The Americans With Disabilities Act and Elections: Disabled Voters Are Still Disenfranchised

BY JILL KESSLER: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Disability (In)Justice is a package exploring where the fight for disability justice stands.

The midterm elections are fast approaching. As people research their preferred candidates and mark key dates in the election cycle on the calendar, there is a group of people who often need to do extra research and due diligence to ensure their votes are received: the disabled. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 61 million adults in the United States have disabilities, including conditions that limit mobility or impair cognition. Others live with deafness or are hard of hearing, are blind or have limited or low vision. Many conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and various neuromuscular conditions, can be multiply disabling. Thanks to the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), disabled Americans are supposed to have equal access to the ballot box. But it wasn’t always this way.

But more than three decades after the passage of the ADA, too many disabled people remain disenfranchised. My informal survey of fellow members of the disabled community and disability rights advocates has turned up many disappointing stories. I’ve heard about inaccessible venues, improperly trained staff, and other undue barriers. I’ve spoken with multiple people whose polling places have stairs and no ramps.

Lydia Nunez, a disability rights activist who lives in Texas, reports that she had to go to multiple locations to vote in recent elections. At the second location, she recalls being dismayed to find there was no privacy partition at the accessible voting booth. She felt the attendant at the machine did not give her adequate time to make her selections, asking repeatedly if she needed help when Nunez was just taking her time to read the amendment questions; the hovering attendant also made it so she didn’t have the same privacy afforded to other voters, she says. 

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