Killebrew – city’s first Title II ADA coordinator

1on1Michael-KillebrewCCMichael Killebrew is forging new territory for himself and the city of Colorado Springs. Killebrew, 43, is the city’s first Title II Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator. He started the new position in March, and he is in the process of moving his family — wife Evangeline and children Nathan, Cana and Carmela — from Illinois to Colorado Springs. He spent some time with the Business Journal this week telling us about his job and his special interests.

Describe your job duties. 

My job is primarily to help city programs, services and activities to be accessible to persons with disabilities. I’ve got to walk all the parks. I’ve got to look at all the bathrooms. I’ve got to look at all the parking lots. Any kind of programs, I’ve got to make sure it’s accessible. If someone has a question about something if it relates to disabilities, I’m probably the person they would talk to.

What discrepancies do you see?

As a whole, we’ve done a pretty good job. But standards change; laws change. Also, over time, things need to be updated. For example, there have been terminology changes. Handicap used to be the phrase, and now it’s a person with disabilities. Lately, the cutting-edge phrase is people with access and functional needs. Also, the ADA standards have changed the number of accessible spots in parking lots. It used to be one in eight, and now it’s one in six that needs to be an accessible parking place. When something like that happens, it’s incumbent on me to share that information with people doing code work. That’s just an example.

What is one of your top goals?

I’m putting together an ADA committee, someone from each department to help me spread information. And I would also have someone in each department to be my go-to person. I’m in the process of forming that. We’re also including people from the community.

What other goals are you working on here? 

I’m losing summer, by the way, and I’ve got over 200 parks to walk. At some point, I’ve got the city buildings — municipal court, City Hall, the City Administration Building, fire departments, police departments, city museums to review. There’s a lot for me to walk. That’s going to take a while. Also, if a sidewalk shifted and it’s risen an inch when the standard for that is a half-inch or less, I need to identify those issues, then fix what needs to be fixed.

I would have someone in each department to be my go-to person.

How did you become passionate about the disabled?

In 1999 my mom was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I didn’t really know what that meant. I didn’t think it was that big a deal at the time. Soon after that, she was diagnosed with diabetes. With diabetes and MS, you can develop neuropathy. With neuropathy, your nerve endings start to burn out. They stop functioning in the proper way. Also, you start to lose muscle coordination. She fell and broke her hip twice, and she was in the nursing home where she had been the director of nursing just seven years prior. I kind of got forced into a crash course on disabilities and what does this all mean, what services are out there. Then I saw a job as a disability program navigator, and I worked for a community action agency.

What did you do in that position?

I helped people with disabilities navigate the services for them. The primary role was for employment, but there were ancillary issues. It was a lot more than helping someone find a job. I spent a lot of time on the road. I was responsible for 14 counties, and that later grew to 22 counties in Illinois. I put together a lot of trainings. Also, any chance I could get to have a stage, I would speak. I would talk about tax incentives, tax credits and more. I had canned presentations. I also worked with the Social Security Administration, vocational rehabilitations, centers for independent living, the unemployment folks, job training programs and more.

What do you like best about your new job at the city of Colorado Springs?

I like being the first person. This has been handled before, but never as a full-time position. It’s kind of my baby. I get a chance to shape it and mold it and grow it and gather resources, and I like that. I like the opportunity to make a difference, to help people achieve access in our community. nCSBJ