November 7, 2008
The majority of Americans with disabilities are not registered to vote. I was trying to find some statistics to post here, but there is not a lot of research on the topic, either.
When I was in New Hampshire, the entrance to the polling place I voted at had stairs and no ramp into the building. The exit, however, had a concrete ramp. So in order for a person who could not climb stairs to vote (and I did witness this with one senior citizen who used a walker) that person would have to go in the out door, which left him or her on the wrong side of all the registration tables. The traffic flow was only suitable for one-way traffic.
A better-designed layout would have had a traffic flow that had people going in the ramp door and out down the stairs. This still means that a person not using the stairs would have to go against the flow of traffic to leave.
The reason this is preferable is to accommodate people who might have cognitive or communication impairments in addition to a physical disability. The flow of the room should make it easy to determine what to do without having to ask. If nothing else, one could imitate the person ahead of you in line, something I do as a nondisabled person put in a new or unfamiliar situation all the time.
In the place I voted in PA, there was only one door so everyone had to go against the flow of traffic to leave. It wouldn’t have been any more awkward for someone in a wheelchair, scooter or with a walker than for anyone else. (If I were running that polling place, I would have still turned the check-in tables ninety degrees do direct flow better, but it was functional the way it was).
Some technology after the jump.
Centre County had eliminated the touch-screen voting machines (thank goodness) in favor of optical scan paper ballots. There was one touch-screen machine that was a ballot marker in the polling station (an ES&S AutoMark). These are not without their problems, but this seemed like it could be an accessible system for a wide range of people with all sorts of disabilities. I didn’t get to see anybody use it, though.