A friend of mine in New York State visited his polling place early this morning. Supposedly, the polls were “HANDICAP ACCESSIBLE” — and signs were posted to that effect. But when he followed “VOTE HERE” signs to the front door, he discovered that anyone in a wheelchair would have to take two steps down to reach the polling place.
Election officials were simply unaware of the problem. After some discussion, they realized there was a second entrance that was, in fact, accessible. But there was no “Wheelchair Access” sign at the second entrance. Handicap parking was a block away, around the corner, and there were no signs pointing the way to the accessible side entrance.
Fortunately, election officials were happy to post signs and clear the way — once it was brought to their attention. In fact, they found a “Wheelchair Access” sign lying on a folding chair. Apparently, it had been left there the night before, and no one had bothered to set it up.
What can you do?
If you are voting today at a place that is supposed to be handicap accessible, keep your eyes open!
• Are there signs clearly pointing to the wheelchair-access points?
• Do you see steps or other impediments that would prevent anyone in a wheelchair from getting to the polling booth?
• If doors do not open automatically, is an election official posted nearby to assist?
• Are election officials aware of the access route — and have they checked it out?
As my friend discovered this morning, people managing the polling booth (they’re all volunteers!) may be perfectly willing to help every voter gain access — yet be unaware of the challenges facing the handicapped. So please look around. If you were in a wheelchair, could you find your way to the polling booths?
If you see someone in a wheelchair or with any other kind of handicap have a problem, bring it to the attention of polling-booth officials. Or just ask how you can help.
This an important day for democracy. Please help make it count for everyone.
Let me know what your experience was today at the polling booth.