In 2016, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was updated to include more strict and clear guidelines for polling place accessibility.
Prior to these updates, 30 percent of voters with disabilities reported having some kind of difficulty during their voting experience in the 2012 election. Now, standards for ADA compliance for polling places have been raised have been raised, and we, EZ-ACCESS, are here to help you meet those guidelines and provide equal access to voting for individuals of all abilities.
We have nationwide partnerships such as the Board of Elections in New York City to ensure their polling place entrances are accessible to individuals of all abilities and we are here to be a resource for your city as well.
The Disability Voting Gap
Experts call the underrepresentation of voters with disabilities the “disability voting gap.” The survey findings linked above also show that individuals with disabilities are slightly (2.3 percentage points) less likely to register to vote than individuals without disabilities. However, the wider gap is between those who registered to vote but did not cast their ballot. 82.1% of registered individuals with disabilities voted, but 87.5% of registered individuals without disabilities voted. While this gap may be small, it equates to roughly 3 million fewer voters with disabilities voting compared to voters without disabilities.
In the 2018 midterm, The Hill reported that “Up to 60 percent of polling places present some kind of physical barrier — a set of steps, a door without an automatic opener or some other obstacle. And the fact that election administration is so dispersed means that one county may have made different preparations than another, creating uneven access.”
Why ADA Compliance Matters for Voting
Individuals with limited mobility have criticized the lack of access offered at polling places over the last several elections by stating that the lower voter turnout is due to physical barriers and safety issues. In fact, follow-up studies (referenced in the article) confirm this by stating, “Voting among people with disabilities can be discouraged by barriers getting to or using polling places, which make voting more time-consuming and difficult, and may also decrease feelings of efficacy by sending the message that people with disabilities are not fully welcome in the political sphere.”
The federal government recognizes that physical barriers to polling places hinder an individual’s right to participate in U.S. elections. Because of this criticism, federal laws that ensure an equal right to vote for individuals of all abilities will be enforced in the 2020 election more than ever. These laws include:
- Voting Rights Act of 1965
- Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984
- Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
- Help America Vote Act of 2002
In general, federal laws require polling places to make accommodations to voting locations so individuals using complex rehab technology (wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, etc.) have the same opportunity to participate in elections as voters without disabilities.
How to Meet ADA Compliance
While there are four acts that have been passed, as mentioned above, the most updated guidelines are from the 2016 amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Here is a checklist of requirements for a voting location:
- 1 accessible space per every 25 spaces
- 1 of every 6 accessible spaces must be van accessible
- Spaces should be at least 60 inches wide for cars and 96 inches for vans
- The spaces must be marked with the International Symbol of Accessibility
- Accessible parking spaces must have surfaces that are free from cracks and are slip-resistant
Exterior and Interior Routes
- Accessible routes must start at parking and passenger drop-off sites and extend to the voting facility
- At least 36” wide (can be 32” wide for a distance of 24” on the ramp)
- Accessible routes indoors cannot have abrupt changes in levels, steps, high thresholds, or pathways with a slope greater than 1:12
- Signs are required to direct voters to the accessible route and voting area
- There must be one accessible entrance at the voting facility
- At least one door must have a minimum width of 32”
- Door handles must be easy to use with one hand
- Doorways may not have raised thresholds
- Inaccessible entrances must have signs that point to the accessible entrance(s)
Lift and Elevators
- If the voting area is not on the same level as the building entrance, the facility must have an elevator or lift
- All controls need to be operable and no higher than 48” from the ground
To get a printable checklist with full problem and solution details, visit this ADA voting checklist.
As the experts and trusted partners in commercial-grade wheelchair ramps, we urge you to thoroughly research any solutions that claim ADA compliance. Not all ramps meet ADA guidelines, however, we can guarantee that the PATHWAY® HD Code Compliant Modular Access System meets even the latest standards from 2016 and can create an accessible entrance for your polling places.
If you are in need of solutions for the entrances of your polling places in your city, contact us today and we will provide additional information as well as answers to any questions you may have. We have a nationwide network of trained contractors that can provide anything from site evaluations to installation to tear down and storage. We are a turnkey, trusted partner for all things access.