The unemployment rates of people with disabilities are the highest of any minority group in the country. People who are deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing face discrimination in the workplace because employers are reticent to hire someone if they have to cover the cost of sign language interpreters. The National Governor’s Association has made increasing the employment of people with disabilities its priority for the year. It’s ours every year. The level of employment of people with disabilities within Minnesota State Government has plummeted since 1999- from a level of 10.1% to 3.8% today.
- Effectively persuaded legislators not to cut funding for the Accommodations Fund for State Employees.
- Participated in the rollout of two programs designed to connect Minnesotans with disabilities to opportunities with state employment, along with the Office of Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Tina Smith and other disability agencies. The programs are called 1. Connect 700 and 2. Supported Worker. MNCDHH also created the ASL version of the employment opportunities with state government announcement, which was also distributed by the Governor's office.
- Partnered with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) by sharing news about the first ever state-wide government career fair. The ASL version of the state-wide career fair announcement is available on MNCDHH's YouTube page.
- Successfully advocated for $2 million in dedicated funding for employment supports for deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing adults and transition-aged youth.
- Won passage of a Central Accommodation Fund for state agencies - removing a barrier to hiring more employees with disabilities.
- Successfully negotiated the signing of the Governor's Executive Order 14-14, which provides for an increase in state employment for individuals with disabilities.
- Passage of the Centralized Fund Study Bill in the legislature. This bill covers a feasibility study on creating a central fund to pay for costs of providing accommodations to state employees with disabilities.
- Passage of the (policy) Employment Supports Policy Bill, which requires the state to add people who are deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing to the disability groups that obtain supported employment via statewide grants programs provided through MS268A, the state Rehabilitation Services statute.
- Passage of the bill, which introduced legislation that will require employment supports for people who are deaf and hard of hearing for FY14.
- Solicited and obtained funding through the Department of Human Services for an intern to develop a website that will support the Executive Order to increase employment for people with disabilities. The website was completed and accepted by statewide HR. It provides resources for hiring managers and encourages them to hire people with disabilities.
- Convened presentations from Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind with the deafblind community (John Lee Clark and Alan Parnes leading) on employment models for people who are deafblind.
- Hosted a presentation by Michael Murray from President Obama's office for Disability Policy that supported the case for an Executive Order on employment for people with disabilities.
- Successfully led other disability agencies in convincing Governor Dayton to sign an executive order that will increase the number of people with disabilities in state government.
2012 and ongoing
- MNCDHH Employment Task Force collaborates with the Governor’s Workforce Development Council. Stakeholders include representatives from Vocational Rehabilitation, State Services for the Blind, Adult Basic Education, Job Placement Specialists, FastTRAC, MNSCU, the GWDC, Minnesota Management and Budget Human Resources ADA State Coordinator, Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf, VECTOR Youth Transition Program, and Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens. Our work has resulted in:
- Audit of all job descriptions in state government by Humphrey Institute Students- 45% was found to have discriminatory language- the descriptions are being rewritten.
- Rewriting of all State Affirmative Action Plans to make it easier to recruit, hire and retain state workers who are deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing.
- Promotion of the state ADA Coordinator as a direct report to the Assistant Commissioner Ann O’Brien.
- Working with Higher Education and the College Board to eliminate test bias in the Accuplacer and to identify alternative assessments that better predict academic success in the MNSCU system.
- Developing an Executive Order that requests the Governor to make the hiring of people with disabilities within Minnesota State Government a priority.
- Attempting to make FastTRAC more accessible to people with disabilities.2010 Engaged stakeholders in the process of VR and SSB rule-making to ensure the services include the needs of this population.
- Engaged stakeholders in the process of Vocational Rehabilitation and State Services for the Blind rule-making to ensure the services include the needs of this population.
- Successfully advocated for funds for specialized employment programs for youth who are deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing and adults.