Disabled veterans shouldn't have to worry about voting accessibility

Kaylah Jackson
July 12, 2018 - 5:31 pm

Photo courtesy of DC Board of Elections

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Voting. A rite of passage when you turn 18 and arguably, the most patriotic example of American democracy. But what happens when you’re prevented from voting because of a disability?

Whether its poll workers unfamiliar with how to handle service animals or polling booths with no curbside access for veterans with disabilities, the equal right to vote doesn’t always seem so equally accessible.

That’s why the American Association of People with Disabilities launched the Rev Up campaign to educate everyone on the importance of accessibility during National Disability voter Registration Week. But it’s not only about the act of registering,  visibility just as important.

“We want to show this collective impact so that the media and elected officials start to see the disability community as a group that is voting and that should be paid attention to when candidates are crafting their platforms or when elected officials are deciding how they’re voting in certain pieces of legislation,” said Zach Baldwin, Director of Outreach for Rev Up.

But without all polling locations adequately prepared for people with various disabilities, Baldwin says, we do this community a disservice.

Photo courtesy of DC Board of Elections

According the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), during the 2016 election, of the 178 polling places, 60 percent had one or more potential impediments.

“If I say ‘hi, I’m a person who’s deaf.’ For someone who really doesn’t understand what that means and they start speaking louder, obviously that’s not going make the person hear you any better if they are completely deaf,” said Terrica Jennings, attorney advisor and coordinator for the American Disabilities Association at the District of the District Columbia Board of Elections.

The DC Board of Elections offers mandatory training for its poll workers to circumvent issues like these and make sure everyone is attended to.

This upcoming week is National Disability Voter Registration Week. It's an effort to advocate on behalf of the disabled community, get them to the polls, and also, educate the community on the value that they bring to the larger political landscape.

Not sure where to register to vote and you live in Washington, D.C. ? You can stop by the Center for Independent Living at 1400 Florida Ave. NE #3, Washington DC 20002 on Wednesday, July 18 from 1 to 3pm. There, not only will you be able to register to vote, but you can be sure, you’ll be able to access and go through the process with ease.

For more information click here. For disabled veterans looking for resources on their rights or where to report if they encounter issues, click here.

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