Category Archives: Disability Issues

Fringe Festival 2017-A celebration for every Minnesotan

Fringe Festival 2017 is just one calendar flip away.  Set for August 3-13, 2017,  Fringe is just one of Minnesota’s honored traditions that needs no introduction. Just in case, take a digital tour of the highlights here: (   Or check out the official Wikipedia site which is both thorough and up-to-date.

While the creative spirit and energy for Fringe comes from individual Minnesotans the fiscal support is provided by all of the state’s residents whose taxes support the Legacy Fund ( The intent of this post is to assure that all Minnesotans will enjoy access to the events, the camaraderie and the spirit of this legendary celebration of the state’s creative expression.

Happily, Fringe has been mindful of accessibility as a priority and VSA Minnesota has provided a generous grant to support accessibility services.

Dawn Bentley, the almost new director of Fringe, has been very helpful in pointing out the accommodations.

General:  Reservation fees are waived for patrons using ASL and AD services.

Beginning at the gate – All Fringe venues are accessible to visitors with mobility challenges.  The specifics of access (e.g. entrance doors, elevators, parking) are noted on individual venue pages.

There are 42 scheduled and three wildcard spots for performances to be Audio Described or ASL Interpreted. The full list of shows with access services can be found here:

As an extra service, during tech week crew members take note if performances use flashing or lights or if they  include loud noises that will be harmful or irritating to patrons.  If they see a problem House managers will post signs outside the doors of performances.

Reservations: Any patron wishing to use the services can make a free reservation online using the code “accessfringe” at checkout to have the reservation fee waived. 

Questions about Fringe accessibility:  Call 612 872 1212.

Disability Rights March and Rally July 26

Live not for Battles Won/ Live not for The-End-of-the-Song/
Live in the along. ~  
Gwendolyn Brooks

A generation ago, on July 26, 1990, President George H. W.Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Next Wednesday, July 26, Minnesotans who continue to struggle for the cause will gather at the State Capitol for the Disability Rights March and Rally. Advocates will celebrate the positive impact of federal legislation even as they let it be known that the struggle continues. (  They will be coming together in a political and digital reality very different from that day of triumph in 27 years ago.

Clearly, this month’s March and Rally have great accomplishments to herald; signs of progress in implementation of the ADA are so commonplace as to be taken for granted.  As a refresher, take time to view this blog post created by a few creative souls determined to give voice to women with disabilities in the January 2017 Women’s March.

Today we live and breathe, study, work and play in a digital world.  As the possibilities for people with disabilities expand exponentially institutions of every sort, from mighty  bureaucracies to the faith community – struggle to seize the moment.  What’s happening on the institutional front – including plans still waiting on the digital launch pad – pushes the boundaries that were but a gleam in the eye of ADA advocates a generation ago.

For those who are immersed in meeting the challenge this is chance to capitalize on progress, to prove the power of collaboration, to share the word of what’s possible.  Organizations and institutions – small businesses, nonprofits, legislators themselves – may be unaware of the wealth of resources. The Rally offers an opening to share stories of digital possibilities.  This is chance to demonstrate the amazing tools of digital access, starting with the mega toolkit created by the Minnesota State Council on Disabilities. ( The challenge is to share a vision of dynamic intellectual participation that was a rare possibility “back in the day”

Equally important, as the nation is led to question the fundamental right to vote, the rights of people with disabilities are a concern to legislators as well as every voter.  This post might resonate with elected officials motivated to act in light of the March.

Emcee of the July 26 March and Rally is Kristen Jorenby, Director of the Center for Accessibility Resources (CAR) at Metropolitan State University. (

In a pre-Rally interview Jorenby underscored the urgency of the July 26 Disability Rights March and Rally:

Given the current political climate, the community is really concerned about cuts to healthcare, their ability to remain independent and cuts to transportation funding. We have problems within the system that continue to exist. The ADA is a huge civil rights act. And this [event] is really a chance for people to celebrate that and reassert that they have this civil right, and they are not going to let them be taken away.”

If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress ~ Barack Obama




Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month – A time to refocus on what we can learn

As I hope readers know March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.  The month was first proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan in 1987.  In previous years  I’ve posted tons of resources available to promote the contributions and rights of people with disabilities.  Because this post is late in the month it’s too late for promotion, so I’m thinking more about individual awareness.

In this environment, it’s probably best to take time to really think about our awareness of the potential of people in our community – the writers, the artists, the performers, our colleagues who may see the world from a unique perspective.  We need to see and appreciate their contributions.

Through Voices of Northeast we have interviewed  people who share light on the facts of what individuals with developmental disabilities contribute to this fragmented society.  Their words and the work that they are doing are critical to forming our thinking about the potential of those who offer unique insights.

The interview with Bryan Boyce and writer Vince Fiorilli of Cow Tipping Press is illustrative.

We also spoke with a representative of ArtForce, a Northeast Minneapolis organization that is very aware of the potential of individuals with developmental disabilities to inform our thinking about this world and this society.

Interact is on my short list for learning more.  So many more on my list!  I’m always eager to learn more about individuals and groups that are exploring the ways in which people with disabilities share their special perspectives so that we all increase our understanding of the community, the world, life, the universe and everything. Ideas welcome and appreciated!



Rainy days, Mondays — and a Google alert!

Though we all delight in the Google graphics sometimes we click too fast and miss the message! Slow down this gloomy Monday morning – take time to Explore the work of disability rights advocates in America

It’s a great story, one that reminds us that progress comes not from financial deals and alternative facts but from hard work, commitment and hope.

Thank you Google!

Disability March on Saturday, January 21, enables inclusivity


Activism isn’t always access – and the Women’s March on Washington is no exception. 

And this is why some marchers and march planner have created the Disability March. (

My personal suggestion is that anyone who is unable – or even hesitant – to participate in the march think about clicking in to participate. This applies to anyone who may have problems walking, or who simply doesn’t have the time to participate in either the state or national march

The Disability March is an all-volunteer effort, made for the disability, by the disability community. It’s also an official co-sponsor of the national Women’s March in Washington.

Understand that this is not simply streaming the DC March so people with disabilities can view! As of last week over 50 online “marchers had signed up to participate in the virtual march. They and countless others will participate by sharing their opinions and stories and statements online. All will be uploaded Friday and Saturday to coincide with the DC March;

Sonya Huber,  one of the organizers of the Disability March, is quoted as saying:

I began to wonder about other ways to be visible, especially for our community, besides marching – even though the march will of course include many disabled people…Since the disabled community is going to be so impacted by the Republican agenda, it seemed that giving people a platform to tell their individual series was most appropriate.

This is also a good example of the ways in which resources created by and for people with disabilities serve the needs of a much broader community.

Submissions due by January 20.  To participate online, click here:

Note: I had some difficulty with this link – just keep trying or go to the facebook Women’s March on Washington – Disability Caucus, twitter #disabilitymarch or email




Disabled and Proud! Listen and learn at KFAI

Among the many unsung learning resources of this community, KFAI ( merits high marks – for independence, community support, diversity in coverage, producers, on-air hosts and more.   Though the signal is ubiquitous KFAI expands programming reach to anyone with online access.

The unique personality of KFAI lies in the fact that it is entirely volunteer-based. A committed cadre of audiophiles produce and promote a montage of listening options that reflect their proclivities, aspirations, and commitment to share a message to an underserve community of listeners. The station is also managed by a volunteer community board of directors, staff by a sparse paid staff.  Operating at 900 watts KFAI airs at 90.3 in Minneapolis, 106.7 in St. Paul; the station went live in I978 with several technical upgrades over the years.

My interest in community resources designed to reach members of the disabilities community has tuned me into one of KFAI’s notable programs, Disabled and Proud!  It’s a mix of insights, ideas, discussions and features by, about, and geared to the myriad interests of a large and diverse audience.

Sam Jasmine hosts the show, Charlene Doll helps with research and webmaster Tom Lennox forecasts future shows and archives the recordings for prospective online listeners.

The programming for Disabled and Proud! is inclusive. For example, the January 12 show shares the mission and reach of Helping Paws of Minnesota, whose mission is to further the independence of people with disabilities through the use of a service dogs.   On January 26 the guest will be Bent Renneke, PR manager of the Minnesota MS Society. Past programs have covered a wide range of topics including a series on Alzheimers and dementia took a two-pronged approach; one show dealt with the diseases themselves while a second examined the role, needs and resources for caregivers.

Listen live at 6:30 on Thursday evenings or listen online at Email to sign up to receive regular programming updates.



A DIY design for mapping wheelchair access

We need to make every single thing accessible to every single person with a disability. ― Stevie Wonder

And so we celebrate every move towards that goal. A recent Google update, accessible to all, can make life a bit easier for wheelchair users – and many others who will enjoy the most recent application for Wheelmap.

Wheelmap is an online interactive open system, based on the OpenStreet Map ( that identifies and rates wheelchair accessible sites ranging from restaurants to libraries. The system was created by a German-based charity, Socialhelden e.V., the brainchild of the foundation’s co-founder Raul Krauthausen.

The idea of Wheelmap is that anyone can contribute, mark and rate public places according to their wheelchair accessibility – ranging from no wheelchair access, to fairly accessible, to fully accessible. Everyone is free to post and rate yet-unlisted sites. The information is free to all and the system is easy to share. is available as a web app and as an app for iPhone, Android and Windows 10.

Every open system invites creative improvement – which is where a team of Google employees stepped to the fore. Motivated by the famous Google policy that once allowed employees to use 20 percent of their time to make Google Maps reflect resources accessible for people with physical disabilities, a team of Google employees took on the challenge to couple the power of Wheelmap with the power of Google Maps.

For a year the team assessed the needs and possibilities so that today there’s an app for that! Wheelchair accessibility is now listed alongside other Google Map features such as traffic and store hours.

As with many applications originally designed for people with disabilities, the Google Maps info about wheelchair access can be a boon to anyone for whom high curbs can be a barrier to easy access.

Mark the wheelchair accessibility of a favorite hangout by clicking on to find the site, then click on the level of wheelchair access as you know it to be!