, and Patrick Vellia were added as contractors for the 2020 census.
  • Worked with the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State to create a temporary job position as an American Sign Language (ASL) Office Specialist at their Voter Call Center. 



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