MINNEAPOLIS — The city of Minneapolis is investing in accessibility by hiring the first community specialist for people with disabilities.
Guthrie Byard joined the staff after working in the disability justice field for the last fifteen years. The city hopes Byard will use his knowledge to make the community more accessible and inclusive.
"This work is really both professional and personal for me," Byard said. "I have a sister with a developmental disability, and growing up with her, I really realized that there needed to be a lot more advocacy with individuals with disabilities."
Part of Byard's job is to keep the city in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and identify and help remove barriers to ensure equal access to city programs, services and activities.
"With this role being full time, 100% focused on people with disabilities, [the job is] really looking for new avenues for inclusion, and for city officials to hear more about what is or isn’t working, what is or isn’t accessible or usable in the city so they’re making more informed decisions," Byard said. "I think at the end of the day, that’s what’s really important for a transparent and accountable city government."
Karen Moe, the Director of Neighborhood and Community Relations, has high hopes for Byard and his new role.
"I think Guthrie and others in our city are interested in actually looking at how we center people with disabilities first and foremost, and that means not just making accommodations afterward, but on the front end, asking 'What are your hopes and dreams?' or 'What are the things you need in order to be able to access our city?'" Moe said.
Since this is a new position in the city, Byard said he aims to make the role a "conduit for individuals to be able to express their self-advocacy, regardless of their abilities."
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