It’s been 27 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law.
But some North Dakotans say there’s still a long way to go to make North Dakota businesses accessible to everyone.
I spent the day speaking with some North Dakotans with disabilities — and across the board — many spoke about the struggles they still face on a daily basis.
They say more times than not — when accessing a business it isn’t always as simple as getting through the door.
For Jason Neis, things like shopping, going to a restaurant, or finding a parking spot isn’t always easy.
“Some of the restaurants aren’t accessible for wheelchairs, my apartments are not accessible for wheelchairs, some of the movie theatres are not accessible; it kind of annoys me and frustrates me,” Jason Neis, Bismarck resident says.
And he’s not alone.
Those with disabilities often express struggling to access certain stores, and when they get inside, cluttered or tight fitting aisles can make it nearly impossible to maneuver through.
“They should be accessible for everybody that’s in a walker, or wheelchairs, or anything like that,” Justin Neis, Mandan resident says.
Bismarck Officials say a business has to comply with most recent ADA standards if it is a new construction, remodeling, going through an occupancy change, or through any additional construction.
But those with the North Dakota Protection and Advocacy Project say it can often be the person with the disability that is left to make the accommodations.
“They run into someplace where they can’t get in, or they can’t use something, or they can’t enjoy the same opportunities that are available to others, and for many it’s just more of a fight,” David Boeck, North Dakota Protection and Advocacy Project says.
And one place some businesses are still falling short is accessible bathrooms.
“A lot of the businesses don’t have accessible bathrooms and if they do, they’re not created equal,”Jillian Schaible, Bismarck resident says.”Sometimes you have to go in the men’s room to use the stall.
But if it doesn’t effect them, she says, people don’t always see it as a problem
“I think people don’t either want to realize it’s an issue or they just don’t seem to notice,” Schaible says.”I think if you’re not making things accessible you’re telling an entire class of people they’re not welcome.”
But for businesses to be accessible for everyone, Schaible says, the state still has a long way to go.
“We need to get with the times, we really do,” Schaible says.
The city works with inspectors to look over building plans and with businesses on making them accessible but when they are up and running it is up to the business owners to make their stores and aisles easy to get through for everyone.
If you have a concern about the accessibility of a building you can reach out the North Dakota Protection and Advocacy Project.