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