The right to vote has not always been a luxury for all Americans. Non-landowners, African Americans, Native Americans, and women have not always been afforded the luxury of voting. Individuals with disabilities have not always had the necessary accommodations to vote.
Through the years, various amendments to the constitution and Voting Rights Acts have been implemented so that all Americans now have the right to vote. As a woman with a disability, I understand that my right to vote did not just happen. It was a long, hard battle that was fought by those that came before me.
When living with a disability, you never know what might come up to prevent you from being able to vote on Election Day, so it’s nice to have the option of early voting, which is offered to residents of Hamilton County, where I live. Plus, voting early helps reduce the wait time for others on Election Day.
Laws on Voting
I have always been aware of accessibility laws for voters with disabilities but didn’t realize what all that entailed. While at the early voting precinct, I had an extensive discussion with one of the election workers about the laws and accommodations in place for individuals with disabilities.
Several federal laws protect the voting rights of Americans with disabilities. These include the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Voter accessibility laws ensure that people with disabilities or language barriers are able to vote. More than 35 million Americans with disabilities are eligible to vote in the United States.
The Rights of Voters with Disabilities
All voters with disabilities have the right to vote in private, without help. All polling places must be fully accessible with voting machines for voters with disabilities. In addition, polling places must have:
- Wheelchair-accessible voting booths
- Entrances and doorways that are at least 32 inches wide
- Handrails on all stairs
- Voting equipment for people who are blind or visually impaired
If you have a disability, you may seek help from poll workers trained to use an accessible voting machine or bring someone to help you vote. You can also ask your election office what other options you have. Some states offer curbside voting, when a poll worker brings everything you need to vote to your car. Local organizations may provide transportation to the polls. Many states let people with disabilities vote by mail.
If you know you’ll need accommodations on Election Day, contact your state or local election office to find out what to expect at your polling place. With all these accommodations in place, every individual with a disability should take the time to exercise their right to vote!
About Bliss Welch: Bliss is a Quantum® brand ambassador and Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee 2013. Bliss is actively involved in the disability community. She enjoys traveling and spending time with her daughter. Click here to learn more about Bliss.
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