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November 2020: Month in Review

From Executive Director Darlene G. Zangara, Ph.D.

12/11/2020 1:09:11 PM

ASL version

If you are DeafBlind or prefer to watch the video in a slow-paced, high contrast format, watch the DeafBlind friendlier ASL version instead

English version

Hello! I'm Dr. Darlene Zangara, Executive Director at the Minnesota Commission of the Deaf, DeafBlind & Hard of Hearing. MNCDHH has been thinking how we can share more information with community members. We decided to try sending monthly updates. This is the first update!

Let’s start with the November elections.

November 3, 2020 was Election Day. We have 11 contractors who are responsible for community engagement and training. They have three big civic engagement projects:

  • the 2020 Census, which finished this October,
  • the 2020 Elections, which finished this November,
  • and next to provide training on how community members can contact their legislators and be politically active for the 2021 legislative session.

2020 was also the first year that the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State set up an ASL voters hotline.

After the election, MNCDHH sent out a survey on voting accessibility. We received 51 responses from deaf, deafblind & hard of hearing Minnesotans. Here are some quick numbers from the 51 responders:

  • 13.7% used the ASL voters hotline.
  • 13.7% attended a voters outreach training taught by our contractors.
  • 23.5% reached out to our contractors for 1:1 coaching on how to vote.
  • 94.1% understood the voting process.

Many responders reported that the masks were a barrier. Additional barriers listed included heavy doors at polling places and sometimes an accessible voting machine breaks. One responder said they want ASL interpreters available onsite when they go vote in person.

MNCDHH wants to thank our contractors, the Secretary of State’s Office, community organizations, and community advocates for their voting work. Together we made a difference!

Next I am happy to announce that I am starting a virtual tour called “Traveling Tuesdays.” On this tour, I will meet with community members from different regions in Minnesota through Zoom. On December 15th, I will meet with community members who live in Southeast Minnesota. On January 12, 2021, I will meet with community members who live in Northwest Minnesota. The other regions are still being scheduled. During our meeting, I will introduce myself, share some of MNCDHH’s recent work, describe my vision for the future, and answer your questions. Maybe you have ideas for public policy that you think will improve the lives of people who are deaf, deafblind or hard of hearing. I would love to have an opportunity to meet you and exchange information and ideas. To RSVP, please visit

Next I want to share some updates about our Board. In November, the Board had two meetings and our Executive Committee also had a meeting.

We held a Special Board meeting on November 4 to complete two board monitoring reports that we did not have enough time to cover during our September meeting. The monitoring reports were on

  1. Ongoing Financial Health and Activities and
  2. Compensation and Benefits.

The Board uses the monitoring reports to evaluate the Executive Director's (my) performance and also make sure MNCDHH is achieving the big picture goals, called ‘Ends,’ set by the Board.

Our Executive Committee met on November 10th to discuss our ClearMasks distribution project and plan for the upcoming full Board meeting.

The full Board meeting was held on November 20 to go through committee reports, to review possible items for our 2021 legislative agenda, and do more board monitoring reports. The monitoring reports were on

  1. Productive Work Environment and
  2. Healthy Work Environment.

The last item I will share for this update is about our education work through the Collaborative Plan. The Collaborative Plan is a network of agencies and organizations who work together to create positive, systemic changes in order to achieve better education and career outcomes for students who are deaf, deafblind, and hard of hearing. There are six workgroups under the Collaborative Plan. The workgroups are:

  1. Birth – Age 5,
  2. Kindergarten – Grade 4,
  3. Grades 5-8,
  4. Transition (Grade 9 – Age 21),
  5. DeafBlind, and
  6. Steering.

I am happy to share that the Kindergarten-Grade 4 and Grades 5-8 workgroups met and set goals (not strategic plan) for 2021. The Transition workgroup completed two roadmaps for students and their families. One roadmap focuses on transitioning to post-secondary settings. The other roadmap focuses on transitioning to work. Both are on the website. There will be a formal announcement later in both ASL and English soon so watch for that. Mental health continues to be an important need. I’m happy to share that the Collaborative Plan stakeholders are doing research on the feasibility of setting up a Mental Health Day Treatment/Residential Program for DHH. I look forward to seeing what happens as a result of their work.

This is it for our first monthly update! Please let me know if you have any questions for me. I can be reached at I will share another update next month.



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