HELENA – The State Capitol implemented its first electric wheelchair charging station earlier this week in Helena.
Governor Steve Bullock spoke at the ribbon cutting ceremony discussing the future of disability advocacy in Helena and the steps being taken to lead the initiative forward.
Gov. Bullock was joined by the State Disability Rights Coordinator John Pavao, as well as the Department of Administration Director John Lewis.
“It was really a team effort, collaboration of team divisions within the department of administration collaboration with legislative branch, legislative services and as far as identifying the location, really when you look at the unit and the benefit and how it’s going to benefit people with disabilities, the benefits far exceed the cost,” said Pavao.
Montana Independent Living Project Advocacy Coordinator Joel Peden was given the honor of cutting the ribbon during the ceremony.
“Even today, I’m down three lights already…on a typical day, I would have to be worried about having to get home early and get plugged-in, but now, I can be here and participate and do my job as an advocate and not have to worry about stranded someplace,” Peden stated.
The wheelchair charger cost $450 and Capitol staff are looking at other accessibility improvements.
“Today is another step in the inclusion of people with disabilities and breaking down potential barriers that allow somebody to be apart of the process that happens here every other year for four months,” said Peden.
“For visitors at the Capitol that are here to see this beautiful building, now they don’t have the extra stress of ‘How much power do I have left in my chair?’ And ‘Can I stay and see more or do I have to go home to re-charge the wheelchair’?” Peden continued.
The wheelchair charger is located in the basement of the Capitol.
-Christine Sullivan reporting for MTN News