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ND Capitol’s ongoing ADA concerns and the plan for faulty handicap door

Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 6:08 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - State leaders have put hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars towards studying and modifying the capitol building to make it more accessible to people with disabilities.

Most recently, lawmakers passed a $750,000 bill during the last session. But those who rely on the changes are waiting for the construction to start.

A lot of changes have been made to the Capitol over the past few years, and not just for COVID.

With the new southern entrance, advocates say it’s a lot more handicap accessible.

But beyond that, they say there’s still more work to do.

Redesigning a decades-old building has its challenges. Especially when it’s time to catch up to new standards for handicap accessibility.

Now, the Capitol building is playing catch-up.

“At the time, there were decisions made to not do some things. And at the time, you could use cost as an issue, or the historical preservation of a building to not make repairs,” said John Boyle, facilities management director.

One of the biggest complaints from visitors with physical disabilities is access to bathrooms.

They say there needs to be a family restroom available in case someone needs assistance.

Boyle said those additions are on the way.

Another issue is being able to enter the legislative chambers. While there are elevators to get up and into the chambers, speakers have to be able to climb a flight of stairs. One option is to put a door behind the speaker’s podium and take out a cushioned dugout from the main hallway, allowing for easy access.

Those who are waiting say they’re optimistic about the changes, but not about the timeline.

“That’s the frustrating part. I thought some of this would probably have started already, but now it’s just going through more committees, and they’re going to decide on what size doors maybe,” said Royce Schultze of the Dakota Center for Independent Living.

But that’s just the inside. Some say despite the new doors around the building, it’s still difficult just to get past the front doors.

“Today, when I came in, the door wasn’t working. So it’s always something when I come up here to do that. It’s always... I have to ask for help,” said Trevor Vannett.

Boyle said the door doesn’t work because of negative pressure coming from the capitol tower, leading to difficulty opening the doors.

As for replacing the doors on the southern entrance, Boyle said he hopes to have the new doors in within the next few months, but there are additional months needed for approval and installation.

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