Navigating ADA Accessibility at Polling Locations
- August 5, 2016
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During the 2016 election season, more than 30 million Americans with special needs will be traveling to one of the more than 100,000 polling locations to cast their vote. To ensure that citizens with disabilities are able to exercise their right to vote, Federal law requires all polling places to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, according to a 2006 report by the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) 87.7 percent of polling places were ADA-compliant. With that in mind, here are a few tips for navigating ADA accessibility at polling locations.
Arriving At Your Polling Location
The accessibility of a polling place starts in the parking lot and drop-off points and applies to all the pathways that a disabled voter will navigate to arrive at the voting booth. The ADA requires parking lots, passenger drop-off areas and walkways at polling places to be accessible and of desirable width. Keep in mind that temporary solutions such as the use of portable ramps may be put in place to ensure the polling location meets ADA requirements.
Accessible Parking for Your Conversion Van
Where parking is available for voters, one or more spaces must be reserved and clearly marked for handicapped parking. The ADA requires at least one of the handicapped spaces be wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair accessible van. Handicapped parking surfaces are required to be slip-resistant and free of mud and gravel.
Accessible Passenger Drop-Off Locations
The polling location must also provide at least one accessible passenger drop-off location at the entrance that is specifically for individuals with special needs who depend on wheelchairs and other devices for mobility.
Availability of Wheelchair Ramps for Entering the Facility
Even a single short step along the way can impede access to a voting booth for many individuals with disabilities. That’s why the ADA requires polling places to install a wheelchair ramp, even if it is temporary, if there are steps at the entrance. All wheelchair accessible ramps must meet ADA requirements with regard to slope, landings, handrails and protection on the edges.
To help ensure a smooth voting process, it’s important to plan ahead. Since polling locations can change, make sure you know where your polling precinct is located before heading out to the polls. To verify your assigned polling precinct and to find out if it is ADA compliant and has wheelchair accessible parking, you can contact the elections supervisor’s office in your county of residence.