The North Dakota House took a step toward making the state Capitol more accommodating to people with disabilities on Friday, approving a study of handicapped-accessible parking and other issues.
Members voted 89-2 in favor of House Bill 1298, which began as a proposal to move accessible parking closer to the public entrance of the Capitol.
Rep. Pamela Anderson, D-Fargo, said members of the Government and Veterans Affairs Committee amended the bill to make it more broad and consider steps the state can take to make the building more accessible.
In addition to parking concerns, the committee heard testimony about the need for more accessible restrooms, better signs to direct the public and additional seating areas.
“The Government and Veterans Affairs Committee feels that this is the people’s house and it should be more welcome for all North Dakotans to come in and use it,” Anderson said.
Carel Two-Eagle, an activist who visits the Capitol daily during the session and uses crutches due to osteoarthritis, quietly celebrated in the back of the House chambers after the nearly unanimous vote.
“That says that these people overall would not want to disenfranchise us that are physically challenged,” Two-Eagle said.
Supporters of the bill said access to the Capitol became more difficult after new security measures were adopted two years ago requiring the public to enter through the south entrance.
The parking lot closest to the public entrance has two handicapped-accessible parking spaces that are 350 to 370 feet away from the entrance. The original bill sought to move accessible parking within 125 feet of the Capitol.
John Boyle, director of facility management, testified to the committee that the Capitol is in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Two-Eagle said she plans to testify in support of the bill when it is under consideration by the Senate. If approved, legislative management would consider the study during the 2019-20 interim.