2024 MN Legislative Wrap: Progress for the Autism and Disability Communities

AuSM-backed legislative wins in 2024 include a bill introducing educators to ableism training, legislation establishing a journey-mapping study on the accessibility of obtaining disability services, and further reform to medical assistance for employed people with disabilities. Here is a summary of legislative progress for Minnesota’s autism community – as well as additional bills AuSM was not actively involved with that will benefit all Minnesotans with disabilities.

Continuous Improvement Project

Representative Kim Hicks and Senator Liz Boldon were instrumental in passing a bill establishing a study into journey-mapping how Minnesotans with disabilities access state and county services. Self-advocates have lobbied for more streamlined and intuitive processes for accessing disability services, from start to finish. After conducting the journey-mapping study of one of the least accessible systems in the state, legislators in future sessions can make data-driven improvements to the accessibility of disability services.

Medical Assistance for Employed Persons with Disabilities (MA-EPD)

Previous to this legislative session, people on MA-EPD had to provide documentation every six months – a new bill will extend that requirement to yearly, considerably lessening the burden of proof for accessing services. The asset limit of $20,000 was eliminated in 2023, and advocates hope to eliminate premiums in 2025.

Ableism and Disability Justice

As part of legislation on ableism and disability justice, Minnesota teachers will be encouraged to opt-in for anti-ableism training. AuSM’s frequent community partner Multicultural Autism Action Network (MAAN) led this legislative effort and provided key testimony. Testimony was also given by special education students, representatives from the Disability Law Center, and a former teacher who became disabled later in life, which caused her to leave the profession sooner than intended. Instrumental self-advocates and other backers of the bill believe that after trainings are in place for a school year there will be ample data to assess feasibility and further application, such as moving from opt-in training to a more formal mandate. This bill marks the first time the term “ableism” has appeared in statute.

This initial legislative move plants seeds for further progress by educating educators about on what ableism is. It’s important to acknowledge that not all ableism is intentional, and that well-meaning people can unwittingly model ableist behavior – a complex truth explored in this article by AuSM therapist Dr. Barbara Luskin. Jillian Nelson, AuSM’s Policy Advocate, spoke with The 74 Million on the subject of ableism, including how it affected her own educational experiences – here are excerpts from – and a link to – that interview:

“The disability culture is the only group where we currently allow teachers to teach in a classroom that is filled entirely with children from this culture and have absolutely no cultural competency training or requirements. That’s what the ableism and disability justice bill is really about. It’s about creating cultural competency among teachers who are working with children from this really unique and beautiful culture … One of the biggest things that I hope teachers take away from training about ableism is that we’re okay just the way we are. Feeling shame about disabilities? That’s not ingrained in us from birth. That’s something that we learn from the interactions we have with the world around us. I hope that as teachers embrace anti-ableism, instead of seeing us as a collection of deficits that need to be measured and tracked, they see the beautiful parts of our existence.” – AuSM’s Jillian Nelson

Subminimum Wages

It’s worth referring back to our 2023 session wrap to note the extensive progress and groundwork toward eliminating subminimum wage for Minnesotans with disabilities – yet an exact sunset date continues to elude advocates after the 2024 session. Still, it’s noteworthy that the coalition of supporting organizations grew from less than a dozen to 36 organizations, including powerful labor unions AFSCME and the AFL-CIO. Consequently, the actual number of sub-min employers – as well as people working for sub-min wages – are steadily dropping; the writing is on the wall given the inertia of progress made in the 2023 session. Establishing an exact sunset date for the elimination of this inequitable labor practice will remain the priority in  2025.

General Progress for the Disability Community

The 2024 session brought additional legislation that AuSM was not directly involved in shaping, but nevertheless count as wins for the entire disability community. The most obvious example is labor agreements preserving access to Uber and Lyft – with both rideshare services widely used by people with disabilities.

Legislation also passed to create transparency in CDCS budgets, stating that if waiver language increases or decreases, an explanation has to be provided in an accessible format. This bill also says that lead agencies (ie counties) must not create or implement any policies that are different or inconsistent with policies created by the commissioner, federal or state law – nor can agencies create unnecessary hoops to prevent people with disabilities from accessing assistive tech.

Additional legislation affecting people with disabilities establishes a task force on creating more effective guardianship laws. Another bill now allows spouses of people with disabilities to earn income by working as PCAs for up to 40 hours weekly while serving their partner.

Lastly, the RISE Act will be a gamechanger for people with disabilities seeking accommodations in higher education. Students in postsecondary studies will experience far less barriers in terms of needing an IEP to obtain accommodations. Going forward, if teachers don’t provide requested accommodations, they must explain how providing accommodations to a postsecondary student would fundamentally alter the nature of the course – and any disagreement must go through a grievance process. In both private and public postsecondary schools statewide, students with permanent disabilities will have easier access and more equitable support in pursuing higher education.

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