Merribeth Greenberg merribeth.manning at gmail.com
Tue Jan 19 18:52:34 UTC 2021

I found this article very interesting, and thought I would share.
Beth Greenberg

DISABILITY AND THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESSThe 2020 election highlighted the ways
the disability community is excluded from both the right to vote and access
to voting

Maureen van Stone and Bonnielin Swenor
/ Published Jan 4
[image: Maureen van Stone, Director of the Maryland Center for
Developmental Disabilities at Kennedy Krieger Institute and Bonnielin
Swenor, director of the Johns Hopkins Disability Health Research Center]

Image caption:*Maureen van Stone
and Bonnielin Swenor
an interest in the link between health and the democratic process, and they
view this connection as a key element in shifting societal perceptions of
disability.**Van Stone is the director of the Maryland Center for
Developmental Disabilities at the Kennedy Krieger Institute
the founding director of a comprehensive medical-legal partnership, Project
HEAL (Health, Education, Advocacy and Law), which provides advocacy and
civil legal services for children with disabilities and their families.
Swenor is an epidemiologist and director of the Johns Hopkins Disability
Health Research Center <https://disabilityhealth.jhu.edu/>, focused on
addressing health inequities and enhancing inclusion for the disability
community. Her work is motivated by her personal experience with


This election season highlighted the double disparity the disability
community faces to engage in the democratic process, as this group is
simultaneously fighting for both the right to vote and access to voting.
These barriers to voting persist in large part because of the pervasive
negative views of disability that challenge societal inclusion. The paradox
is that breaking this cycle of exclusion requires electing officials who
are committed to creating disability-inclusive policies—a challenge when
voters with disabilities are not fully included in the democratic process.

Although the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
<https://www.ada.gov/ada_voting/ada_voting_ta.htm> and the subsequent ADA
Amendments Act of 2008
<https://www.eeoc.gov/statutes/ada-amendments-act-2008> mandate that people
with disabilities have a "full and equal opportunity to vote," barriers to
voting for this community persist. These obstacles include voter
registration forms or ballots that are inaccessible to people who have low
vision or are blind; lack of ramp access that prevents entry to polling
places for people who use wheelchairs or other mobility aids; poll workers
blocking people with intellectual or developmental disabilities from
voting; in some states requirements for signature matching that unfairly
impact people with degenerative physical disabilities; and the restriction
of voting rights for people under guardianship. During the 2016 election,
the Government Accountability Office
<https://www.gao.gov/assets/690/687556.pdf> examined polling places across
the U.S. and found that 65% had inaccessible voting setups, and recommended
that federal and state agencies update existing policies and guidance on
voting accessibility. While it is too soon to know whether the 2020
election has overcome these barriers, there is a clear need for continuous
data ensuring compliance with the ADA to allow the full inclusion of people
with disabilities in the democratic process.

Recent data indicates that there are approximately 38.3 million eligible
voters with disabilities
equating to one out of six voters in the United States. This estimate
reflects an almost 20% increase in voters with disabilities since 2008 and
outpaces a 12% rise in this population during the same period. But
disability policy issues impact not only individuals with a disability but
also their family members and caregivers, bringing those affected to a
total of 67.7 million, or one out of four voters. These estimates indicate
that the disability vote represents an important and growing constituency.

We do see progress, however. Since the 2016 presidential election there has
been an increased focus on including people with disabilities in the
democratic process. More candidates have developed and disseminated
disability platforms, so that voters are aware of their positions on issues
that directly impact people with disabilities, their family members, and
caregivers. Our hope is that this momentum continues and translates to
better inclusion of the disability community across society. A more
inclusive and accessible democratic process is necessary for maximizing the
health, equity, and inclusion of people with disabilities.

About The Democracy Project

*The future of democracy as a system of government is increasingly
uncertain. With a rise of populist forces globally and many existing
democracies in regression, liberty itself seems under assault. In the
United States, a diminished or warped democracy could have far-reaching
repercussions for voting rights, the rule of law, education, the
application of science, immigration, citizenship, and long-held societal
norms we take for granted.*

*Both before and after a 2020 election in which many of the defining
principles of democracy seemed to hang in the balance, an array of Johns
Hopkins experts share their greatest hopes, their deepest fears, and their
informed insights on the state of America's democratic experiment.* Read
more from The Democracy Project <https://hub.jhu.edu/the-democracy-project/>

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