On Nov. 3, citizens gathered at their local polling places to vote in the 2020 election.
Many local Delaware residents showed up to vote, and for disabled voters, certain guidelines and regulations were met statewide to make voting easy and safe for all.
According to Laura J. Waterland, the project director of the Disabilities Law Program of the Community Legal Aid Society Inc. (CLASI), the voting machines in Delaware offered features that allowed all disabled individuals accessible voting.
“Every American is entitled to vote independently and privately,” Waterland said in an email. “The Delaware voting machine, the ExpressXL, has a lot of very good accessibility features including headphones and control pads so that individuals who are visually impaired or who prefer oral instructions can use the machine to vote.”
After making observations at polling locations, some voters with disabilities were given the opportunity to move to the front of the lines on Election Day in hopes that they wouldn’t have to wait in the long lines and in certain places around the country, in the cold weather.
Polling places were also required to offer accessible parking which would lead to a curb cut or ramp and provide a quick access route into the building.
The building must be able to accommodate voters who use wheelchairs so that they can safely fit through the doors and make their way to the polling area.
“The door needs to be wide enough, have accessible handles and not be too heavy to pull,” Waterland said. “Some polling places have someone stationed to open the door. Inside, there should be no obstructions on the way to the polling area, and it should be well-marked.”
Waterland also mentioned that an alternative option for a voter with disabilities is that they can take a person of their choice into the booth to help them vote, if needed.
Pine Run Retirement Community in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, has a companion services department. Ceil Krajewski, the senior director of Villager Services, assigns companions to residents for all sorts of assistance on Election Day.
“Those who struggle with mobility had their companion walk them through the polls, while our residents in long-term care had assistance in filling out and reading their mail-in ballots,” Krajewski said.
According to Waterland, there was a lower demand for accessible voting centers this year compared to other elections because many people opted for alternative voting methods.
“There will be lower demand because many, many people — maybe 50% or more — have taken advantage of mail-in and absentee ballots,” Waterland said, prior to Election Day. “There will be fewer people, but the process will take longer due to precautions.”