Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

Voting Accessibility Challenges in 2022

by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern

The November 8, 2022 midterm elections are just around the corner, and for those who wish to vote by mail, application deadlines for mail-in ballots in many states are approaching. On a recent episode of The Takeaway radio show produced by WNYC, journalist Melissa Harris-Perry spoke with Michelle Bishop, Voting Access and Engagement Manager for the National Disability Rights Network, about trends in voting accessibility from 2016 to the present. They discussed how, in 2016, the Government Accountability Office found that fewer than half of in-person voting places were compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), noting that accessibility improved in 2020 with the increasing use of mail-in ballots. Since 2020, however, accessibility seems once again to be declining. A major factor is the enacting of new laws restricting eligibility to vote by mail, requiring voters with disabilities to present medical documentation, and curtailing voters’ right to bring an assistant to the polling place. Other hurdles have to do with the lack of training for poll workers on the voting machines that make it possible for voters with disabilities to cast their ballots, and fears that these machines can be tampered with, leading to voter fraud. The inaccessibility of elections, however, does not come just from voting itself. A study of midterm campaign websites published by the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually-Impaired, found that none of the websites they examined could be considered fully accessible, and many did not even include an accessibility statement. The study’s findings, which surveyed websites in several states, were also reported on by Forbes and Time. Harris-Perry and Bishop concluded by pointing out that by improving the accessibility of voting in all forms, we improve the experience for everyone.