Voting with a Disability Made Easier

It’s a common enough phrase around election time to hear that if you vote it’s your right to complain about the current state of affairs. The flip-side of that statement is if you don’t vote you are not entitled to express your opinion about the outcome of the Presidential Election or the state of affairs of your country; things that affect you every day. While there is merit to this idea, what about the people who can’t vote because of limitations or a disability; do they just become forgotten?

Due to the efforts of Research Alliance for Accessible Voting (RAAV) people with disabilities will be able to take an active role in the 2012 Presidential Election. RAAV believes that: Accessible voting is about more than voting machines. It includes physical access, integration with individual voters’ assistive technology, and information available in language and formats that meet the needs of all.

In order to get a step closer in achieving this goal in Illinois the Northwest Illinois coordinator, Michelle Miller, will be visiting Goodwill on September 25 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., where attendees can learn for themselves how to use the Auto Mark Voting Machine. People who would need access to voting in a private and accommodating method in order to express their right to vote this election are encouraged to register by calling 815-965-3795.

This event is open to senior citizens, people with disabilities, staff, caregivers, family members and anyone interested in learning more. I work with a lot of people with barriers to employment, but there are more barriers to living every day as well and it’s important to have the knowledge and understanding to surpass them.

For those who can’t make it to Goodwill in September, here is a break down of how it works: the voter inserts their paper ballot into the machine and makes candidate selections on a touchscreen with text that can be enlarged for easier reading. Voters are also given the option to use headphones to hear a recorded list of candidates for each race and then make their selections on a keyboard or via a sip/puff device. Ballots are counted by hand or by optical scanner.

In 2008, there were a reported 35 million Americans with disabilities who were eligible to vote, but only 15 million went to the polls on Election Day. That left 20 million people with disabilities without a voice, due in large part to their limitations and being uninformed of their options. Join Michelle Miller and Goodwill in support of giving people with disabilities more information on September 25th.

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