As soon as I turned 18, I knew my vote mattered. The Department of Human Services had repeatedly attempted to deny funding for my essential health services. I began seeing disability policy issues everywhere in my world and wanted to elect politicians that fought for my ability to be an equal and active member of society. Ever since they attempted to cut my funding for healthcare, I knew voting was vital to ensure my rights as a disabled person.
I was privileged enough to physically access a polling location for the 2018 midterms. However, I quickly realized that accessibility was an afterthought. The massive cracks in the sidewalk were challenging enough for someone like me with a mobility impairment, let alone someone utilizing a wheelchair. Once in the church, the long lines and lack of seating made me fatigued because I cannot stand for extended periods of time. The overcrowded polling location significantly increased my anxiety, and I felt compelled to finish my ballot quickly. I left the polling location with the “I Voted” sticker proudly displayed on my jacket. However, I felt insignificant because of the numerous obstacles I faced.
As the June 2020 primary approached, I knew COVID-19 would significantly alter my voting experience. My compromised immune system forced me to quarantine beginning in March. Even though I recognized the importance of my vote, I decided not to risk my health by voting in person at an inaccessible polling place. I needed to vote absentee. While I definitely missed the satisfaction of the “I Voted” sticker, absentee voting made it possible for me to maintain my health while contributing to our democracy.
The political opinions of disabled people will have a profound impact on the upcoming November election provided that they are given safe and accessible voting options. Absentee ballots are crucial tools to ensure disabled individuals’ votes are counted. For those who cannot vote using a paper absentee ballot due to vision impairments, fine motor issues, or other obstacles, curbside voting is also available. All polling places in Iowa offer this service, so any disabled individual does not have to leave their car and risk exposure to vote. Absentee and curbside voting provide the opportunity for disabled individuals to vote privately and independently. Disabled Iowans have a valuable political perspective that must be represented in all upcoming elections. Further, federal and state governments have a responsibility to protect the voting rights of disabled people by ensuring they have equal access to accessible ballots and polling places. I urge all of my fellow disabled voters to stay safe, vote absentee or curbside, and #CriptheVote in November!