By Tim Gilmer: For Complete Post, click here…
It has always been hard to vote in Texas for many wheelchair users, but Toby Cole fears it’s about to get even harder. On Sept. 7 Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 1, a law that will go into effect Dec. 2 and contains numerous new voting restrictions. Disability and civil rights groups say the new law will unfairly impact minority voters, including wheelchair users and other people with disabilities.
opens in a new windowCole is a board member of the Houston chapter of United Spinal Association and a past president of the Houston Trial Lawyers Association. Harris County, where Cole lives, is Texas’ largest. Many of its 750 polling places have accessibility problems, including non-compliant ramps, walkways impassible for wheelchair users and locked gates along access routes. Cole, a C5 quad, had problems when voting at a church. “I had to wait a long time in line outside. Someone finally saw me, came out and said, ‘Sorry you won’t be able get to where you need to vote from here.’” They took him to a back kitchen entrance. There was a high, 3-inch threshold and no ramp. “Somehow I managed,” he says. “But I wondered what would happen if I had had to wait in line even longer. In Texas we have heat issues, and as a quad I can only sit for a limited time.”
The new law, he says, creates new problems by unnecessarily including complicated processes that discourage voting.