ND votes to fast-track accessibility accommodations

BISMARCK, N.D. - Legislators approved a resolution to fast-track interior renovations to make the state Capitol more handicap accessible.

The Capitol is undergoing a $2 million face lift, but Wednesday they were told it's not the outside that's the issue, it's the inside.

In front of the Government Administration Committee, North Dakotans told their leaders that the Capitol building isn't easily accessible for those with physical disabilities. Everything from entering committee rooms to just trying to get in the front door.

"All those doors are very hard to open, and I'm pretty athletic yet, crutches or not. If you're in a wheelchair, you have to have someone go with you to let you out or you're gonna camp in there. This is not acceptable," Carol Two Eagle said.

According to the architect, there are more than 70 accessibility compliance issues with the historic building. Including bathroom doors that are too heavy to move, most doors having knobs rather than handles, and the legislative chambers only have stairs. Making it difficult if a physically disabled legislator won a seat.

"We know this is gonna be expensive. So if it takes one or two or three bienniums, that's fine. But let's at least get started on the highest priority items,” said John Boyle, Facility Management Division director.

Among the issues is who it's going to be expensive for. The committee discussed at length who was in charge of these renovations; there wasn't a dollar even appropriated to the architect in charge of the renderings. OMB used its own funds to pay.

Amongst the highest priorities, at least for the committee, is installing a unisex or family bathroom on the ground. There were numerous complaints to the the current setup being either inoperable or awkward for those of the opposite sex when trying to assist family members.