On Tuesday, November 8, we will have the privilege of exercising our freedom as a nation by casting our votes for elected officials. And while things seem more divisive than any campaign in recent history, I think we can all agree that this year's election will be one of the most important of our lifetime.
As a community of people with disabilities, we have a large role to play in shaping the outcome of this election and amplifying our voice. According to the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), roughly 34.6 million people with disabilities will be eligible to vote in the 2016 election. In fact, that's more than the number of eligible African American and Latino voters.
So imagine the kind of power and impact we could have as a community if we all got out and voted. But how many of us will actually do it? If we look at the 2012 election, the numbers don't look good. That year, only 56% of people with disabilities voted, compared to 62% of people without disabilities.
Why was that? And what is it now that keeps us from exercising our collective voice more fully? As it turns out, many things. On the practical side, there are obvious, direct barriers: lack of transportation, bad weather, inaccessible polling places and other factors make the physical act of voting difficult for many of us.
But there are other barriers that aren't so obvious. Many eligible voters with disabilities feel like their voice simply doesn't matter, not just because of the physical barriers, but also because of a sense that no one cares enough to get them to the polls, help them at the polls, or even help them register to vote in the first place. They feel deflated and defeated. Maybe that's how YOU feel.
The good news is that it doesn't have to be this way and there is, in fact, a lot we can do today to change things. For instance, those who have physical difficulty getting to the polls can request absentee ballot forms and vote that way. In fact, you can find those forms and instructions here.
Additionally, people can get information about voter registration and accessible polling places directly from us. Contact Lucia Rios or Kristin Myers and they will help point you in the right direction.
Clearly, there are plenty of resources that are readily available, and we are glad to be your resource. But let's think bigger. Let's not stop raising our voice after election day. Come back to this page after November 8 and post comments about your voting experience. How accessible was your polling place? What was missing? What barriers did you face? Who helped you and how did they help?
Let's identify the barriers to voting so that together we can make change happen!