Know Before You Go: Laws Protect Rights of Voters with Disabilities
Voters with disabilities should expect their polling places to accommodate their needs for accessibility.
With voters heading to the polls around the nation this November, it's important for voters with disabilities to understand their rights. An online publication from the U.S. Justice Department provides information about federal laws that protect these rights. These laws include the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Voting Rights Act, the National Voter Registration Act and the Help America Vote Act.
The publication, “The Americans with Disabilities Act & Other Federal Laws Protecting the Rights of Voters with Disabilities,” is intended to help election officials, poll workers and voters understand how the ADA and other federal laws ensure equality in the voting process for people with disabilities. Access the publication here.
To find out more about the publication or the ADA, you may call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD), or visit ADA.gov.
"Voting is one our most important civic duties and fundamental rights,” says John Smith, director of government relations and advocacy at Shepherd Center. “Voters with disabilities should know their rights and expect that polling places will provide proper accommodations for accessibility. In addition to the federal protections, Georgia law requires that all polling locations be accessible and have poll workers ready to assist all voters. It is important that all voters know the issues and exercise their right to vote.”
For example, if the elevated stage of a school auditorium is used as a polling place, there must be a ramp to the stage, and there should be signage and/or a poll worker directing a voter in a wheelchair to that ramp if it is not in plain view. Also, voting booth height must be adjusted to the meet the needs of wheelchair users.
Smith also noted that voting options, such as early voting, and new voting technologies, such as online voter registration and online voting, make the voting process more accessible to everyone.
In addition to the Justice Department publication on the rights of voters with disabilities, Smith suggests some other resources:
- The Georgia Secretary of State provides information regarding registration and voting options online here: https://sos.ga.gov/index.php/elections/voters_with_disabilities
- The U.S. Election Assistance Commission offers a resource page that includes guidance for both election officials and voters with disabilities. Resources include a checklist, guidelines, toolkit and video. Access the page here.
- The Justice Department operates a website where voters with disabilities can file a complaint if they believe their rights have been violated. Access the page here.
- Register, Educate &Vote (REV Up) website
- The RespectAbility Report
- Disability Leadership blog
- NCIL Voting Rights website
Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, multiple amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. Ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top 10 hospitals for rehabilitation and the best in the Southeast, Shepherd Center treats more than 850 inpatients and 7,600 outpatients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.