Thirty one years ago today, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. Modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, this landmark legislation was heralded as a way to give people with disabilities protection from discrimination while guaranteeing their rights to access employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services, and to participate in State and local government programs and services.
While the events on July 26, 1990 propelled the disability rights movement in ways we hoped—and ways we never imagined—it’s unfathomable that we’re here, over three decades later, and people with disabilities are still facing barriers to exercising one of their most fundamental rights: the right to vote.
The following are comments submitted by Disability Lead to the National Institute of Standards and Technology on these barriers and how they should be addressed and removed.
At Disability Lead, a disability-led organization committed to developing and connecting leaders with disabilities to civic opportunities, we are gravely concerned about laws that deteriorate our voting rights.
Last year, we convened an event and conversation with Fair Fight to examine this issue. What was revealed is that even in a state like Illinois with relatively expansive voting access, significant barriers exist.
Disability Lead members and other members of Illinois’ disability community shared experiences of barriers that fundamentally strip privacy and dignity from the voting process:
People with disabilities have an incredible stake in every election and deserve the opportunity to cast their vote in safe, private, and respectful ways.
As for solutions, we recommend:
We have the right and responsibility to participate in the electoral process—our lives and livelihoods as people with disabilities depend on it. We appreciate the focus on removing barriers and upholding these civil rights that must be protected. Thank you for your consideration.