Wednesday, October 28, 2009

GAO: Only 27% of U.S. polling places accessible in 2008

From Disaboom:

Are we really living under the ADA? It's a national embarrassment: the latest U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) survey shows that a mere 27 percent of polling places in the 2008 election were accessible to people in wheelchairs.

We're not talking accessibility to the neighborhood ice cream store, or curb cuts so wheelchair users can reach the community pool (although there certainly should be access to both); we are talking about the very foundation of our democratic system being denied to a group of voters with disability.

People in wheelchairs are not a tiny number of the population. The National Health Interview Survey on Disability found that in 1994-95, 1.6 million Americans used wheelchairs outside of an institutional setting, the last year for which I could find statistics. If perhaps a million of those were eligible adult voters, that would imply that up to 600,000 people in wheelchairs found it impossible to fulfill their duty, their obligation and their basic right in a free society.

How ironic that someone might have fought in Iraq to ensure a democratic society, paid the price by losing their legs, then come back to the U.S. only to find that voting in a presidential election in their own country was impossible.

And it goes farther than that. Poll workers are so poorly trained in how to deal with people having disabilities (we're talking 54 million citizens), that in some polling places, the accessible voting device never got turned on. In many more, poll workers showed "poor etiquette" that discouraged people with disabilities from voting once they reached the polling place.

It's disgraceful.

To read the initial report in its entirety, visit