We want a private, independent vote too

While the right to vote has been given to Americans regardless of race, religion, gender, status and a host of other labels, it is not a private and independent vote for all Americans.

While physical accessibility remains an issue at many polling places, that is not the biggest issue facing the community of persons with a disability who vote. Training or, shall we say, lack of training given to poll workers for any type of accommodation is a big issue.

In 2019, all 67 counties in our state will be getting new updated voting machines. New machines mean better technology and accessibility and new training. Please, don’t disregard topics such as turning on audio features, changing the print size, locating jacks and connecting headphones, adjusting the height or keyboard/pad connectivity and use.

Many counties, including Lycoming and Clinton, have yet to select the voting equipment that will soon be used for voting. I am asking that all people with disabilities, disability advocates, and supporters of Civil Rights, please contact your county’s voter services office about election accessibility. Make it known that accessibility cannot be compromised. Over and over, we hear of poor election turnouts. Perhaps that is due to the barriers that still exist. Voting should be a positive experience for all who choose to participate.

Let’s make 2019 the year of new modern voting. Let’s change, “we want” to “we have” for Pennsylvania’s voters with disabilities.

For more information on new machines or to register to vote, contact your local board of elections. For assistance with registering to vote, contact Karen Koch at The Center for Independent Living of North Central PA at 570-327-9070.

Karen Koch is a disability rights advocate with The Center for Independent Living of North Central PA.

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