Navigating the Capitol in a wheelchair isn’t the easiest for Royce Schultze.
“The doors are too narrow, they’re too heavy, just from my personal experience, there’s quite a few of them I can’t get into by myself,” Schultze said.
But it’s something he’s been doing for the last 20 years to participate in the session. He says the challenges prevent people from wanting to testify, even if the issue is about accessibility.
“Some of the more important human service bills that affect people with disabilities, a lot of folks don’t come up here because they know they can’t get in there,” Schultze said.
Schultze says the doorway to the Harvest Room is not only too narrow but hard to maneuver once inside. Enter House Bill 1030 — which sailed through the House Government and Veterans Affairs Committee this week.
It would spend $750,000 from the Capitol building trust fund to fix areas that don’t fully comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The money would go toward more signage, wider doors, wheelchair lifts, listening devices for rooms and more.
“It’s very important we implement these changes for everyone. Everyone should be able to come to the Capitol grounds and use it the way that it’s intended to be used,” Capitol Facility Management Director John Boyle said.
Boyle has been in that position for 18 years. He says his role is to implement the changes, should they be passed by the House, the Senate and eventually the governor.
If it is passed, an emergency clause in the bill means it will take effect immediately, and changes can start in the spring.
“Hopefully it’ll be May 1. We’ll get rolling and our goal is to have everything in place by the next legislative session in Jan. of 2023,” Boyle said.
Schultze says the changes would make it a lot easier for those with disabilities to have their voices heard.
“It’s just gonna be a great thing for everybody. I’m just glad to see that they see the importance of it.”
The issue was first brought up last legislative session when lawmakers passed a bill to conduct a study on ADA deficiencies. This bill uses that study to assess what changes are needed.