Did you know that there are over 38 million eligible voters with disabilities in the United States?
In the United States, voting is a fundamental right and is one of the foundations of our democracy. When our country was created, not everyone had the right to vote and over the last 200 years, different groups of people have found it hard to secure their right to vote.
Congress has enacted several laws to ensure that people with disabilities have the right to vote, but we are still fighting to ensure that this minority can access the polls and vote -- confidently and independently.
What I find so interesting is that if you look at the numbers, elections are usually very close and every vote matters. Elections are decided by a very small margin of votes.
Yet, there are so many voters with disabilities that do not have equal access to voting and then not voting at all.
If only a tiny percentage of people with disabilities voted, they could change an election outcome Voters with disabilities could have the power to decide who wins.
Research shows that voters with disabilities have the potential to be the largest voting block in the country. Yet, candidates and elections officials are not doing everything possible to make voting barrier-free for people with disabilities.
There are several ways to make voting accessible for people with disabilities:
- Place all polling places in accessible locations, with easy access to the facilities and with accessible parking and access to public transportation.
- Make sure that all polling locations have accessible voting machines and that poll workers are trained on how to use them.
- Make a vote by mail accessible for people with disabilities by allowing them to vote online and then have an electronic ballot return.
- Educate voters with disabilities and let them know all the different voting options.
- Candidates must make their events accessible, their website accessible, and their materials accessible so that voters with disabilities can learn what they stand for and what their campaign platforms are.
Imagine if people with disabilities voted at the same rate as people without disabilities. There would be about 2 million more votes, and that would definitely change who won an election. If candidates realize the power of the disability vote, I truly believe that voting would be accessible to all.
I love the words of Justin Dart, Jr., “Vote as if your life depends on it because it does.” This is what the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and the REVUP Campaign (Register! Educate! Vote! Use your Power!) are doing to ensure that people with disabilities can vote. REV UP is a network of grassroots coalitions and partner organizations working to advance the Disability Vote. My organization is working through our state REV UP chapter to educate people with disabilities, candidates, and election officials on the power of the disability vote. We are working to make sure that voting is accessible for everyone that is eligible to vote.
About the Author
Deborah Dietz – Is the founder and executive director of the Disability Independence Group and the co-founder of the REV UP Chapter in Florida. Ms. Dietz has a bachelor’s degree in Science Education from Boston University and a master’s degree in Business Administration from Florida International University.
Ms. Dietz is a dynamic and strategic leader who works to support opportunities for participation, education, employment, and acceptance of persons with disabilities through advocacy, education, and training. She participates in a number of local, state, and national organizations on issues related to voting rights, domestic violence, sexual assault, independent living, and civic engagement.
Ms. Dietz was awarded The League of Women Voters of Miami-Dade County Women Who Shine Award in 2019.