The Ruderman White Paper on Voting Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities

Publication Date: 
29 Sep 2016

Publication Type:

In 2016, the Ruderman Foundation published a white paper on the barriers that exist to electoral access for persons with disabilities in the United States.

Below is an excerpt from the executive summary:

"People with disabilities in the U.S. regularly struggle to exercise their right to vote despite a patchwork of pieces of legislation that ensure their access to the electoral process. The Government Accountability Office reports that in the 2008 national election 73% of polling places had some potential barrier. A study conducted by Rutgers University and Syracuse University looked at the 2012 election and voters with disabilities and found that if voters with disabilities voted at the same rate as voters with the exact same demographics, but without disabilities, three more million people would have voted in the 2012 election.

"Voting is a sacred trust in a democracy, and it is an obligation of the society to make it accessible to all eligible citizens. To better understand the obstacles that are creating this nation-wide problem and to identify ways to remedy them, we interviewed seven national and three international experts on election administration and accessibility.

"We have identified five primary recurring barriers to voting accessibility for people with disabilities:

  • Insufficient poll worker training
  • Access barriers to polls (including publicly available transportation)
  • Access barriers to elections material and registration material prior to elections
  • Stigma (including against developmental and psychiatric disabilities)
  • Limitations on resources available to election officials

"In all these cases, the experts contended that we know and have the solutions to the problems and need to ensure rigorous implementation."

International Foundation for Electoral Systems Senior Access and Inclusion Specialist Virginia Atkinson was interviewed for the paper.