Disability Rights Arkansas released a report today that says half of Arkansas polling places present obstacles to accessibility to the disabled.
The group, which surveyed most polls in the state, urged the secretary of state and state Board of Election Commissioners to take immediate steps to move polling place to accessible locations or make current polls accessible. It urged state monitoring to be sure the work has done. Said a release:
“Twenty-eight years have passed since the Americans with Disabilities Act became law,and sixteen years since the Help America Vote Act became law. It is inexcusable that roughly half of the polling places we surveyed have some physical barrier that could prevent a person with a disability from exercising their right to vote,” said Tom Masseau, Executive Director.
Disability Rights, a private group that receives government support for its work, undertook a state survey following a national sample that indicated access problems across the country. The results:
Building upon the SABE and GAO reports, Disability Rights Arkansas surveyed 90% of the polling places throughout Arkansas for accessibility. DRA surveyed the parking areas, exterior paths of travel, and entrances to polling places to determine what barriers
to entry to the polling places still exist. DRA found that 49% of the surveyed polling places had at least one barrier that could prevent a voter with a disability from accessing the polls.
Upon concluding the survey, DRA reached out to the state and counties to determine what has been done to ensure accessibility of polling places in the state. We found that the state has not provided adequate guidance to county officials on polling place accessibility and county officials are still not making sure that polling places are accessible.
One problem is that churches are exempt from ADA requirements and 460 of 1,100 polling places surveyed were at churches or other exempt religious organizations. But to be used as polling places, they must be compliant, the Rights group said.
Also, the survey was limited to exteriors. Because private buildings are sometimes used, the surveyors couldn’t always get inside to check conditions there. Most violations were in parking — lack of accessible parking, lack of curb cuts to lead to walkways, lack of ramps, signage