The road to civil liberties and rights for those with disabilities has been a long one.  Over the next few weeks, we will highlight some of the most influential Federal civil rights law that ensures equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities.A female voter in a wheelchair opens an accessible door to a polling place

This week’s feature looks at three different acts that deal with voting. First, we will look at the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act, which focuses on polling locations for elections. The act requires polling places to be physically accessible to individuals with disabilities for federal elections. According to the act, if a polling location cannot be made accessible, alternate means must be provided. The law also requires States to make registration and voting aids available, like instructions in large type. Additionally, this act requires States to provide registration and voting help for disabled and elderly voters, including information by telecommunications devices for the deaf (TDDs) which are also known as teletypewriters (TTYs).

Another act that focuses on voting is the National Voter Registration Act, which enhances voting opportunities for every American. The act has made it easier for all Americans to register to vote and to maintain their registration. Also known as the Motor Voter Act, it requires states to provide individuals with the opportunity to register to vote at the same time that they apply for a driver’s license or seek to renew a driver’s license. The act also requires all State-funded programs that provide services to individuals with disabilities to provide assistance to applicants with completing the forms and ensure that the forms are sent to the correct place.

In the past ten years, many people became aware of the inconsistencies and inequalities in the voting system. This heightened awareness resulted in the enactment of the Help America Vote Act in 2002. The purpose of the act is to make changes in the voting process (i.e., voting machines, voter registration, provisional ballots, training for polling place workers), to make voting as inclusive as possible, particularly for individuals with disabilities.

The history of the voting rights of persons with disabilities spans more than 40 years, and will continue to change. Exercise your right to vote.

For more resources for voters with disabilities, check out this website: http://www.eac.gov/voter_resources/resources_for_voters_with_disabilities.aspx