Monthly Archives: July 2010

Shout out to ADA at 20!

We first endure,  then pity,  then embrace.

Alexander Pope 1688-1744.

Alexander Pope’s words come to mind as we anticipate the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Change is an interesting concept to contemplate.  Sometimes the impact is instant and fleeting.  At other times change seeps in, embeds itself, is adapted and adopted, eventually appreciated

How and when did we embrace the idea of disability rights?  How and when did we fashion the infrastructure that supports inclusion — the power of advocacy groups, structural amenities including accessible sports facilities (!), adaptive technologies that facilitate inclusion and that enhance our general awareness of the needs and the contributions of those who are challenged.

It’s worth taking a look at the legislative actions that preceded the 1990 passage of the ADA.  The Disabilities Rights Movement was one of a number of initiatives that grew out of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. Though the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Civil Rights Act of 1965 dealt with race, religion. sex and national origin there is no mention of discrimination against people with disabilities.  Disability rights did not enter the legal canon until 1973 when Section 504 of the Rehabilitation of 1973 became law.  Still, the idea was gathering strength.

Barriers along the march towards equal treatment for people with disabilities would have halted most mortals.  For example, the 1973 legislation prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability towards otherwise qualified people by recipients of federal financial assistance.  The law still did not protect people with disabilities from discrimination by employers, by public accommodations in the private sector, by publicly funded programs and by those providing federal financial assistance.  Again, the idea was catching on.

The 1970’s and beyond saw critical change affecting people with disabilities..  On the one hand, they enjoyed greater access to physical facilities and a chance to prove themselves.  The community at large had a chance to know disabled people as co-workers, neighbors, family and friends.  At the same time, information technology seized the opportunity to enhance intellectual access. The Kurzweil Reader, now relegated to antique status, offered breakthrough intellectual access in the 1970’s.  Meanwhile, the rapidly expanding population of older Americans welcomed every adaptive technology that kept them in the moving in the mainstream.

Given this slow and steady struggle,  the 20th anniversary of passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act calls for a celebration that includes a pause to reflect and renew the promise. This is also a time to publicly acknowledge that, though legislation neither solves all the problems nor addresses all the issues, it rallies the recalcitrant and puts society, including those immediately affect,  on watch.

The 20th anniversary of the law underscores that, though ADA lays down the law, real people take it from there –  people who express their needs, propose solutions,  seek the funding,  create adaptive solutions, capitalize on the latest technology, expand employment options, acknowledge accomplishments, monitor compliance, make change happen in their lives and in their work.

Towns and cities throughout the state and the nation are gearing up with special events, proclamations, and advocacy initiatives.   Minnesotans of all abilities will gather at the state’s hallmark event:

Monday, July 26, 2010

10:00- 2:00 p.m.

Nicollet Island Pavilion


Free and open

Speakers and entertainers include former US Senator Dave Durenberger, comedian Josh Blue, ASL storyteller Nic Zapko, ADA authority Peter Berg, local and national politicians – and more.  There will also be a host of exhibitors and vendors, including purveyors of “summer time food.”  Accommodations include ASL interpreters CART services, PCA assistance and audio descriptors.


For information about the ADA celebration contact the chair of the planning committee: or 651 603 2015.

ADA has a fact-filled website that explains more than you even want to know about the law, its requirements and implementation.  One staple is a 31-page page booklet, ADA Questions and Answers, offers an overview of the ADA’s requirements for ensuring equal opportunity for persons with disabilities. The primer is available in Spanish, Cambodian, Chinese, Hmong, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Tagalog and Vietnamese editions available from the ADA Information Line.

St Anthony Village Farmer’s Market Opening Day Video

Hmongtown Marketplace – This Shopper’s Perspective

The plan was to share my Hmongtown Marketplace with my friend Suzanne.  The result was a half-day of Poking Around in one of the community’s treasures.  Though for Hmong Americans and Frogtown residents the Marketplace is a second home and sole source provider of known commodities, it’s a drive-by location for those who whiz by the former lumber yard on Como near the State Capitol.

Pull in the parking lot ( like every street in the Twin Cities, it does need repair) and plunge into another world – a world in which English is definitely not the first language, where wondrous fruits require a how-to lesson from the vendor, where the delicate aroma of Hmong sausage, egg rolls, stick rice and a zillion other taste treats prove irresistible.

Most of all, it’s world where the awkward native Twin Citian is embraced, literally, by the owners (Toua Xiong and Nou Vang and their family) and by the scores of vendors.

Suzanne and I poked into every nook and cranny, paying  rapt attention as Nou graciously escorted, introduced, and explained the vendors and their wares.

At one point Nou asked if I were looking for anything specific.  Doting grandma that I am I targeted my one and only grandson Will Birmingham, age 19 months.  We sped to the top-of-the-line shop for boys’ togs where Nou introduced us, then surreptitiously purchased a Hmong suit for Will.  The result captures the splendor of the suit and the unbounded delight of an Irish American boy from Northeast Minneapolis who may never again settle for Carter’s

Original post from Twin Cities Daily Planet.

Minnesota Women’s Press Shares the Joy of Reading

Give us books – Give us wings!

Some years ago the theme for a national reading promotion was “Give us books, Give us wings.”  I still treasure the posters and T-shirts – and the visual image.  It’s that image that came to mind this week as I’ve had a small role in finding good homes for the unique collection of books in the library of the Minnesota Women’s Press

Any break-up is painful – the breaking up of a library collection is truly poignant. [Many books in the MWP collection were] donated by women who participated in the scores of book groups and salons sponsored by MWP.  Having purchased and read the books, these avid bibliophiles chose to share the words of women writers by contributing their books to the library.

For many years the collection was tended by volunteers, including Barb Clark and Rhoda Holden, who spent hundreds of hours at MWP arranging the dynamic collection, meticulously handwriting cards, welcoming visitors and contributors.  The collection is eclectic, charming and overflowing with books you won’t find in the chains or even public libraries with tight budgets and limited space.  A few of the volumes are autographed by the author herself.

Ever at the ready to face head-on both changing times and fiscal realities, MWP is on the move, from their long-time home near University and Raymond to a site just down the street, at 970 Raymond.  Though staff will enjoy [slightly] expanded office and meeting space – not to mention windows – they have had to phase out the library.

Mollie Hoben, MWP co-founder, quotes a volunteer who reminded her that each book arrived at MWP with a story.  Now, having gleaned more women’s stories and women’s words during the MWP years, each will take flight to carry wings to other readers who will add their own stories.

In recent days and weeks book lovers from prospective adoptive homes – colleges, schools, women’s centers and used bookstores – have been pouring over the MWP books, recalling their own reading experiences, pondering what is just right for their students, hoping to find that autograph. clipping or other memento of a past reader.

MWP will open soon in their new quarters.  The recently expanded magazine] will appear monthly in your mailbox or the corner magazine rack.  The book groups and salons will continue in comfortable meeting spaces.  Meanwhile, the books once housed in the MWP collection will be sharing their stories. the joy of reading books by and about women, and the thrill of new wings with readers of every age throughout the region.

Village Farmer’s Market Blooms in St. Anthony

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It’s Opening Day and counting for the Village Farmer’s Market in St. Anthony, Minnesota.  An introduction to the VFM first appeared in the Twin Cities Daily Planet in May.

Though it seemed a distant goal at the time, it’s here.  Vendor stalls are going up, growers, food wagons, and merchants are at the ready, and the Shop and Learn series is good to go.  Opening ceremonies begin at 3:00 p.m.  From July 12-October 11 the Market will be open every Monday (except Labor Day) from 3:00-7:00 p.m.

For the latest on the VFM, the director and board, discounts and more, check the updated website and blog which now include photos and bios of the VFM prime movers.

Also new on the website is the schedule for the season’s Shop & Learn Series which begins with a talk by Ginny Black from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency;  Ginny will offer tips on making your garden grow and composting.

The rest of the Shop & Learn series covers a spectrum of topics – recycling, cookbook collecting, Metro Transit, and local author Gail Olson who will debut her new book in a presentation entitled “St. Anthony Village – hog farms, floods, tornadoes and alligators.”

Shop & Learn sessions will meet at 4:00 and 6:00 in the meeting room at the Hennepin County Library in the Village Shopping Center aka The Village Farmer’s Market.

Added attractions include discount cards from Village vendors, prepared food vendors, and reduced child care fees are all detailed on the VFM website.

Majdi Wadi on the Move

Majdi on the move

In a June 3, 2010, the Twin Cities Daily Planet published this profile of Majdi Wadi and his Holy Land empire in the MN Voices section.  Majdi was one of two “immigrant leaders” identified by TCDP.  It was an intense learning opportunity to spend time with Majdi who overwhelmed me with his energy, ideas, and his faith that hummus is key to individual health and inter-cultural communication.

Majdi didn’t have to convince me of the virtues of his lead product, hummus,  a taste treat he is quick to boast features high fiber and an absence of gluten and cholesterol.  I’ve spent far too many hours at the Holy Land – the grocery and the restaurant – to need convincing of the wonders of hummus – flavored or natural.

By mid-June 2010 Majdi was feted on the pages of the New York Times.  Minneapolis writer John T. Edge reinforces and expands the homage to hummus and the contributions of Majdi Wadi.  This is a fun read, best absorbed over a generous helping of Middle Eastern delicacies from Holy Land’s incredible buffet.

Keep an eye on Majdi Wadi.  And get to know his mother, Fatima, the petite woman who has championed her son Majdi and his brother Samer from the start.  My librarian head envisions the publication of a magical children’s book I’ve entitled Everybody Eats Hummus. Majdi, the author, illustrator, publisher and sales rep, has dedicated the bestseller to Fatima Wadi.  You heard it here first.

In the meantime, please read the profile of Majdi Wadi in the TCDP Minnesota Voices feature.

Elections and Nonprofits

Recently I was working on a series of public events to be sponsored by a 501©3 wannabe organization that intends to apply for tax exempt status in the near future. My thought was that these summer events pose a great opportunity to invite candidates and to share heaps of information about early primaries, voter registration. absentee voting and logistics. I was appalled, disappointed, but totally sympathetic when the chair of the project rejected out of hand any involvement in the political arena. Her fear was that the organization would jeopardize that essential tax exemption. It’s not the first time I’ve met such resistance.

It is totally understandable that nonprofits are skittish. The threat is not so much losing tax exempt status but lack of valid information and an abundance of misinformation widely disseminated by those who may not welcome nonprofits or their open communication with those they serve.

When I got honest with myself, I realized that I have lingering questions myself and that it is not so easy to find the answers. What I found was a richness of information geared to voters, but not enough information for the intermediaries – e.g. my colleague planning these Summer events – who are the most effective link to the voter the non-voter.

I turned to a long-time colleague, Jeff Narabrook. the well-informed and generous point person for the Minnesota Participation Project, a project of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. Building on my own ignorance, I posed a series of questions to Jeff.
By turnaround email I received a response who quickly acknowledged that, though nonprofit managers are understandably skittish about “nonpartisan voter engagement.” Then Jeff quells program planners’ angst with precise and comprehensible affirmation of nonprofits’ appropriate role.

Jeff’s answer to my first question promptly set me back on the proselytizing path with renewed passion for the cause.

Q (MT): Can a nonprofit offer voter registration information?
A (Jeff) Absolutely! Not only is it legal, but nonprofits that receive state funding are required to conduct voter registration activities. Voter registration must be conducted in a nonpartisan manner. The MN Participation Projects offers a great toolbox for those who may be considering or planning a voter education, participation or registration project.

And so the Q & A continued:

Q (M) : Can a nonprofit offer absentee voter info?
A: (J) Yes, nonprofits can provide information on any aspect of how voters can participate, from absentee voting to Election Day registration, to vouching, to special programs for victims of violence to remain anonymous on the voter rolls.

Q (M): Can a nonprofit provide information about the early primaries?
A (J) : Yes, as with the general election, nonprofits can help individuals become aware of the primary, how to register for it, and other logistics items involved in with primary.  Again, this just must be done in a nonpartisan fashion and the organization cannot try to influence how the person will vote.

Q (M) : Can a nonprofit invite candidates (challengers and incumbents) to visit their event or program?
A (J): Yes.  The golden rule:is that all candidates are treated equally.  If one is invited, all must be invited.  If not all candidates invited can attend, you may or may not choose to cancel.  Generally, if two are invited and only one can attend, it’s best to cancel.  If more than two are invited and at least two can attend, you may decide to go forward. Candidates may not be given preferential treatment and the organization may not attempt to make one candidate look better or worse, explicitly or implicitly, for example by asking leading questions.

Q (M): Can a nonprofit invite incumbents only to visit an event?
A: (J)   If they are invited as candidates, they may not only invite incumbents. If they are invited to speak in their capacity as a legislator, that is fine. It should be made perfectly clear, in writing or email, that the individual is being invited as a legislator, NOT as a candidate, and ask that the legislator not use the visit as an opportunity to campaign (please, no campaign literature, buttons, etc. during the visit).

It’s common to remind the legislator politely that the organization is forbidden from explicitly or implicitly endorsing a candidate, and that a violation of this could harm the organization and that’s why it’s important they only wear their hat as a legislator.  But if your intent is really candidate education, you should invite all candidates, not just the incumbent.    I’m less clear on what to do if the candidate has no challengers.  Can you still invite that person as a candidate to educate them?  I will look into this.

Sometimes people ask a question as to whether you need to invite ALL candidates who have filed, which sometimes can be quite numerous.  It is acceptable to limit invitations to candidates of major parties as long as the organization documents why that decision was made. At a minimum all major party candidate – in Minnesota these are the Democratic Farmer Labor Party, the Republican Party and the Independence Party – need to be included if there is someone from that party running for the seat in question.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is the elected official responsible for implementation of this and a zillion other election rules and procedures. The Secretary of State’s website provides more than you ever wanted to know about the process – polling places, rules, dates, forms and my personal favorite, the list of all candidates who have filed.

Primary election – August 10, 2010 – absentee ballots due August 9
General election – November 2, 2010 – absentee ballots due November 1