Advocates unhappy with new Minneapolis director in charge of disability issues

Advocates for the disability community have complained to Minneapolis officials about the city’s hiring last month of Ahmed Muhumud as its new access and outreach manager.

One of the primary roles of that position, they said, is handling the federally mandated job of coordinator for the Americans With Disabilities Act.

But Muhumud, they said, has many other duties that “water down” his ADA responsibilities. They also believe he has no experience with disability issues.

His supervisor, however, defended Muhumud as a good hire. “As the new Access and Outreach Manager, Ahmed brings not only the right skills to this job, but also a passion for connecting with communities in our city to make changes for the better,” said David Rubedor in a letter to the advisory committee.

“Ahmed was chosen for this position from more than 80 applicants because of his strong program development and project management skills,” he said. Rubedor, who oversees Muhumud as the city’s director of Neighborhood and Community Relations for the city, also noted that the committee itself helped “to design this position to include not only ADA compliance, but [to] build broader support and recognition of access issues into the City’s work.”

The city website says Muhumud’s new job includes: leading “his team of five staff members dedicated to supporting and building meaningful connections with all residents of the city. The Access and Outreach team will emphasize outreach to communities where language or cultural norms as well as knowledge of government affect communication and access.”

Margot Imdieke Cross, chair of the Minneapolis Advisory Committee on People With Disabilities, told MinnPost such a broad mandate will give short shrift to the ADA responsibilities.

(Disclaimer: While doing legislative reporting duties at the Capitol for the Minnesota State Council on Disabilities, I have worked with Cross in her council job handling building accessibility, Disability parking and emergency management.)

The advisory committee also said it determined that Muhumud “has virtually no experience or knowledge of ADA or the disability community.”

Cross said Minneapolis was slipping backward in overall ADA compliance, so the advisory committee stepped up to handle program and building access issues, by educating city departments on ADA requirements and resolving several ADA violations. The group then met with City Coordinator Steven Bosacker, hoping to re-establish the ADA coordinator position that had been cut for budget reasons.

As a result, advisory committee members expressed disappointment with the hiring of Muhumud to handle ADA and many other responsibilities.

“They’re just watering down the position,” said Joan Willshire, executive director of the Minnesota State Council on Disabilities, whom I’ve also worked with on legislation issues.

 Michael Foster, of the advisory committee, said Muhumud was asked if he had any direct ADA experience and had responded, “No.”

Committee members even noted that the bathrooms in Muhumud’s office area are inaccessible for many people with disabilities.

For his part, Rubedor told MinnPost in an email that ADA work was important to the city.

“Our next step is to develop a system of ADA liaisons in all City departments. The ADA liaisons will play an important role as we audit City departments and programs for ADA compliance and access issues. With the liaisons and the core Access and Outreach five-member team working with Ahmed, we’ll have a stronger network than we’ve ever had to proactively address ADA issues,” he said.

“The ADA liaison network is also extremely important, because our goal is to integrate ADA planning into City Departments’ business plans and practices in a way they never have been before,” Rubedor said.” That planning will result in more proactive work by the City on accessibility, because it will become more and more a part of how we do our daily business. We’re excited that this work is now moving forward.”

The two sides are scheduled to meet this week for further discussions.

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