The Minnesota Council on Disability (MCD) Exceptional Advocate award goes to citizen advocates and legislators who do notable work for people with disabilities. Members of the community nominated each recipient with the following remarks.
We thank these Exceptional Advocates for their dedication to disability rights, accessibility, and inclusion.
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Exceptional Advocate: Mary Hauff, Minnesota Inclusive Higher Education Consortium
Nominated by Julia Burkstaller of The Arc Minnesota
As a co-leader of the Minnesota Higher Education Consortium, Mary Hauff was instrumental in amplifying the need for expanding access to postsecondary education for people with intellectual disabilities.
Parents of children with disabilities are some of the most passionate people I have had the pleasure to work with, and Mary Hauff is a shining example of a passionate parent who has dedicated her life to making the world more inclusive for people like her daughter, Jean.
Mary Hauff has dedicated years to researching and understanding inclusive higher education and wrote the legislation for the Inclusive Higher Education Act. This bill would broaden access to institutions of higher education for people with intellectual disabilities. Mary has worked tirelessly during the 2022 legislative session to see this bill pass and ultimately was successful in her advocacy to get it included in the Higher Education Conference Committee report.
Unfortunately, through no fault of her own, the legislature failed to pass (the Senate did not vote on the bill) the report and send it to the Governor to become law.
This bill would never have gotten this close to passage if it weren’t for Mary’s dedication and passion to bettering the world for people with disabilities. Mary didn’t take no for an answer and continued to work to find a path forward at every roadblock. The failure of the legislature is not on Mary, but I know it will not stop her and she will continue to work to expand access to higher education for people with intellectual disabilities and Minnesota will be better off because of Mary’s hard work.
Representative Kelly Moller
Exceptional Advocate: Representative Kelly Moller, (DFL) District 42A of Shoreview, Minnesota
Nominated by Mark Hughes of Shoreview Minnesota
Representative Kelly Moller Kelly is my Representative in Shoreview, Minnesota, and I can give you two big examples that Kelly has worked on.
I have had several Metro Mobility Issues with which Kelly has helped me, and she has also helped Lance Hegland on a housing issue that was on Night Cast on KSTP-TV recently.
When Kelly is up for reelection, I encourage her to keep running because she does a lot for our community and the state of Minnesota. I am honored to know her, and she certainly deserves this award.
Exceptional Advocate: Ken Rodgers of the Minnesota Department of Transportation
Nominated by Muzamil Ibrahim
I am pleased to nominate Ken Rodgers for the MCD Exceptional Advocate Award for 2022. Throughout his life, Ken fiercely advocated for people with disabilities to have better access to employment, education and assistive technology. He advocated for the Connect 700 program so that people with disabilities could have a chance to work, earn, and live life as any other non-disabled person.
Also, from city to state government, he advocated for people with disabilities to have better access to transportation systems including sidewalks, bike lanes, audible traffic crossing signals, and many other things. He made sure that the Americans with Disabilities Act is reflected in what the Department of Transportation does.
As a result of his advocacy, people with disabilities can attend and get a better audio translation at the Mix Blood Theater Company and Guthrie Theater, find and maintain a job, have access to technology to be more successful in their work, and cross the street more safely.
Ken Rodgers knows how to speak, how to listen, how to ask and how to make things work for people with disabilities.
Representative Brian Daniels
Exceptional Advocate: Representative Brian Daniels, District 24B of Faribault, Minnesota
Nominated by Sonny Wasilowski
Representative Daniels is a champion for the Deaf, DeafBlind, Late-Deafened, and Hard of Hearing.
He has presented multiple bills to address challenges in our communities over several years and multiple legislative sessions to:
- establish a sign language interpreters and transliterators board and licensure,
- modify licensure requirements for teachers of Deaf and Hard of Hearing students,
- modify licensure requirements for oral and aural deaf education,
- require closed captioned television on public televisions,
- require right of way signage in Faribault for the Minnesota State Academies, and
- grant the right of language for ASL at home and in the community.
Exceptional Advocate: Damon Lievestad, Citizen Advocate
Nominated by MCD Staff
MCD staff nominate Damon Leivestad for the Exceptional Advocate Award.
Damon has been a champion for people with disabilities and caregivers in Minnesota. Receiving homecare services himself, Damon created several bills to combat the homecare crisis in Minnesota. His invaluable knowledge and years of experience makes him an exceptional leader.
Thank you for working with MCD during the 2022 legislative session. Together we can:
- hold lawmakers – and others – accountable,
- champion homecare workers, and
- support people who use PCA (Personal Care Assistant) services.
We are excited to continue working with you to ensure equity for all Minnesotans!
Exceptional Advocate: Lance Hegland, Citizen Advocate
Nominated by MCD Staff
MCD staff nominate Lance Hegland for the MCD Exceptional Advocate Award.
Lance is a strong advocate for Minnesotans with disabilities. He cares deeply about disability rights and equity. Lance believes that our state government should work for people with disabilities, and he finds creative solutions that help all Minnesotans.
MCD thanks Lance for his hard work during the 2022 Legislative Session. We look forward to working with Lance on disability issues in the future.
MCD also recognizes these Exceptional Advocate legislators for their work during the 2023 Legislative Session:
- Representative Tony Albright
- Representative Jamie Becker-Finn
- Representative Steve Elkins
- Representative Rod Hamilton
- Representative Jessica Hanson
- Representative Ginny Klevorn
- Representative Tina Liebling
- Representative Liz Reyer
- Representative Jennifer Schultz
- Senator Jim Abeler
- Senator Karla Bigham
- Senator John Hoffman
- Senator Carla Nelson
- Senator Torrey Westrom