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More than 35 million eligible voters in the U.S. — about one in six — have a disability. And in the last presidential election, almost a third of voters with disabilities reported having trouble casting their ballots — whether it was getting into the polling place, reading the ballot, or struggling with a machine.

Despite some improvements, many of these voters are expected to face similar problems again this year.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office found that in 2008 only 1 in 4 polling places was completely accessible — an improvement over 2000, but still far short of the complete accessibility required by federal law.

“If your polling place is somewhere that you can’t even get in, not only do you sometimes feel like your vote may not matter. But it also feels like people don’t want you to vote, or don’t care if you can,” says Michelle Bishop, a voting rights specialist at NDRN.

Bishop says millions of Americans who have disabilities are routinely discouraged from voting, not only by obstacles outside the polls, but inside as well — paper ballots that are hard to mark, long lines, even poll workers who question their eligibility.

As a voter with a disability, you have the right to:

  • Vote privately and independently
  • Have an accessible polling place with voting machines for voters with disabilities
  • Wheelchair-accessible voting booths
  • Entrances and doorways that are at least 32 inches wide
  • Handrails on all stairs
  • Voting equipment that is accessible to voters who are blind or who have low vision
  • Bring your service animal with you into your polling place
  • Seek assistance from workers at the polling place who have been trained to use the accessible voting machine
  • Bring someone to help you vote (including a friend, family member, caregiver, assisted living provider, or almost anyone else, but not your employer or union representative).

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Person using a manual wheelchair is stopped outside of two doors that have a stationary bar down the middle of the two doors which makes it inaccessible

Ian Watlington says the door, which has a stationary bar down the middle, would be too narrow for him to enter if he was in his motorized wheelchair. He can barely get through in his manual chair.













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