According to a recent report by the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, turnout among voters without a disability rose to 54 percent in 2018, leaving a near 5-point turnout gap between those who face disabilities and those who do not, representing up to 14.7 million Americans with disabilities who did not cast a ballot last year. As a matter of fact, voter turnout has surged among voters who identify themselves as having “difficulty walking or climbing stairs” by a whopping 8.3% since 2010.
While serving as Elections Director in Jefferson County, KY, I’ll never forget receiving my first BallotCall Alert System from the State Board of Elections. I remember thinking how innovative and proactive the product was: a universally designed wireless alert system allowing voters to communicate their need for assistance. This was the answer for polling place accessibility!
Here’s the harsh truth: Many polling places aren’t accessible without temporary measures. As I trained 2,200+ pollworkers twice a year, it was important to stress that all polling locations were handicap accessible… but not all handicap accessible polling locations have doors which are easy to open independently. This was an eye opener for me; especially considering the Department of Justice ADA Checklist calls for a door which can be opened with no more than 5 pounds of force. For those that cannot, officials must provide a temporary doorbell to notify officials that the door needs to be opened in a timely manner.
The BallotCall Alert System not only justified numerous polling places for thousands of voters under my watch, it also served as a resource for curbside voting in nearby states including Virginia. Age or disability should never make it difficult to express our civic duty.
Elections should be universal and accessible for everyone regardless of need, age, or disability. Let’s work tirelessly to not disadvantage voters based on physical or structural abnormalities. Let’s all commit, today, to ensuring no eligible citizen be denied or abridged their right to vote in a universal, accessible election. It’s the least we can do.
Inclusion Solutions offers a variety of accessibility products including the universal, ADA-compliant Franklin Voting Booth and BallotCall Alert System. For more information, please contact James Young, former Director of Elections in Louisville, KY, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 502.249.3916. @jamesyoungky