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, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.