By Dania Douglas, Director of Public Policy and Advocacy – Disability Network
July marks a month full of celebrations and anniversaries for the disability community, including the 29th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26 and the 51st anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid. This week, Lutheran Services in America joins with our national partners to recognize National Disability Voter Registration Week.
The 2018 mid-term elections were historic, with a 53 percent voter turnout nationwide. This marked the highest voter turnout in nearly 40 years. New research from Rutgers University shows that voter turnout among people with disabilities also surged in these elections to 49.3 percent, an 8.5 percent increase over 2014 turnouts. And disability community members do more than vote; they have a strong record of bipartisan activism. Disability advocates worked with representatives from both sides of the aisle to pass historic legislation like the ADA.
Yet, people with disabilities often face access barriers to voting. In fact, a study of 2016 polling places by the Government Accountability Office found that nearly 60 percent of polling places had at least one accessibility problem. Further, a recent analysis found that not a single presidential candidate’s website was fully accessible to people with disabilities.
Lutheran Services in America is joining together with our fellow advocates this week in promoting the REV UP Campaign, a nonpartisan initiative started in 2016 by the American Association for People with Disabilities to increase voter turnout among people with disabilities. Given the historic showing in the 2018 elections, voter participation among people with disabilities is expected to grow by 2020. Candidates are learning they must pay close attention to issues important to the disability community. As advocates, it is important that we continue to work at making polling places barrier-free for people with disabilities and to ensure that candidates produce information that is accessible to all voters.