South Minneapolis man paves the way for accessibility in the city

Michael Sack
Michael Sack is a disability activist in Minneapolis.
Gretchen Brown | MPR News

Construction ripped up a curb on Michael Sack’s block in south Minneapolis.

He reported the curb through the city website. Nothing happened. A year later, it still wasn’t repaired.

In 2021, he decided he would send an email to a city council member. Within three weeks, the curb was fixed.

He said he realized there was a more efficient way to report pathway deficiencies rather than reporting through the city website so on June 24, 2021, he created Minneapolis Sidewalk Repair Hunters group on Facebook.

The group now has 142 residents involved. They have reported 48 sidewalk issues and 29 have been fixed over the past year. Moving forward, Michael is looking to form a five person board to further their reach of accessibility in the Twin Cities.

“Having accessible paths is a must, especially in a big city in order to provide equal and safe access to those who use wheelchairs or their mobility devices, strollers and for every pedestrian,” Sack said.

Before you keep reading ...

MPR News is made by Members. Gifts from individuals fuel the programs that you and your neighbors rely on. Donate today to power news, analysis, and community conversations for all.

Sack has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. He says he has always been interested in activism, but when the pandemic hit, he found more time on his hands. His interest grew exponentially.

He has helped with voting accessibility and in August of 2021 worked for mayoral candidate Sheila Nezhad as a disability policy and engagement consultant. He also has developed a disability and accessibility plan and presented it to city council member, Emily Koski.

Sack has written about voting accessibility, transportation and disability services for local outlets like Southwest Voices and the Star Tribune.

He says the city should develop a better system for searching for and responding to spots in need of repair and allocate city money instead of letting residents pick up the bill. In the meantime, Michael and the Minneapolis sidewalk repair hunters will keep on hunting

If you’re interested in getting involved with the Minneapolis Sidewalk Repair Hunters, head to their website or find them on Facebook.

Correction (July 19, 2022): A previous version of this article had an incorrect timeline for when a report was made to Minneapolis. The story has been updated.

Audio transcript

CATHY WURZER: If you think Minneapolis sidewalks are looking better these days, you have one man to thank. Michael Sack is a 32-year-old South Minneapolis resident, and he's quietly becoming one of the city's leading voices in accessibility issues and disability activism. His work is helping a lot of different people. Producer Gretchen Brown talked with Michael about his work.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

GRETCHEN BROWN: Construction ripped up a curb on Michael's block in South Minneapolis. A year later, it still wasn't repaired. In June 2021, Michael reported the curb through the city website. Nothing happened. Discouraged but not deterred, Michael sent an email to a City Council member at the time last May. Within three weeks, the curb was fixed. He spoke to me through an assistive device.

MICHAEL SACK: I realized that there was a more efficient way to report pathway deficiencies. So on June 24, 2021, I created the group Minneapolis Sidewalk Repair Hunters on Facebook.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

GRETCHEN BROWN: The grassroots group just keeps growing. There's now 142 Minneapolis residents involved. They've reported 48 sidewalk issues, and 29 have been fixed over the past year. Michael is now looking to form a five-person board to further their reach.

MICHAEL SACK: Having accessible paths is a must, especially in a big city, in order to provide equal and safe access to those who use wheelchairs, other mobility devices, strollers, and for every pedestrian.

GRETCHEN BROWN: Michael has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. And he has always been interested in activism. His 2010 blog Two Men On covered baseball, the Twins, and accessibility issues, and even caught the eye of Twins president Dave St. Peter. When the pandemic hit, though, his activism grew exponentially.

MICHAEL SACK: That July, I contacted the Emma Greenman for State Representative campaign, and they brought me on to help with voting accessibility. The following year, in August of 2021, I worked for Sheila Nezhad's mayoral campaign as a disability policy and engagement consultant.

GRETCHEN BROWN: As part of that work, he developed a disability and accessibility plan for Nezhad's campaign and presented a revised version to City Council member Emily Koski. Beyond sidewalks, Michael has written about voting accessibility, transportation, and funding for disability services for local outlets like Southwest Voices and the Star Tribune. He says the city should develop a better system for searching for and responding to spots in need of repair and allocate city money instead of letting residents pick up the bill. In the meantime, Michael and the Minneapolis Sidewalk Repair Hunters will keep on hunting.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

CATHY WURZER: That was Minnesota Now producer Gretchen Brown talking to Michael Sack. If you're interested in getting involved with the Minneapolis Sidewalk Repair Hunters, head to their website, mplssrh.org.

Download transcript (PDF)

Transcription services provided by 3Play Media.