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Groups Help Oregonians with Disabilities Register to Vote

There are more than 800,000 people living with a disability in Oregon. (pixabay)
There are more than 800,000 people living with a disability in Oregon. (pixabay)
July 13, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. - More than 800,000 Oregonians are living with a disability, and this week the attention is on making sure they have an opportunity to vote. It's National Disability Voter Registration Week, and groups including Deaf People United and the Autism Society of Oregon are assisting with voter registration and voting efforts among the disability community.

Esther Harlow, voting rights advocate for Disability Rights Oregon, said it's an important week.

"It's making sure that everyone understands that people with disabilities have a right to vote in Oregon," she said. "Regardless of whether they have a guardian, regardless of whether they can read their ballots, they still have that right to vote."

Harlow said voters in Oregon have an easier time than in some other states because all ballots are cast by mail. However, she said, there's still some concern that some ballot drops could be too high and therefore don't meet standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

People might not realize that election officials are able to accommodate a voter with nearly any kind of disability, Harlow said. For example, every county in Oregon has tablet computers that can be delivered and used so a person can vote from the privacy of home.

"The person can use the tablet to plug in a sip-and-puff controller that they can use if they are, for instance quadriplegic," she said, "or they can magnify the text if they have a vision impairment, or they can have the text read to them from the tablet if they are blind."

People with disabilities could make up a major voting bloc in the United States. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 57 million Americans between ages 18 and 64 are living with a disability.

Information about National Disability Voter Registration Week is online at disability.gov.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR