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Professor to Serve on State Council on Disability

Professor Nancy Fitzsimons from the Department of Social Work was appointed to serve on council by Governor Mark Dayton.

Nate Gotlieb, Mankato Free Press, 7-11-2015

St. Paul, Minn. -- Minnesota State University, Mankato social work professor Nancy Fitzsimons (pictured) has been appointed to the Minnesota State Council on Disability.

Fitzsimons, of North Mankato, was appointed to the volunteer council by Gov. Mark Dayton. She replaces St. Peter City Councilman Stephen Grams as the local representative.

The council, a state agency, advises officials on policy, provides training to state employees and helps keep organizations in compliance with building code and access requirements. Members work with a paid staff on issues such as transportation, housing, the Americans with Disabilities Act, employment and more.

“They focus a lot around issues of employment and accessibility and transportation,” Fitzsimons said. “… I was really interested in that it’s not focusing on one specific type of disability and that they are really looking at issues of livability in our state.”

Fitzsimons directs the master’s of social work program at Minnesota State Mankato. She said transportation is a big issue for people with disabilities in greater Mankato, noting that it’s a barrier around issues of employment.

Affordable housing is a challenge, too, she said, especially because the state is moving away from group home and congregate types of living.

“That means that you need more affordable housing for people, and that’s a challenge” she said.

Stance on ADA lawsuits

The new council will meet for the first time in September and will start the process of setting its priorities for the next two years, Fitzsimons said.

Later this month, it will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ADA at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul.

The anniversary comes as some Minnesota businesses, including multiple in Mankato, deal with lawsuits alleging they are in violation of the act. Many people question the motives of the lawyer and group behind the suits.

Greater Mankato Growth is holding a conference call Tuesday about ADA compliance and businesses.

Fitzsimons wrote an opinion page piece about the lawsuits July 1 in The Free Press. She wrote that outrage over the group’s tactics does not negate the fact the community may not be as accessible as most people think.

“We can demonize the young adults as opportunists out for their own personal gain,” she wrote. “Or, we can listen to their concerns from a place of empathy and in appreciation for their willingness to speak up, get involved, and take a stand to make our community a more welcoming, accessible and inclusive place for all.”

During an interview Friday, she noted that the interest of the council is to try and fix problems, not to penalize.

“It’s a solutions-focused organization,” she said, “and my role is to identify solutions.”

The entire version of this story can be read in a print copy of the Mankato Free Press. Call the Mankato Free Press at 625-4451 or (800) 657-4662 to find out how to purchase a print copy. The Free Press also prints select stories online at

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