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School Polling Sites Pose Barriers for New Yorkers with Disabilities

March 10, 2008

New York, NY — As New Yorkers get ready to participate in one of the most competitive presidential contests in decades, a new survey finds that those with disabilities are likely to encounter barriers in the voting process, particularly at schools. Although new, accessible voting machines will be in place for the General Election, the survey finds other obstacles remain.

As part of the "Help America Vote Act" (HAVA), New York gets millions of dollars to remove barriers to voting. After eight surveys, however, Aaron Belisle of the Center for Independence of the Disabled says the results continue to indicate barriers in about three-quarters of polling sites. Problems range from access ramps that lead to locked doors, to temporary ramps where a voter can face a difficult decision -- that has nothing to do with politics.

"He doesn't feel he has a choice; it's either, 'Well, I can go up this temporary ramp that's not quite safe, or I cannot vote here today.' And the unfortunate thing about that is, this is the same school where his son goes. He's unable to attend parent-teacher meetings or events at the school, because they are held in inaccessible rooms that he can't get into."

According to Belisle, it's not just voters who are reporting problems. Poll workers with disabilities also report barriers, including the inability to get to a wheelchair-accessible restroom at a school, while classes are in session.

View the survey results from CID at

Michael Clifford/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - NY