The word disability was noticeably absent from the campaign trail in 2012, but 2016 has been an entirely different election year. One candidate for president seemingly mocked a reporter with disabilities. Another candidate spoke to the advocacy groups trying to give a voice to Americans with disabilities. Then a woman in a wheelchair delivered a speech to one of the party conventions during a primetime slot! The United States has suddenly noticed that there are people in this country living with disabilities, but just how significant are these voters to the upcoming election?
People with Disabilities Are Eligible to Vote, But Can They Make a Difference?
The number of voters with disabilities is no small statistic to be ignored. Experts estimate that 34.6 million Americans with disabilities are eligible to vote, and that number has only been climbing in recent years. Since 2008, the number of people with disabilities who are eligible to vote has grown by 10.8 percent while the voter pool from people without disabilities has only grown by 8.5 percent. That may explain why movements like #CripTheVote have been growing in popularity, but there are still barriers to people with disabilities voting.
What Challenges do People with Disabilities Face at the Polls?
Due to the challenges many people with disabilities face there is a polling gap of around 12 percent between them and their disability free counterparts. Experts blame this disparity on several elements. First, isolation experienced by many people with disabilities could keep them from getting active in their communities and the vote. That’s why activists are asking these people’s loved ones to take the extra step to get involved.
Polling places are also notoriously famous for being difficult to access. Some people with disabilities have difficulty voting because they can’t travel to polling places. But centers and groups are doing their best to offer rides and to show voters how to register for a mail-in ballot. Other groups are doubling down by challenging different polling places to be more accessible, and they are taking government officials to court to make sure election materials are easier for people to use. This court fight also includes guardianship laws, which restrict people under guardianship from voting.
In today’s modern world, there are multiple ways to overcome the difficulties of voting, and now might be the best time take advantage of these new methods. More issues that affect the disability community are being considered now than ever before. We can’t afford to let them be ignored or swept under the rug, so now is the time to make our voices heard. If you have ideas to help spread the word about disability issues, share them on Facebook and Twitter. You can also learn more about this election and making your voice count by following our disability blog and hunting down the Crip the Vote hashtag.