Minnesota prides itself on being a welcoming place for all. But do Minnesotans with disabilities have enough choices when it comes to leading quality lives in our state?
5 Eyewitness News sat down with a father and son who are together fighting to improve services for thousands of folks in Minnesota. They’re pushing lawmakers to pass a bill aimed at ensuring disability services are high quality and tailored to each individual person.
Nathan Bauer, a 35-year-old with Down syndrome, lives on his own in Richfield.
“I like it because it helps me to learn how to cook, because I am a cooker,” Bauer said, with a laugh.
He has a job — and a packed calendar.
“I love to read, and I love to listen to music,” Bauer said
“He has been excited about what he’s doing. He loves it here,” said his father, Les Bauer.
His father said it wasn’t always that way. Nathan lived in a group home until 2010.
“It was pretty much disastrous,” Les Bauer said. “When I’d walk in the house, I’d see holes knocked in the wall, doors pulled off of the cupboards and so on, and Nathan being told to go to the basement to eat his breakfast so he didn’t get hurt.”
“It became a hopeless feeling where you did not sleep most nights,” Les Bauer said.
That experience taught him a lesson he wants lawmakers to understand about disabled Minnesotans.
“Those who are happy are the ones that are having a choice about where they live and how they live,” Les Bauer said.
Les Bauer sits on the State Quality Council, which the state created in 2011 to improve Minnesota’s disability services. Last year, the Council urged funding for three Regional Quality Councils, continued funding for the Council itself, and statewide surveys of people with disabilities.
The bill that would fund all three priorities has been introduced in the House and Senate, and would cost of $2 million.
Nathan is a success story. His father wants Minnesota to write many more like it.
“A few more dollars is going to make a tremendous change,” Les Bauer said.
Les Bauer said not every disabled Minnesotan will be able to live on their own — but that passing the bill would allow the state to find out which ones can.
A Senate committee hearing on the bill is scheduled for Wednesday morning.