Downtown Bismarck Plans to Improve Streets and Sidewalks for People with Disabilities

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Much of downtown Bismarck’s infrastructure hasn’t been updated since the 1960s.

The North Dakota DOT selected the city for its Urban Grant Program, so Bismarck can fix up the streets and sidewalks.

More importantly, it will make the downtown more ADA compliant, meaning more accessible for people with disabilities.

Royce Schultze is the Executive Director for the Dakota Center for Independent Living. He has been using a wheelchair, himself for almost 39 years.

Schultze says downtown Bismarck could use a lot more accessible parking.

He adds, “They’ve only got a few spots down there, and they’re tough to come about.”

When I met Schultze downtown so he could show me around, he had to park over a block away. 

Schultze says one of the biggest issues is curb cuts. That’s where the ramp meets the street, and it’s even worse in the snow. Schultze says he wouldn’t even use some of the ramps.

He explains, “They’re a little too steep going down, and a little too steep when you come up on the other side. You know you’ve got some issues: you could tip over, or catch your footrest when you’re going down it.”

There was one ramp that he was unable to get up after multiple tries.

Schultze shares, “We’ve had one of our consumers, a couple of years ago, that went down and flipped over backward from them not being accessible.”

There are very few ADA compliant ramps in the area that the grant will be renovating in the heart of downtown Bismarck 

Bismarck City Engineer Gabe Schell says, “4th Street from Main to Thayer, 5th Street from Main to Thayer and Broadway from 4th to 6th Street.” 

Schell says more of the yellow pads and the chirping sounds at 5th Street and Main, will be put in place so those with visual disabilities know where and when they can cross the street safely.

He adds, “So it’s an opportunity for us to go and look at these intersections that we’ll be touching, and ensuring that they’re accessible for all users that might use a Right-of-Way.”

Renovations will be completed in 2021.

We asked Schultze what the consequences are for businesses that are not ADA compliant.
He told us, people with disabilities can file complaints with the state Department of Justice or the Department of Labor, but he says that very rarely happens.

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