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To the editor:
The Help America Vote Act, passed in 2002, requires that all locations be accessible for every individual with a disability.
Federal and state laws require that every voting location be accessible. This includes accessible parking, the path of travel to the entrance, the building entrance, the hall leading to the voting area and the voting area. The voting area must have adequate space for a registration table, all voting booths and the accessible voting machines.
Accessibility requires that parking and the path of travel be free of gravel, grass, broken pavement and abrupt changes in level. It also includes an accessible entrance that provides a 32-inch clearance.
Door hardware must of the type that does not require grasping, twisting or pinching of the wrist.
The Kentucky Disabilities Coalition has had a contract with the state Board of Elections to assist counties in their compliance with the Help America Vote Act.
I have trained county clerks and individuals with disabilities to survey every voting location.
The training includes how to complete the U.S. Department of Justice accessibility checklist for voting locations.
The survey is based on the Americans with Disabilities accessibility guides lines. When a voting location did not meet these standards and there were not temporary solutions to make the location accessible; the report instructed the county to find another location. A team made up of the county clerk and a person with a disability who have attended the training, completes the surveys.
When Jason Denny was elected as Anderson County’s clerk, he attended such training. He recognized that some of the voting locations that were being used did not appear to be accessible.
Mr. Denny and a person with a disability then resurveyed these locations. After review of the new surveys, a report was written to document the barriers at several voting locations.
I pointed out temporary solutions where possible; however, some barriers could not be corrected with temporary solutions and would require permanent constructional improvement. These barriers included such things as gravel parking or entrances that prevented a person using a wheelchair from entering the building. When the barrier required a permanent constructional improvement and/or a temporary would not be possible, Kentucky Disabilities Coalition report stated that another location would have to be found to comply with Federal and state laws.
As the population of Anderson County ages, there will most likely be an increase in voters that require accessible voting locations. Perhaps citizens of Anderson County feel that there are not currently any voters in precincts with disabilities; however, anyone can develop a disability at anytime.
I commend Mr. Denny and the Anderson County Board of Election members for recognizing the importance of following state and federal laws and for recognizing that individuals with disabilities have a right to vote.
Executive Director, Kentucky Disabilities Coalition