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Disability Empowerment

The Barriers to Voting for People With Disabilities

Rachita Singh

REV UP and Communications Coordinator, American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)

The disability community is a powerful voting bloc that has been systematically neglected, caused and evidenced by an abundance of barriers. One in four American adults has a disability, according to the CDC, yet voting, one of the basic rights of all citizens, is not fully accessible. 

People with disabilities are often overlooked when it comes to political participation, leading to a 5 percentage point difference in voter turnout between them and those without disabilities in the 2018 midterm elections. This gap translates to a difference of over 2.35 million people. 

Research shows the most common reasons this population has refrained from voting are the following:

  • Lack of transportation and inaccessibility: People with disabilities were more likely to cite transportation problems as a reason for not voting in 2018 (8 percent compared to 2 percent of non-disabled people). Voting machines at polling stations are often not working or are improperly operated by poll workers. 
  • Discrimination and voter suppression: Disregarding the ADA and not investing in accessibility discriminates against people with disabilities and makes them feel unequal. This is furthered by voter suppression laws like the requirement of photo identification or the elimination of early voting. Such actions damage the perception disabled people have of the impact of their vote.
  • Lack of information and voter apathy: Because people do not reach out to the disability community enough, they are even less informed about the voting process. Accessibility options are not publicized, so many people do not know that they have the ability to vote. Of those who are informed, many do not feel motivated to vote due to the belief their votes do not matter and their lives will not change. 

In order to make sure the voices of people with disabilities are heard, the barriers to voting must be removed and the disability community’s political power must be acknowledged. 

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