October 11, 2023

Polling place reviews aim to make it easier for people with disabilities to vote

WBAA file photo

WBAA file photo

A new initiative aims to make it easier for people with disabilities to cast a ballot during early voting leading up to the November 7 election.

Indiana Disability Rights is working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to survey early polling locations across the state and inform county clerks about how to make it easier for voters with disabilities to cast a vote. Once surveyors have visited a polling location the group sends accessibility recommendations to county clerks within ten days.

All registered Indiana voters are eligible to vote early in-person now until the noon on the day before the election.

Some of the most common issues include ensuring van-accessible parking and making sure blind voters are protected from objects that may protrude from the walls — such as coat hangers or fire extinguishers, said Kristen Dulaney, Special Projects Manager with Indiana Disability Rights.

“Ultimately the reason we do these surveys at the end of the day is so that that person when they show up to the polls - they are going to have a smooth experience,” she said.

Surveyors specifically use the Americans with Disabilities Act polling place checklist provided by the U.S. Department of Justice. The checklist outlines a number of potential hurdles and ways that polling places can make small changes to become more accessible. 

“We know that if that person [a person with disabilities] goes and they face a barrier they may not come back again,” she said. “This is about making sure everyone, including people who have never voted before, who thought that they couldn’t, who now have been empowered to come out and make their voice heard, are empowered to do that in an accessible way.”

Last year, officials say they surveyed early voting locations in some nine counties. This year, through the partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, officials hope to double that number.

 

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