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Disability Advocates to Survey NYC Polling Places for Accessibility

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Monday, June 27, 2022   

Tomorrow marks the New York primary, and advocates for New Yorkers with disabilities are raising awareness about the barriers some voters face for casting a ballot.

Groups such as the Center for Independence of the Disabled New York (CIDNY) have tips for election officials on how to make sure a given polling place is completely accessible.

Monica Bartley, manager of community organizers for CIDNY, said it is rare to see an election without any accessibility roadblocks, and she noted the types of barriers vary from missing signage to too-steep ramps.

"It could be pathways that have barriers that could obstruct you; for example, broken concrete," Bartley explained. "There is a problem of narrow doorways as well as ballot marking devices that don't work."

Throughout voting, CIDNY staff and volunteers will be monitoring polling places in New York City with an accessibility checklist, to make sure state guidelines are followed.

According to CIDNY's 2021 survey, out of 45 election sites in Manhattan, about half had at least one obstacle which could prevent someone with a disability from voting.

Bartley noted they plan to share the results with the New York Board of Elections, and advocate for them to address any issues.

"It may be that site is no longer used," Bartley noted. "Or they may take remedial action. It may be a doorway that is too narrow, so it means they may remove the door frame to give us the additional space."

The 2021 report makes three major buckets of recommendations for guaranteeing polling places are accessible to all: ensuring clear and level pathways throughout each polling place, posting adequate signage, and piloting walk-throughs of sites with disability advocates.

Bartley added more training may be needed for some poll workers on how to operate ballot-marking devices as well.

Disclosure: The Center for Independence of the Disabled New York contributes to our fund for reporting on Disabilities. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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