Tag Archives: Access Press

Access Press at 25! A quarter century of serving and reflecting Minnesota’s disabilities community

Access Press is celebrating its 25th Anniversary!  Congratulations are in order – and thanks!   So also is this post which I hope is redundant for many regular readers of this monthly treasure trove of information about the disabilities community. 

The mission of Access Press is “to promote the social inclusion and legal rights of people with disabilities by providing a forum for news, features, opinion and conversation to benefit people who are often invisible and marginalized in mainstream society.”   In truth,  Access Press is really the indispensable window on the world to what’s happening in the disabilities community, a community so robust that it can be difficult to understand if one does not feel a member.  With Access Press, we can all keep up, understand and participate.

Happily, after a quarter century, many Minnesotans have honed the habit of picking up the monthly Access Press – or, better yet, making sure there’s a drop site of the indispensable publication in every possible public space!  In fact, there are approximately 300 sites around the state where, on the 10th of each month, bundles of Access Press are dropped off for free and easy access.  In addition to the printed publication, the paper is produced in audiotape format using a special radio channel for people with visual impairments.   Keeping apace with technology, the articles from each edition are also posted on the Access Press website (http://www.accesspress.org)– or, if you just can’t wait for the 10th of the month, keep up with the print edition by following Access Press on Facebook and Twitter!

For those who have some catching up to do, the 25th anniversary is a good time to look back.  In the May 2014 issue Managing Editor Jane McClure offers a history note that tells the story of the newspaper, tracing the origins of the newspaper from the launch of Access Press on the brink of the vote on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  (http://www.accesspress.org/2014/05/history-note-a-look-back-through-the-pages-of-access-press/)  In fact, every month Access Press carries a History Note, reminding readers of the laws, the issues, and the leaders who have made a difference in the struggle of Minnesotans and Americans at large to create an inclusive community.

The June 2014 issue offers a great review of the legislative accomplishments of the most recent legislative session – issues that include a range from safe schools (bullying) to autism to expanded funding and more,  There’s also a synopsis of what’s coming up on Radio Talking Books and other audio options,  notes on accessible events, even advance notice of the Americans with Disabilities 24th Anniversary Celebration, Friday July 25 at DHS.

Though this is but a snippet of Access Press, it ‘s easy to see why the paper is a must read.   Check out the website for the latest edition of the newspaper and much more, including the story behind The Real Story, a documentary film exploring media coverage of the disability issues in Minnesota.  Produced by Access Press and narrated by Kevin Kling, the documentary explores the biases in media coverage of disability issues in Minnesota and nationally and examines the role of grassroots and mainstream media outlets in reporting on stories important to all people with disabilities. 
 (http://www.accesspress.org/the-real-story/press/)

Tim Benjamin has been Editor-in-chief of Access Press since 2001, assuming the position on the death of Charlie Smith, founder, publisher and long-time editor.  (http://www.accesspress.org/2001/05/welcome-new-access-press-editor-tim-benjamin/)    Tim’s monthly column always offers a thoughtful summary of what’s happening and a reminder for readers to get up and do what needs to be done – to keep up with the news and resources, to learn and understand those who “are often invisible and marginalized in mainstream society”, to share the wealth of information found on the pages of Access Press with friends, family, and colleagues, to take action (e.g. in support of Disability Viewpoints on community cable), and to be certain that Access Press is on the distribution list for events and resources of interest to people with disabilities, their families and organizations who serve the disabilities community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Documentary premiers portray stories of the disabilities community

During the next few weeks Twin Citians will enjoy an unprecedented opportunity to view and read about the lives and media triumphs of people with disabilities – and how their stories are told in the media.

The premiere of the documentary, The Real Story, produced by Access Press (http://www.accesspress.org), Minnesota’s disability community newspaper, and Verso Creative is set for October 28.  Funded in part by UCare, the documentary explores issues related to past and present media coverage of disability issues. 

Producers of The Real Story note that “the real story is how news coverage of disability issues has changed over the years.”   According to Access Press, “investigative journalists, particularly in Minnesota, have been instrumental in advancing the cause of equal rights for people with disabilities.  Starting in the 1940’s and culminating in the 1970’s journalists reported on the horrible conditions of state institutions for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  That reporting led to changes that improved the lives of many people.”

Still, “stories intended to be factual are often influenced by misconceptions that are ultimately harmful to people with disabilities.”  Though in some cases the mainstream media recognize their own biased reporting, in other cases, stereotypes persist.  According to Access Press “too often stories about disability are more inspirational than factual, or rely on old stereotypes…..People are either portrayed as heroic figures or as objects of pity. “   Star Tribune columnist Jon Tevlin has observed that “we used to do stories … that were more charity stories.”

One significant challenge reflected in The Real Story is the role of self-advocacy as an instrument of change.   “Being a self-advocate is a benchmark of the community now as people are encouraged to speak up for themselves.”

The Real Story premiers on Monday, October 26, 6:30 p.m. at the U of M Alumni Center; the documentary will be shown again on Monday, November 4, 4:00 p.m. at Coffman Union on the U of M campus.  Both events are sponsored by the U of M Disabled Students Cultural Center and Access Press.  The free and open screenings will include a panel discussion with newsmakers, scholars, activists – and refreshments.

A second opportunity to explore the lives and work of people with disabilities is set for early November.   ReelAbilities: New York Disabilities Film Festival (www.reelabilities.org) is hosted locally by Partnership Resources, Inc. a nonprofit that provides employment and arts experience opportunities for people with developmental disabilities.

This is the Minnesota premiere of  “the largest festival in the country dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories and artistic expressions of people with different disabilities.”  The local festival, November 1-5, opens on Friday, November 1, with a noontime program at MacPhail Center for Music and a reception that evening at Pracna on Main.

Venues for the showings of the nine featured films include MacPhail Center for Music, the Film Society’s St. Anthony Main Theatre and the St. Paul Jewish Community Center.  All venues are fully accessible.  Post-screening discussions and other programs “bring together the community to explore, discuss, embrace, and celebrate the diversity of our shared human experience.”  There’s a complete schedule of events and background online at http://Minneapolis.reelabilities.org/schedule.

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Disabilities Employment Month

Text that asks What can you do? The Campaighn for Disability Employment.

My stacks of resources related to services for people with disabilities is staggering.  It’s risky in a way to pick just a few to recognize National Disabilities Employment Month, but I don’t want to let the month pass without naming a select few resources, most of which will lead and link to other resources. .  The topic deserves much more, but a little is better than nothing.

For starts there is the national Campaign for Disability Employment.  The public may have seen the “I Can” public service announcement on the silver screen and on local TV channels and radio stations.  The “I Can” PSA features seven people with disabilities sharing what they can do on the job when given the opportunity.  “I Can” has aired nearly 20,000 times on national television and cable stations and more than 20,000 times on national radio stations.

Closer to home, the identified portal to state services for people with disabilities is the Minnesota State Council on Disability, a good starting point for employers and employees concerned about the employment of people with disabilities.  This is a great start, but there’s much more happening on countless local fronts.  I’d like to just name a few of those I particularly appreciate, not as a  person with disability but as one very concerned about a inclusion and about how much we all have to learn.

 

  • For nearly 30 years Closing the Gap, a conference originally organized by a couple from Henderson, Minnesota, has drawn hundreds of individuals with disabilities, families, teachers and service providers to Bloomington, Minnesota for a most extraordinary mix of displays, concerns and ideas.  Assistive technology originally referred primarily to physical tools of every conceivable description to better the lives of people with a range of disabilities.  I know this because for many years I attended the exhibits if not the entire conference.  It cheered me to see the ways in which the conference expanded from physical to intellectual access as a priority.  Though I just missed this year’s conference October 10-11 I have October 12-14, 2011 on my calendar for the 30th gathering.

 

  • One of my favorite regular reads is Access Press, an excellent statewide newspaper in which Tim Benjamin continues the work of the late Charlie Smith.  For twenty years now Access Press, housed in a humble office on University Avenue in the Midway, Access Press has served the vast community of people with disabilities and those who serve that community.  Access Press continues to grow with the launch this fall of an e-letter and a group of blogs by and for people with disabilities.  It’s an amazing, quiet but effective journal that provides unique and essential information in a timely manner.  Access Press also offers an up-to-date Directory of Organizations with scores of organizations by categories ranging from Advocacy to Visual Impairment.  . (btw:The Annual Charlie Smith awards banquet sponsored by Access Press is November at the Airport Marriott.)

 

  • The University of Minnesota provides extensive information about on-campus disabilities services.  I learned a good deal about the diversity and range of services by poking around at the greatest of all learning smorgasbords, the Minnesota State Fair. (I even took the Accessibility Scavenger Hunt through which I learned that there are exactly four wheelchair rental booths on the State Fairgrounds).  One broad-based locus for services to the U of M community is the Disabled Student Cultural Center in Coffman Union.  The links on the DSCC website take the curious to all sorts of unknown resources.  For example, my librarian heart leapt up (!) when I learned that LUMINA to U is a document delivery service for students with mobility and print disabilities to assure access to library materials.  A great map from DSCC indicates essential services for students with disabilities ranging from paratransit service to disabilities parking and accessible restrooms to the “most accessible football stadium in the Big Ten.”
  • CCP Works! (aka Cooperating Community Programs) “uses an individual-centered approach, community resources and service components to meet the unique needs and goals of the individual.”  For thirty years CCP Works! Has served the community with a evolving array of services.  New to CCP Works is an Independent Living Services program serving people with disabilities in Ramsey and Washington Counties.  Employment services and opportunities are an important feature of CCP Works!

 

The list goes on – cities and towns, colleges, school systems, corporations, health care facilities, places of worship, football stadiums and virtually every other responsible institution has a program or service in place.  And yet…. Just yesterday the Minnesota Council on Foundations’ Philanthropy Potluck Blog presents some sobering facts.   A recent Harris Interactive survey commissioned by the Kessler Foundation and the National Organization on Disability offers a reality check.  To wit:

 

Twenty years after passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Americans with disabilities still lag behind on key indicators”

  • Of all working age people with disabilities, only 21 percent say that they are employed,.
  • People with disabilities are still much more likely to be living in poverty.
  • People with disabilities are less likely than those without disabilities to socialize with friends, relatives or neighbors
  • The second-largest gap between people with and without disabilities is regarding Internet access.  Eighty-five percent of adults without disabilities access the Internet, whereas only 54 percent of adults with disabilities report the same.

Disappointing as these observations are, I appreciate MCF’s bringing the survey to the fore during National Disabilities Employment month.  We need to know.