Rowenhorst holding Advocate of the Year Award at the 2016 Celebrating Independence event.
By: Scott Burlingame,
Brandon Rowenhorst of Minot has been named the
2016 Advocate of the Year by the Board of Directors of Independence, Inc. and
was presented with his award at the 2016 Celebrating Independence Picnic. Rowenhorst is a Minot area attorney who recently opened his own practice.
Rowenhorst has long had a strong desire to live
and work independently in the community, and he refuses to allow his physical
disability to keep him from that dream. After High School in South
Dakota, he attended college, obtained his law degree, and became an attorney.
He later moved to Minot to begin his law career. Sadly, like many people
with disabilities, Rowenhorst faced many barriers along the way.
Perhaps the biggest barrier Rowenhorst faced was
is related to transportation. Because Rowenhorst does not drive, he was
forced to rely on Souris Basin Transportation to commute to and from work.
Souris Basin Transportation is a “Dial-a-Ride” system, and users are required
to schedule all rides at least 24 hours in advance. The hours of service are
also very limited. This reality limited Rowenhorst’s availability at work and
left him unable to attend after hours events.
In order to begin a community discussion on how
to improve transportation options, Rowenhorst reached out to State Senator Oley
Larsen. Sen Larson helped to bring together stakeholders in order to discuss
how to improve public transportation options in our area. Rowenhorst also began
to advocate for the city taxi companies to be required to provide accessible
This advocacy led to Mayor Chuck Barney
appointing an ad hoc committee to work on resolving this issue. This ad hoc
committee was chaired by Council Member Miranda Schuler and consisted of
representatives from local taxi companies, city government, Souris Basin
Transportation, and other concerned citizens.
Brandon worked very hard on keeping the public
informed on this issue, leading to at least three articles appeared in the
Minot Daily News about his efforts.
As a direct result of
Rowenhorst’s advocacy, last fall, the Minot City Council voted unanimously to
adopt an ordinance that requires each taxi company in Minot to provide
accessible transportation. That ordinance is now being used as a model for
accessible taxi laws across the state of North Dakota and the nation.