Framed photo of Justin fist-bumping Senator Durenberger
Accessibility (#A11y), Advocacy

Remembrance & Accessible Housing

It’s all about the advocacy! When it seems like it’s harder to live your life than it should be and when there are systemic issues that need to be fixed, then it’s time to raise your voice. Many of you have been following my experiences trying to find an accessible AND affordable apartment. It shouldn’t have been this hard and there should have been more options and choices in finding a place to live.

First stop – Remembering Senator Durenberger

Fun fact – there’s a picture of me with our former US Senator David Durenberger reaching out for an air fist bump hanging up in the hallway between the Senate Office Building and the State Capitol. I always stop at the picture because it gives me hope and courage to speak up for what I think is right. This photo is from the State Capitol Grand Reopening and we spoke about the importance of disability rights, his work in making the Americans with Disability Rights (ADA) a reality, and raising our voices in the people’s house of Minnesota. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life to meet Senator Durenberger and actually present at this event with him. Here’s me, this 19-year-old kid, presenting with someone who had done so much for people with disabilities. When I was looking at this picture in the capitol on Wednesday on my way to testify at a hearing I didn’t realize he had died the day before. I see this picture where he made me feel so amazing and important and it gives me hope for making the world a better place.  Thank you Senator Durenberger for being there for me and so many others with disabilities. My heart goes out to your family.

You can watch the video of our presentation on the MN Governor’s Council website. Senator Durenberger presenting at MN Capitol Grand Reopening, 2017 (MNDDC)

Justin in front of framed photo of him and Senator Durenberger

Second stop – State Office Building

Last year, I testified in a House hearing on similar legislation for increasing accessibility in housing that is receiving public funding. It was an online hearing. This time was kind of cool because I chose to testify in person. This meant that I got to meet Judy Moe and her daughter in person. Judy has been working on this lack of affordable and accessible housing issue for a lot longer than me and has done brilliant work in Richfield. Thanks to the Arc of MN Public Policy Director for reaching out to me and helping me in sharing my story to help in advocating for more accessible and affordable housing. Now we have a real chance at expanding on Judy’s work and making it better for all of us across the state. I think it was really powerful for the representatives to hear about both of our lived experiences and the importance of this bill and policy change. I hope this legislation sponsored by Representative Howard passes overwhelmingly!

Man in suit smiling at Justin, a young man smiling seated in wheelchair with communication device

So, what was it like?

It was interesting. So, the first part of the hearing was about the Governor’s budget by Commissioner Ho of the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency. She presented and answered questions for about an hour. Then it was time for House File 302 by Representative Howard. Representative Howard introduced the bill. He was followed by the spokesperson from Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities to highlight the importance of this bill for creating more accessible housing. Then, Judy presented her powerful testimony. And then it was my turn. I had worked on my 3-minute testimony, including lots of streamlining edits to get it down to around 3 minutes. My mom had programmed it into my communication device over the weekend. I wheeled up to the table, we pointed the mic to my communication device, and I presented. Whew! One done and a Senate hearing for the companion bill (SF 1094) is on Thursday. I’m going back to testify at that one, too. I’m loving this advocacy thing and loving the people that I’m connecting with along the way!

Please contact your legislators and let them know that this legislation is important for our communities around the state. People with disabilities need places to live that are accessible AND affordable!  

p.s. check this out – an article written by my friend, Alma Silver, about my other friend, Judy Moe! Talking Politics with Disabled Community Members, MN Women’s Press

Group of 3 women and 2 men standing, 1 young woman and 1 young man sitting in wheelchairs, all smiling
Here’s our group after testifying in support of House File 302

5 thoughts on “Remembrance & Accessible Housing”

  1. Thank you for all you’re doing and for sharing your experiences, we find it very helpful for what we need to do as parents for Brody for his future . You’re making a bit difference for many.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s