Justice Department Releases Guide To Improving Accessibility
The Department of Justice has released new guidance to assist local election officials in ensuring that polling places are accessible to voters with disabilities. The new publication, the “ADA Checklist for Polling Places,” is being made available via the Internet.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 requires state and local governments to ensure that people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in all of their programs and activities, including voting.
Congress reemphasized the importance of accessible voting in the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, the federal election reform law which provides federal funding to help make polling places accessible.
All of the 55 states and territories covered by the requirements of HAVA have already received federal funding to improve the voting process, including for disabled voters.
“The right to vote stands at the core of a properly functioning democracy,” said R. Alexander Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. “No one should be denied the franchise simply because they cannot physically access their polling place. This guide will be an important tool in eliminating unnecessary voting barriers.”
The 33-page “ADA Checklist for Polling Places” covers a wide range of accessibility issues, including parking, passenger drop-off areas, walkways, building entrances and hallways, and use of the voting area. It helps election officials recognize and identify accessibility problems at the schools, churches, and public buildings that serve as polling places throughout the United States.
The guideline offers practical, simple, and efficient solutions to remedying and eliminating barriers that prevent the disabled from voting or make it more difficult for them to exercise their franchise.
Starting on Jan. 1, 2006, jurisdictions throughout the United States will also be required by HAVA to provide at least one voting machine per precinct that is accessible by individuals with disabilities, in a manner that provides the same opportunity for access and participation, including privacy and independence, as for other voters.
When this requirement becomes effective, disabled voters will finally be able to vote in private without assistance, a right that is taken for granted by other American voters.
The “ADA Checklist for Polling Places” is available online through the Department of Justice ADA Home Page at http://www.ada.gov and by telephone through the ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (voice) and 800-514-0383 (TTY).