Your Vote Is Your Voice

Election day is just over a week away here in the US. According to a recent study, more than 34 million Americans with disabilities will be eligible to vote in this year’s elections. Add to that the number of people who care for or support a person with a disability, and we’re looking at a voting block of more than 62 million people, about one-fourth of the electorate!

Americans with disabilities, as well as older Americans who may be aging into disability, have a right to register and to vote privately and independently. However, people with disabilities may be less likely to vote than those without disabilities. They could have difficulty traveling to a polling place, or may be unable to access the facilities once they get there. They may not have access to ballots or information materials in a format they can use, such as Braille or large print. Or they may not know they are eligible to register and/or vote. A 2013 study from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that accessibility had improved significantly at polling places across the US, but more than half of states reported that ensuring accessibility continues to be a challenge.

Whatever the reason, there are resources from the NIDILRR community and elsewhere to help potential voters with disabilities to get to the polls and cast their vote:

The Southeast ADA Center spent three episodes of ADA Live focusing on voting and the power of the disability vote:

Voting Success for People with Disabilities from the AbleData project highlights assistive technology to help people vote.

In 2004, the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on Community Living for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities focused an issue of Impact on political activism and voter participation by persons with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.

The RRTC on Community Living and Participation of Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities has a collection of research and resources on civic activity.

The RTC on Disability in Rural Communities looked at leadership by people with disabilities, finding that more than 85,000 people with disabilities have served as elected or appointed officials in rural areas!

We focused an issue of our reSearch publication on enfranchisement and people with disabilities. This issue includes more than 50 abstracts of research in voting and civic participation in the US and abroad.

Election Assistance Commission offers 10 tips for voters with disabilities. If you’re a commissioner or poll worker, here is an ADA Checklist for Polling Places from the US Department of Justice.

The American Association of People with Disabilities has a comprehensive voter resource center, with links to get registered, learn about issues and candidates, and get out and vote. Disability Thinking also has a 2016 voters guide to help you learn about the candidates and their stances on issues important to the community.

It’s important to remember that you have a say in what happens in your community, from local boards and commissions, to state representatives and referenda, all the way up to the White House. Check with your local ADA National Network Regional Center (800/949-4232) or get in touch with the nearest independent living center for help.

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