ID: "Vote here" sign sits in a dark and moody hallway.
Accessibility challenges lead to stories about voters going to the polls and having to turn back, because either they could not get in or could not access a ballot. One in four adults in Michigan and nearly 25% of the United States population has a disability. A recent report finds that only 16% of Detroit polling locations are fully accessible and potentially exclude one-fourth of the population from the democratic process. Groups advocating for accessible voting want to spread awareness about how detrimental lack of access is to communities. Detroit Disability Power executive director Dessa Cosma says the policies are clear that voting locations meet the needs of all voters, but enforcing those rules is equally important.
“That is where clerks and other election officials really come in because it’s their responsibility to make sure that all the polling locations are meeting the requirements of the law. We’re here to help them implement the best practices for making sure their polling locations are accessible, and that many of the things that they need to do are not that hard, and are certainly not that expensive.”
Cosma says simple changes are needed like clearly marked accessible parking, ensuring the accessible door to the building is unlocked even if it isn’t the primary entrance, making sure every precinct has a wheelchair-height voting booth, and that all accessible voting machines are maintained, plugged in and turned on.