Every day for “Disability Pride Month” – I am committed to writing pieces that reflect the diversity, truths, and reality of our disabled community If you want to share your piece with me or be interviewed this month, I would love to share your voice! Please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Today is July 17th which is the last day of National Disability Voter Registration Week! It kicked off on July 13th. It marked a great week of learning, listening and becoming more educated on issues that affect the community. I’m also apart of this community too. These issues matter because they’re happening to me.
If you’ve been following my social media, you’ve noticed that I’ve been posting about it. We often see a lot of commercials, social media posts, and even radio advertisements about voting. Except if you noticed (which I have for so many years): we rarely talk about how it impacts people like me. It’s a major problem because policies have a major impact on disabled people, minorities, women, and I can go on. I hope by now, you have the picture.
The disability community needs a place at the table, too.
I have been sharing on social media about this because voting is not a privilege, but a right. Everyone should be able to vote regardless if they require assistance to vote, require mail-in ballots due to a need to self-isolate during a pandemic, or physical adaptations at the poll booth. So many amazing advocates have been raising wonderful ways that you can include disabled people in your voting turn out. I’m going to be making this a longer post because this is a topic that I’m passionate about.
When we talk about voting, it’s a topic of accessibility. Oftentimes, the issue of voting is simply inaccessible. How many people simply say, “I would vote, but it’s not worth the hassle?” That’s a problem. Voting should always be accessible. There is THIRTY FIVE MILLION disabled eligible to vote this election. They deserve to cast their ballots, their voices and be acknowledged this year.
Let’s get some citations going to talk about what disabled people go when we cast a ballot.
Outside the voting area, GAO was able to examine features at all 178 polling places and found that 60 percent (107) had one or more potential impediments. The most common were steep ramps located outside buildings, lack of signs indicating accessible paths, and poor parking or path surfaces (see figure).Voters with Disabilities: Observations on Polling Place Accessibility and Related Federal Guidance [Reissued on December 4, 2017]
What GAO Recommends
GAO recommends that DOJ study the implementation of federal accessibility requirements in the context of early in-person voting and, as necessary, make changes to existing guidance. DOJ generally agreed with GAO’s recommendation.Voters with Disabilities: Observations on Polling Place Accessibility and Related Federal Guidance [Reissued on December 4, 2017]
That’s right, folks. You didn’t misread it.
SIXTY PERCENT OF THE POLLING PLACES WERE INACCESSIBLE!
That’s a real number. Just imagine if every polling place had to be accounted for, not just a small number as we see here. As you see, they concluded that early in-person voting would a hugely beneficial thing, as well as changes to the existing guidance. Of course, this was before the pandemic. Right now, it’s pivotal that we protect the lives of disabled people when we vote so disabled people are safe too! That’s why we need to talk about mail-in voting.
During the 2020 election, I think it’s pivotal to stress that we must be diligent to remind people that mail-in ballots help protect our disabled community. I see A LOT (and I can’t stress that enough) of hatred towards mail-in voting. My dear cousin went to vote and had to stand in line for 3 hours. Younger me (who was ambulatory) would absolutely be knocked out by that because I had weakness in my legs.
This is way before I had a wheelchair. She described the scene that she witnessed while voting– and it made me wonder, “What’s going on for disabled people whose states are fighting against mail-in voting? What are OUR options?” If you’re not sure where your state falls or you want to know where other states fall, just click this great resource here that was geared towards educating disabled voters on their rights.
When people argue that mail-in voting is wrong, I think it’s important to remind them that being against it is inherently ableist because disabled people suffer inaccessibility at the booths, the booths are not safe for ALL, and that everyone deserves to vote.
If you have someone who is incessant that there couldn’t be a logical reason for why disabled people couldn’t vote at a booth if they did it previously, here are a few great pandemic centric reasons for why it’s imperative to be supportive:
- immune suppressed and or comprised make up a lot of our disability community
- lacking reliable transportation due to many relying on public transport that can no longer make it due to risks of exposure
- having issues with PCA s (personal care assistants); i.e. many rely on nursing and or PCAs but the pandemic has affected that as well due to exposure risks and agency issues
- laack of general accessibility while casting ballots that was already witnessed in the 2016 election and having assistance from poll workers could be an exposure risk
I could continue on why we need to be stress the importance of this, but these are some great reasons that are related to COVID-19. I know we live in a time where many deny COVID-19 or say that COVID-19 is only a threat to the “high-risk” – but that’s 35 million who fall into that category. Should 35 million votes be displaced due to that?
If you want to vote in person, it’s important to know that the ADA (who is turning 30 on the 26th – may I add) does protect you! While not every polling place is accessible (as we learned above): the polling place is supposed to meet ADA guidelines. The ADA does protect you and your right to vote. If you vote and the polling place is not accessible, you have the right to speak up. You have the right to cast that ballot!
Here’s a great video below from 2016 on what fellow disabled people were experiencing when going to vote. I think this is such an important video to watch because this is a real experience of what’s happening. Disabled people are struggling to vote. Think on that for a few minutes. Should it be a struggle? At all?
As we end this, I remind you to register to vote! Use your voice! These policies impact your health, your life, and so much more. Disabled people are extremely impacted by politics — even if we sometimes are left out of the conversation or ballot booth. We will not tolerate this in 2020. We should not tolerate this any longer.
If you’re not sure if you’re registered to vote, you can do it right with the AAPD! Just click this link! You can also click here for more information on how to register with your state and not via the AAPD if you’re more comfortable that way.
Even though this campaign is “over” by today, this election year is not. Disabled voters are still campaigning to raise voting in the community! I plan on becoming more proactive in my local community to get fellow disabled people more aware of their vote, how to use mail-in voting and or how to vote accessibly at the booths, and the protection they’re warranted at the actual booths via the ADA. Are you with me? Come along!
Are you a local Eastern Shore resident or a Maryland resident? Do you have thoughts about voting? Let’s talk. I want to discuss voting as a disabled voter with you! Email me at email@example.com