A sign marks the wheelchair-accessible entrance to a polling place in South Austin in 2016.
Tasos Katopodis/AFP/Getty Images file
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City misses deadline to make all polling places accessible, 30 years after ADA became law
Chicagoans checking where to vote on Election Day may have been surprised to find that fewer than 10% of the city’s polling places were marked as accessible for people with disabilities — and a third of the city’s 50 wards had no sites considered compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners admits it has not met a deadline arising from a U.S. Department of Justice investigation that required the city to make every voting location fully accessible to people with disabilities for the last election — despite receiving a four-year extension.
“Under our agreement with the Department of Justice, we’re not at what our goal is,” said Max Bever, the board’s director of public information, “It won’t be completely equitable until that happens.”
But despite that admission, Bever insisted the majority of polling places are accessible to people with disabilities and the issue is in how the information is reported. If a site isn’t fully ADA compliant, it isn’t listed as accessible, something the board plans to change before February’s municipal elections.
“The vast majority [of Chicago’s polling places] are still usable for people with disabilities,” Bever said, noting temporary ramps and boards on sidewalk cracks are often used.
A number of issues can prevent a site from being considered ADA compliant, including stairs, no reserved parking near the entrance or a lack of bathrooms, among other things. The federal act covers both physical and mental disabilities. Bever said while the board was compiling data for this year’s election sites, officials were “quite alarmed” once they realized how few were listed as compliant.
The issue hadn’t come up during preparations for early voting, as all 52 early voting sites are listed as “fully ADA-compliant.” Since then, the board has been working to split polling places into three categories ahead of the February elections: “fully ADA-compliant, usable for voters with disabilities and inaccessible to voters with disabilities.”
“We know we need to report this information better moving forward,” Bever said. “We realized there was a lot more complexity there.”
But the planned changes aren’t enough, according to advocates for people with disabilities.
Robin Jones, director of Great Lakes ADA, a University of Illinois Chicago program acting as a resource for Midwesterners with disabilities, said more information needs to be provided, given the …read more
Source:: Chicago Sun Times