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Is The Voting Process Accessible To Persons With Disabilities?

During the 1998 congressional elections, the National Voter Independence Project (NVIP) survey was completed by three hundred and seventy-seven person with disabilities representing forty states, the District of Columbia and one territory.

Coalition for Accessible Political Elections (CAPE)

The survey was done in collaboration with the Coalition for Accessible Political Elections (CAPE), to determine whether persons with disabilities were having difficulty accessing the electoral process in their communities. CAPE is coordinated by the Paralyzed Veterans of America and includes:

  • National Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems

  • National Council on Independent Living

  • National Organization on Disability

  • National Association of Developmental Disability Councils

  • American Association of Person with Disabilities

  • Justice for All

  • American Foundation for the Blind

  • National Association of the Deaf

  • Granite State Independent Living Foundation

  • New Hampshire Disabilities Rights Center and

  • New Hampshire Developmental Disabilities Council

Survey Results

The survey focused primarily on three aspects of accessibility, the overall experience in voting, and whether respondents' had any difficulty in registering to vote.

Polling Place Accessibility

47% reported difficulties in finding an accessible path to the voting area

11% indicated that a person using a wheelchair would only be able to get to the voting area if she/he agreed to be carried into the building

Voting Area

52 % did not provide an appropriately sized voting booth for persons with disabilities

The Ballot

81% of polling places surveyed did not have ballots available in alternative formats, and person who were blind or visually impaired had to rely on someone else to mark their ballot for them.

12% reported that ballots in alternative formats are available only if requested in advance

Overall Voting Experience

76% of voters were treated in a polite manner

Registering to Vote

68% responded that they had no problems in registering to vote.


It is clear that some progress has been achieved from the time when people with disabilities were excluded from being able to access the polling place. However, much work remains to be done before persons with disabilities can be considered to have equal access to the electoral process. Equal access can only be achieved by making all polling places physically accessible for all persons- those with and without disabilities.

For More Information:

Paralyzed Veterans of America
801 Eighteenth Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20006-3517