April 01 2023 06:00 pm

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — On election day, voting can look different for individuals with disabilities. While there are accommodations available, there are numerous ways to further improve the process. Zach Garafalo, Manager of Government Affairs at the Center for Disability, said ensuring accessibility is essential.

“It’s the largest minority in the United States that anybody at any point in time can join because of an accident, [or an] illness,” said Garafalo.

Because of this, Garafalo said the goal of the Center for Disability Rights is, “to make voting as accessible, and inclusive, and as simple as possible for every eligible voter.”

A way of ensuring voting is accessible is through having disability representation in staffing at polls.

“They’re the ones who are using motorized wheelchairs. They’re the ones blind and having to use a cane and a service animal,” said Garafalo.

While polling sites do have accessibility options, Ayishetu Mamudu, Deaf Systems Advocate at the Center for Disability Rights, said it’s important that staff knows how to help individuals with disabilities,

“Those staff people that work the voting sites are there to guide you and help you, so they really need to be trained on how participate and engage with that,” said Mamudu.

But, when access to transportation is a challenge, absentee ballots are necessary for some individuals. Thomas Turner, who has voted both in-person and via absentee ballot, was born with the condition Spina Bifida. He is paralyzed from the waist down and is also recovering from a shoulder injury.

Turner said because he currently has limited access to transporation, having absentee ballots have been a godsend.

“When you become homebound through no fault of your own, it’s just an easier means of doing your civic duty,” said Turner.

While absentee options can simplify the process for individuals with disabilities, Mamudu said there are still reasons to further improve accessibility.

“What if a disabled person wants to run for office? They should be able to. They should be able to run for office if they so choose,” said Mamudu.

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