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Disability and Politics: People With Disabilities Are Largely Left Out Of Elections
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Disability and Politics: People With Disabilities Are Largely Left Out Of Elections

It is shocking that after 30 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) law, the US electoral system is still largely inaccessible for people with disabilities.

Over 35 million Americans are of voting age. But voter turnout among people with disabilities is low. According to statistics, if people with disabilities voted at the same rate as other US voters, they would cast 2.35 million additional votes. 

To encourage people with disabilities to vote and participate more in politics, candidates and their campaign organizations must work to improve accessibility and mobility for people with disabilities in this election cycle.   Earlier this summer, researchers say the websites of all candidates for the 2020 presidential election failed to comply with the ADA.

According to US Government Accountability Office, more than half of all polling places during the 2016 presidential election had at least one obstacle for people with disabilities: voting stations that were not accessible for wheelchair users, dysfunctional earphones for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and lack of privacy for voters with disabilities.

Unfortunately, these obstacles are not limited to polling stations; lack of reasonable accommodations also affects elected representatives once in office. A Wisconsin state representative, Jimmy Anderson, who uses a wheelchair and has difficulty traveling, was denied his request to dial-in to legislative meetings by phone. Refusing to provide this reasonable accommodation sets a dangerous precedent for all Americans with disabilities.

It is good to know that there was a promising increase in voting rates among people with disabilities during the 2018 midterm election.

Candidates contesting for the 2020 presidential race are not talking much about disability rights and it is worrisome – especially when the talked about minority-specific issues like racism, immigration, and women’s rights, in all honesty, this is unacceptable.

Candidates standing for elections should work to uplift the voices of all Americans because a quarter of Americans have disabilities if we should go by the statistics that one in four Americans have a disability. Candidates must champion policies that would promote the full inclusion of people with disabilities in US politics.

Image credit: CEFutcher

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