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Over 33 million disabled Americans are eligible to vote but are unable to because most polling locations are not accessible and don't have the proper parking facilities. This definitely needs to change so that the disabled community can vote in a comfortable and accepting environment.
Those who have disabilities also have a voice that needs to be heard, just like any able-bodied citizen. Election Day, 8 November 2016 is almost upon us and the primary elections are already in process. There are many disabled voters, but a vast majority of them don't vote because of inaccessible polling stations. Disabled community advocates are worried that voting stations are not accessible to their community on Election Day.
Problems that plague voting stations include improper parking, small doorways, no ramps or elevators. The US Congress passed the Help America Vote Act, which was put in place to reform accessibility at voting stations. According to the Help America Vote Act, states can get federal money to make polling stations more accessible to everyone.
Makers of portable accessible ramps are getting lots of business from voting locations across the nation. Although this is only a temporary fix, it address the most urgent needs of those with disabilities. Permanent solutions need to be in place as soon as possible.
Checklist To Make Voting Locations More Accessible
- Parking– Locate disabled parking spots as close to the entrance as possible. They have to be big enough to allow easy entrance into and exit out of a vehicle. No obstacles or debris blocking the path to the entrance. There also needs to be an accessible entrance from the parking area to the building's entrance and there needs to be enough room for a wheelchair to maneuver if the disabled person is dropped off.
- Doorways– There has to be at least one entrance to the building that is conspicuous to those with disabilities. If that entrance isn't at the front of the building, signage must be erected to show how to access the building. Doors have to be wide enough for walkers, electric scooters, wheelchairs, those using crutches and canes.
- Elevators– If the voting area isn't on the ground level, elevators have to be available, in good working order and have a clear path to it. The majority of elevators are in the building's lobby, but there are times when they might be located around a corner or in a different location.
- Hallways- Every hallway at the voting booth location has to be accessible. They need to be wide enough to accommodate large wheelchair and scooters and must have that additional space for maneuverability.
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