Story at a glance
- Voters with disabilities regularly face obstacles when voting that range from inconvenient to impassable.
- The coronavirus pandemic has made it unsafe for some to vote in person, but voting by mail is not always accessible.
- While there are some resources available to voters, many feel disenfranchised by the challenges.
Unless you have a disability, there are many things you do on a daily basis that you take for granted. But even those rights you cherish — such as voting — are not accessible to all who have them.
About 38.3 million people with disabilities will be eligible to vote in this year's election, according to research from Rutgers University. But many of them won't — not because they don’t want to, but simply because they can’t.
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"Many polling places discourage people with and without disabilities from using the accessible machines because of confusion about how they work," disability rights attorney Eve Hill told Business Insider. "As a result, to this day, those machines are often only used by people with disabilities, making their votes less private than the votes of people without disabilities."
The Americans with Disabilities Act is one of several protections for voters, but in practice, some accessibility measures fall short. The coronavirus pandemic has made it dangerous for some voters with disabilities to vote in person, but mail-in ballots might require assistance to complete or a witness signature.
"Some people may choose to want to have someone to help them. I don't really want to," 62-year-old Marsha Bukala told Business Insider. "I want to be able to do it on my own. And I mean, we should have that and it should work. It should be available to us and not a problem."
Even if you can vote, having a disability can also limit your access to vital information. The national, nonpartisan Election Protection hotline (866-OUR-VOTE) has an online chat function and the National Association of the Deaf has a voter hotline that allows for video calls to make voting more accessible to Americans with disabilities. But many other educational resources are not accessible and can make navigating the ballot difficult.
And facing so many hurdles on the path to voting can make some voters feel like they're treated like a "second-class citizen,” Nancy Burgess-Hall, a Florida voter, told Business Insider.
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