AP NEWS

Legislators push for better access to the state Capitol

January 26, 2019

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota legislative committee has pressed for upgrades at the state Capitol to make the building more accessible to people with disabilities.

The members of the House Government and Veterans Affairs Committee listened to testimony on a legislative measure that would mandate handicapped-accessible parking within 125 feet (40 meters) of the Capitol public entrance, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

The Capitol has two handicapped-accessible parking spaces more than 350 feet (105 meters) from the south entrance, which is the door the public has been required to enter through since security measures were implemented two years ago.

Carel Two-Eagle, a community activist who uses crutches due to osteoarthritis, told legislators she had to contact Capitol security for assistance after the wind knocked her down.

“If I go down, I can’t get up myself,” Two-Eagle said. “To just get into the building is a major project.”

Rep. Marvin Nelson, the bill’s primary sponsor, told legislators about other accessibility concerns with the building, which include a narrow wheelchair ramp at the public entrance.

“You have about 1 inch with a standard wheelchair between you and the building and 1 inch between you and falling off the curb,” Nelson said. “This is really not handicapped-accessible; this is a public hazard.”

Nelson recommended adding benches for people to stop and rest, and better signs to direct visitors. His proposal would also require the Capitol to be brought into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Committee members indicated that regardless of how they act on the bill, they want to see improvements.

“This does not speak well of us as a Capitol. We need to be on top of these things,” said Rep. Austen Schauer.

Legislators urged John Boyle, the North Dakota facility management director, to take steps in the short term to address the accessibility issues, such as striping additional handicapped-accessible parking spaces in the visitor lot.

“Why does it take a bill to instigate this?” asked Rep. Ben Koppelman.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com