Volume 11, Issue 2, Enfranchisement and People with Disabilities

In this edition of reSearch we explore the topic of enfranchisement and people with disabilities – specifically voting, political participation, and civic engagement.  There were approximately 39.6 million people with disabilities living in the United States in 2014 accounting for roughly 12.6 percent of the overall U.S. population.  Of those individuals with disabilities, 92.3 percent were of voting age (18 years and older), yet eligible citizens with disabilities are less likely to vote than eligible citizens without disabilities (http://www.disabilitycompendium.org/docs/default-source/2015-compendium/annualreport_2025_final.pdf & https://smlr.rutgers.edu/news/projecting-number-eligible-voters-disabilities-november-2016-elections-research-report).  

Voting is considered to be one of the most fundamental rights as a U.S. citizen and a hallmark of democracy.  Since the Constitution was written voting rights have become more inclusive to all citizens.  Important federal civil right laws have been enacted to combat various forms of discrimination, and protect the fundamental right to vote for all Americans regardless of race, color, sex, national origin, age, religion, or disability.  The following are federal laws protecting the rights of voters with disabilities:

Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) – The VRA requires election officials to allow a voter who is blind or has another disability to receive assistance from a person of a voter’s choice (other than the voter’s employer or its agent or an officer or agent of the voter’s union).  The VRA also prohibits conditioning the right to vote on a citizen being able to read or write, attaining a particular level of education, or passing an interpretation “test.”  

Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984 (VAEHA) – The VAEHA requires accessible polling places in federal elections for elderly individuals and people with disabilities.  Where no accessible location is available to serve as a polling place, voters must be provided with alternative means of voting on Election Day.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – The ADA is a federal civil rights law that provides protections to people with disabilities that are similar to protections provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion.  Specifically, Title II of the ADA requires state and local governments (i.e., “public entities”) to ensure that people with disabilities have full and equal opportunity to vote in national, state, county, and local elections.  The ADA’s provisions apply to all aspects of voting, including, voter registration, site selection, and the casting of ballots, whether on Election Day or during the early voting process.  

National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) – The NVRA aims, among other things, to increase the historically low registration rates of persons with disabilities.  The NVRA requires all offices that provide public assistance or state-funded programs that primarily serve persons with disabilities to also provide the opportunity to register to vote in federal elections.  

Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) – The HAVA requires jurisdictions responsible for conducting federal elections to provide at least one accessible voting system for persons with disabilities at each polling place in federal elections.  The accessible voting system must provide the same opportunity for access and participation, including privacy and independence that other voters receive (http://www.ada.gov/ada_voting/ada_voting_ta.htm).  

Despite these federal laws, people with disabilities remain less likely than those without disabilities to vote and be engaged in other forms of political activity (http://www.eac.gov/assets/1/Documents/Lisa%20Shur,%20Political%20Participation%20and%20Attitudes_OCR.pdf).  People with disabilities continue to face barriers to voting in regard to accessibility (i.e., structural, attitudinal, and institutional barriers).  Individuals with mobility difficulties, access to transportation, or the ability to drive may be at a disadvantage and discouraged by the barriers to get to polling places.  Additionally, many polling places are still not fully accessible thus hindering individuals with disabilities from the voting process, and in turn, sending the message that individuals are not expected to participate. 

Absentee voting may be an alternative for individuals with disabilities to still participate in the political process and vote; however, absentee voting presents its own unique barriers.  Much like registering to vote, voting absentee (specifically by mail), requires voters to take the first steps and initiate contact with election officials to request a ballot.  Every state has some provision for voting by mail; however, the requirements differ on obtaining a mail ballot.  Accordingly to Schur (2013), “twenty-one states require an excuse for a mail ballot, twenty allow a mail ballot without an excuse but the request has to be renewed each election, seven states and the District of Columbia have a permanent no-excuse mail ballot available, and two states have mail-only voting” (https://www.supportthevoter.gov/files/2013/08/Disability-and-Voting-White-Paper-for-Presidential-Commission-Schur.docx_.pdf).  After obtaining the mail-in ballot some individuals with disabilities may still experience barriers in fully participating.  For example, individuals with visual or cognitive disabilities may have trouble seeing or following complicated written instructions on standard mail ballots.  Additionally, individuals with limited fine motor skills may find it difficult to record his or her vote.  For these individuals, they may rely on family and/or caregivers for assistance in filling out or sending in the ballot.  This can create an atmosphere for “gatekeeping,” where family and/or caregivers provide or withhold assistance based on the individuals preferences or may apply pressure for the individual to vote for particular candidate(s) thus making the voting process not fully accessible (https://www.supportthevoter.gov/files/2013/08/Disability-and-Voting-White-Paper-for-Presidential-Commission-Schur.docx_.pdf). 

What can be done to increase voter and political participation of individuals with disabilities?  

Researchers theorize that solutions lie inside and outside the election system.  Policies to increase employment, accessible transportation, and educational opportunities may play a key role in the enfranchisement of people with disabilities (http://www.eac.gov/assets/1/Documents/Lisa%20Shur,%20Political%20Participation%20and%20Attitudes_OCR.pdf).  Other potential solutions include:

  • Increased accessibility of polling places and equipment
  • Accessible voting technologies (i.e., simplified ballots, electronic voting systems, user-friendly universal designed equipment)
  • Mobile voting (i.e., bringing ballots/equipment to long-term care facilities, accessible bus routes, shopping centers)
  • Uniformed absentee voting requirements – including the ability to obtain permanent absentee voter status and “no-excuse” vote-by-mail systems
  • Training for election officials and poll workers in partnership with disability service and advocacy organizations
  • Outreach and education for people with disabilities (i.e., fully-accessible instructions on how to use the ballot marking devices/equipment).

These are but a few suggestions to ensure that the number of Americans with disabilities can participate fully in the voting process, be active members of their community, and create an inclusive democracy. 

This edition of reSearch provides a “snapshot” of over 20 years of research related to enfranchisement and people with disabilities.  This “snapshot” presents a general overview of enfranchisement, voting, political participation, and civic engagement and people with disabilities.  The combined search terms for this edition of reSearch included:  enfranchisement, voting, politics, participation, civic engagement.  A listing of over 100 additional descriptor terms between the NARIC, CIRRIE, ERIC, and PubMed databases can be found at the end of this document. 

A search of the REHABDATA database resulted in 38 documents published between 1998 and 2014. The CIRRIE and ERIC database searches resulted in 3 documents between 2002 and 2012, and 7 documents between 2001 and 2015; respectively.   Finally, a search of the PubMed database resulted in 8 documents between 2000 and 2011. The complete citations are included in this research brief.


Adya, M., & Schur, L.  (2012).  Sidelined or mainstreamed?  Political participation and attitudes of people with disabilities in the United States.  Social Science Quarterly, 94(3), 811-839.  Retrieved from http://www.eac.gov/assets/1/Documents/Lisa%20Shur,%20Political%20Participation%20and%20Attitudes_OCR.pdf.

Brucker, D.L., Houtenville, A.J., & Lauer, E.A. (2014). 2014 annual disability statistics compendium. Retrieved from http://www.disabilitycompendium.org/docs/default-source/2014-compendium/2014_compendium.pdf

Schur, L.  (2013).  Reducing obstacles to voting for people with disabilities [White Paper].  Retrieved from https://www.supportthevoter.gov/files/2013/08/Disability-and-Voting-White-Paper-for-Presidential-Commission-Schur.docx_.pdf.  

NIDILRR Funded Projects Related to Enfranchisement and People with Disabilities

In addition to document searches, we searched our NIDILRR Program Database to locate grantees/projects related to enfranchisement and people with disabilities.  While no current projects addressed enfranchisement, we identified several on directly-related topics (i.e., community, independent living, participation, self-determination, and civic engagement).  The search resulted in 18 currently funded and 6 projects that are no longer active.  Project information and their publications are offered as additional resources for our patrons.

ADA Network Knowledge Translation Center
Project Number: 90DP0015 (formerly H133A110014)
Phone: 206/543-3677
Email: adakt@uw.edu.

ADA Participation Action Research Consortium
Project Number: 90DP0026 (formerly H133A120008)
Phone: 713/797-7116 (V), 713/520-5136 (TTY)
Email: swdbtac@ilru.org.
www.ilru.org/html/projects/adaparc/index.html; centerondisability.org/ada_parc/index.php.

The Community for All Project to Develop a Series of Six Online Toolkits to Improve Community Living and Participation for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
Project Number: 90DP0068 (formerly H133A140063)
Phone: 315/443-1288
Email: wharbour@syr.edu.

Enhancing the Community Living and Participation of Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities
Project Number: 90DP0066 (formerly H133A140032)
Phone: 617/353-3549
Email: zlatka@bu.edu.

Examining Determinants of Community Participation Among Persons with Psychiatric Disabilities
Project Number: 90IF0049 (formerly H133G130086)
Phone: 212/237-8773
Email: pyanos@jjay.cuny.edu.

Research and Training Center for Pathways to Positive Futures: Building Self-Determination and Community Living and Participation
Project Number: 90RT5030 (formerly H133B140039)
Phone: 503/725-8313
Email: rtcpubs@pdx.edu.
Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Community Living
Project Number: 90RT5015 (formerly H133B110006)
Phone: 785/864-4095 (V), 785/864-0706 (TTY)
Email: glen@ku.edu.

Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Community Living Policy
Project Number: 90RT5026 (formerly H133B130034)
Phone: 415/476-5164
Email: steve.kaye@ucsf.edu.

Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities
Project Number: 90RT5025 (formerly H133B130028)
Phone: 888/268-2743 (V), 406/243-5467 (V), 406/243-4200
Email: rural@ruralinstitute.umt.edu.

Rehabilitation Research and Training \Center (RRTC) on Family Support
Project Number: 90RT5032 (formerly H133B140046)
Phone: 312/355-4537
Email: maganas@uic.edu.

RERC on Universal Design and the Built Environment
Project Number: 90RE5022
Phone: 716/829-5902
Email: ap-idea@buffalo.edu.
idea.ap.buffalo.edu; www.universaldesign.com.

Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Physical Access and Transportation
Project Number: 90RE5011 (formerly H133E130004)
Phone: 412/268-6346
Email: steinfeld@cmu.edu.

Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Technologies to Support Successful Aging with Disability (RERC TechSAge)
Project Number: 90RE5016 (formerly H133E130037)
Phone: 404/894-1413
Email: jon.sanford@coa.gatech.edu.

Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Universal Interface and Information Technology Access
Project Number: 90RE5015 (formerly H133E130028)
Phone: 608/265-4621
Email: outreach@trace.wisc.edu.

Temple University Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Community Living and Participation of Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities
Project Number: 90RT5021 (formerly H133B130014)
Phone: 215/204-7879
Email: mark.salzer@temple.edu.

Understanding and Increasing Supported Decision-Making’s Positive Impact on Community Living and Participation Outcomes
Project Number: 90DP0076
Phone: 315/443-9703
Email: pblanck@syr.edu.

The University of Michigan Advanced Rehabilitation Research Training Program in Community Living and Participation
Project Number: 90AR5020 (formerly H133P140005)
Phone: 734/963-5600
Email: angellee@umich.edu.

Viability of Social-Network Based Transit Information Systems for Accessibility
Project Number: 90BI0018
Phone: 740/815-7003
Email: omerriaz@gmail.com.

These projects have completed their research activities and are now closed.  

Accessible Environmental Information Application for Individuals with Visual Impairments
Project Number: 90BI0016
Phone: 530/757-6900
Email: GPS@senderogroup.com.

Development and Evaluation of Accessible Voter Education Software for Students and Adults with Intellectual Disabilities
Project Number: H133S120010
Phone: 719/592-0347
Email: steve@ablelinktech.com.

Empowerment for People with Disabilities: A Study of Civic Participation in Community Life
Project Number: H133F80030
Phone: 501/575-3356
Email: kays@comp.uark.edu.

The Empowerment Project: Promoting Equality for People with Disabilities Through Electoral Participation
Project Number: H133G990188
Phone: 501/575-2006
Email: kays@uark.edu.

Participation Interference Patterns:  Investigating the Relative Impact of Pain and Environmental Barriers on Participation
Project Number: 90IF0008 (formerly H133G110077)
Phone: 406/243-2992
Email: craig.ravesloot@umontana.edu.

Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Accessible Public Transportation
Project Number: H133E080019
Phone: 412/268-6346

Why do I see different grant numbers?   

In 2014, President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) into law. As part of WIOA, the institute changed its name from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) to the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) and moved from the Department of Education to the Administration for Community Living (ACL) at the Department of Health and Human Services. Approximately 250 active grants received new ACL grant numbers and all new grants funded under NIDILRR have only an ACL grant number.  For more information about NIDILRR/ACL grant numbers please visit:  http://naric.com/?q=en/content/about-nidilrracl-grant-numbers-0.

Documents from NARIC’s REHABDATA search listed are listed below:


(2014).  Voting success for people with disabilities.  
NARIC Accession Number: O19659
Project Number: ED-OSE-13-C-0064
Available in full-text at:  http://search.naric.com/research/rehab/download.cfm?ID=126465.  
ABSTRACT: This fact sheet offers information to help make the voting process easier for people with disabilities. It discusses the voter registration process, pre-Election Day preparation, what to expect on Election Day, alternative voting methods and assistive technologies, and nationwide voting differences.

Blosser, S.R., Jackson, J.E., Mathew, A., Pierce, G.L., & Swierenga, S.J.  (2014).  Smart voting joystick for accessible voting machines.   Journal on Technology and Persons with Disabilities, 2, 144-154.
NARIC Accession Number: J70511
ABSTRACT: This study created an accessible dual-axis, force feedback joystick to enable individuals with limited dexterity to independently vote using electronic voting machines. Usability evaluations were conducted with individuals with moderate to severe dexterity and motor impairments to evaluate the Smart Voting Joystick and determine what modifications might be needed to enhance its usability and accessibility. Results indicated that individuals with moderate impairments could successfully use the device without modification; however, slight changes would be beneficial for this group. Individuals with severe impairments had difficulties that need to be addressed, including changes to the shape of the joystick and settings. With these simple changes, it is likely that the Smart Voting Joystick would become a viable input device for individuals with wide range of dexterity impairments.

Gillette, D., Hoque, S., & Selker, T.  (2014).  Improving write-in candidate text entry for audio-only voting interfaces.   Journal on Technology and Persons with Disabilities, 2, 176-193.
NARIC Accession Number: J70514
ABSTRACT: For voters who cannot read a graphical ballot, audio-based voting systems currently in use can provide a private and independent path for entering the first and last names of write-in candidates, but the process tends to be slow, difficult to comprehend, and inaccurate. This study developed and tested three novel audio interfaces that enable navigation and selection of characters through simple techniques that allow users to linearly access an alphabet for the purpose of typing a specific name. A number of factors were found to improve character input speed, input accuracy, and user comfort, including using as few as keys as possible for navigation, using high-quality keys such as those found in commercial QWERTY keyboards, and assuring that there is no lag in feedback to user inputs.

Kingston, L.N.  (2014).  Political participation as a disability rights issue.  Disability and Health Journal, 7(3), 259-261.
NARIC Accession Number: J70311
ABSTRACT: This article examines the status of political participation for individuals with disabilities in the United States (U.S.). The fundamental right to political participation is outlined in international human rights frameworks and United States law, yet Americans with disabilities are persistently less likely to vote compared to the overall adult population. A variety of challenges, including mobility issues that prevent traveling to polling places, continue to hinder voter participation throughout the country. Research findings that identify participation gaps between the able-bodied and individuals with disabilities highlight weaknesses in existing U.S. policies, as well as vulnerabilities to rights abuses. These inadequacies not only threaten rights and the functionality of U.S. citizenship, they also hint at a broader failure by the government to fully acknowledge the importance of disability rights. These data illustrate the need for dialog and policy change, using a disability rights approach to conceptualize the problem and to seek positive solutions. It is imperative that research, advocacy, and policy discussions are framed with the understanding that political participation, including voting, is a fundamental human right that must be made accessible.

Matsubayashi, T., & Ueda, M.  (2014).  Disability and voting.  Disability and Health Journal, 7(3), 285-291.
NARIC Accession Number: J70314
ABSTRACT: Study examined trends in self-reported voting rates among people with and without disabilities to determine the effects of legislation designed to make voting accessible to people with individuals with disabilities on political participation. It also explored what policy change is necessary to encourage people with disabilities to vote by investigating whether the participation rates vary by the types of disabilities. The authors analyzed data from the Current Population Survey in the years of presidential elections for the period of 1980 to 2008. Results showed that the people aged 18 to 64 years with work-preventing disabilities have been persistently less likely to vote compared to the corresponding population without such disabilities. In addition, individuals with cognitive and mobility impairments have the lowest rates of electoral participation. The gap in the likelihood of voting in-person between people with and without disabilities is considerably larger than the gap in the likelihood of voting by-mail, regardless of the types of impairments that they have. The participation gap between people with and without disabilities did not decrease over the last three decades despite the presence of federal laws that aimed at removing barriers for voting.

Pierce, G.L., & Swierenga, S.J.  (2014).  Accessible voting systems usability measures.   Journal on Technology and Persons with Disabilities, 1, 146-154.
NARIC Accession Number: J70497
ABSTRACT: Article defines standardized evaluation criteria and benchmarks for including blind, visually impaired, and dexterity-limited individuals in testing the usability of accessible voting systems. While voting accuracy is always the most important measure of any voting system, additional factors disproportionately impact individuals with disabilities, which can make the voting process difficult and painful if not properly controlled. As a result, the authors propose the use of revised Voluntary Voting System Guidelines and Voting Performance Protocol measures for total completion score, voter inclusion index, and perfect ballot index, as well as two new measures, voting time and interactions, to determine whether a system should be considered acceptable for people with disabilities. These new measures are necessary to ensure that the voting process can be successfully and reasonably completed by individuals with disabilities.


Agran, M., & Hughes, C.  (2013).  “You can’t vote -- you’re mentally incompetent”: Denying democracy to people with severe disabilities.   Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities RPSD (formerly Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps JASH), 38(1), 58-62.
NARIC Accession Number: J66825
ABSTRACT: Study surveyed 100 support personnel regarding the value of voting for people with an intellectual or developmental disability and the extent to which they have provided voting instruction to their clients. The findings revealed that very few clients vote, are registered to vote, or are provided any instruction on how to vote or be informed about voting positions. The implications of the findings are discussed, and futures areas of research are suggested.

Bovbjerg, B.  (2013).  Highlights: Voters with disabilities: Challenges to voting accessibility.   
NARIC Accession Number: O18871
Available in full-text at:  http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-538SP.  
ABSTRACT: During the 2000 federal election, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that only 16 percent of polling places had no potential impediments to voting access for people with disabilities. To address these and other issues, Congress enacted the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), which required each polling place to have an accessible voting system by 2006. In 2008, Congress asked GAO to reassess voting access and also to study voter accessibility at long-term care facilities. This report summarizes the progress made from 2000 to 2008 to improve voter accessibility in polling places, including relevancy to long-term care facilities, and steps the Department of Justice has taken to enforce HAVA voting access provisions.


De Ruiter, C., Harris, S.P., & Owen, R.  (2012).  Civic engagement and people with disabilities: The role of advocacy and technologyJournal of Community Engagement and Scholarship, 5(1).
NARIC Accession Number: J68432
Project Number: H133P110004
ABSTRACT: Study examined how advocacy and technology can facilitate empowerment of people with disabilities to express and communicate their views and needs regarding disability policy. Three civic engagement trainings were conducted for groups of people with disabilities associated with four disability advocacy organizations. Each training session was unique, based on the organization it was conducted with, although each contained elements of five broad themes: general civic engagement, building policy knowledge, using advocacy, using technology, and becoming more involved with government. Each participant was asked to complete an evaluation form prior to and 6 to 8 weeks after each training. Six weeks following the trainings, follow-up focus groups and individual interviews were conducted with the training participants. Qualitative data was also obtained from key stakeholders in each disability organization. The result of the training and evaluations provide insight into: (1) how people with disabilities engage with government and the roles of policy knowledge, technology, and advocacy strategies in this engagement process; (2) the motivations of people with disabilities to engage in policy debate and the perceived barriers and facilitators to increasing civic participation; (3) the role of technology in enabling and increasing access to government for people with disabilities; and (4) how disability organizations build advocacy knowledge, enhance civic awareness and responsibility, and increase development of technology skills to enable people with disabilities to participate in policy debates.


Powell, C.  (2010).  Your rights under ADA: Access key in Help America Vote Act.  Apostrophe, 2(4), 13.
NARIC Accession Number: J62813
Project Number: H133A060079
ABSTRACT: Article describes key provisions of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which requires that all polling places be accessible and ensure that people with disabilities have the opportunity to vote independently and in private.


Appelbaum, P.S., Karlawish, J., & Raad, R.  (2009).  The capacity to vote of persons with serious mental illness.   Psychiatric Services (formerly Hospital and Community Psychiatry), 60(5), 624-628.
NARIC Accession Number: J56829
ABSTRACT: Study examined the consequences of applying the Doe standard to individuals with serious mental illness. The Does standard refers to a 2001 federal court decision that offered clear criteria for determining mental capacity to vote that are based on understanding the nature and effect of voting. The Doe standard has been operationalized with the Competency Assessment Tool for Voting (CAT-V) along with measures of reasoning and appreciation. Performance of the Doe standard was assessed with the CAT-V in a sample of 52 community-dwelling persons with serious mental illness and then compared on measures of cognition, verbal IQ, and symptom severity. The interview questions were scored with good interrater reliability and took an average of less than 5 minutes to administer. Performance was high, with 92 percent scoring a 5 or 6 out of 6 possible points on the Doe-standard criteria. Performance did not correlate with cognition, verbal IQ, or symptom severity.

Baker, P.M.A., Moon, N.W., & Ward, A.  (2009).  Ensuring the enfranchisement of people with disabilities.   Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 20(2), 79-92.
NARIC Accession Number: J57043
ABSTRACT: Article reviews the literature addressing issues that affect how people with disabilities vote, with a special focus on the role of election officials as both facilitators and inhibitors of voting by people with disabilities. The purpose is to identify and assess potential issues and barriers that may prevent people with disabilities from participating in the voting process.


(2008).  AAPD news, Winter 2008.   
NARIC Accession Number: O18006
ABSTRACT: This quarterly newsletter is for members of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the country’s largest cross-disability membership organization. Topics in this issue: proposed law brings inclusive communication technologies to people with disabilities (Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act); AAPD member on a mission: Minnesota state representative is making a difference; Congressional hearings support the Americans with Disabilities Act restoration, community choice legislation; federal government falls short as employer (again); international human rights disability advocate Eric Rosenthal honored with 2008 Betts Award; diverse leaders from New York and Chicago to receive 2008 Paul G. Hearne/AAPD Leadership Awards; AAPD recognizes gala sponsors; questions about accessible transportation; disability employment; a timeline of important events for the 2008 election; Medicaid toolkit now available online; past AAPD Congressional intern Jack Brandt balances artistry with advocacy; a study on the accessibility Internet-based services at community colleges funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research; motivating individuals with disabilities to exercise their right to vote; and AAPD Board Vice-Chair Tony Coelho: transforming disability into a lifetime of advocacy.

(2008).  ADA pipeline, March 2008, 17(1), 1-12.
NARIC Accession Number: O17377
Project Number: H133A060094
Available in full-text at:  http://search.naric.com/research/rehab/download.cfm?ID=108612.  
ABSTRACT: Newsletter of the Southeast Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center (DBTAC) includes disability-related news items and recent Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) enforcement highlights from 8 southeastern states. In this issue: Atlanta host the Southeast DBTAC ADA Leadership Network, access to voting, ADA Restoration Act update, new online tutorial for state and local ADA coordinators, Department of Justice update, and new publications and online resources. This is the last edition of the ADA Pipeline published in a printed paper format.

(2008).  Community integration news: November, 2008.   
NARIC Accession Number: O17302
Project Number: H133B031109
Available in full-text at:  http://search.naric.com/research/rehab/download.cfm?ID=108008.  
ABSTRACT: Newsletter is sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) Collaborative on Community Integration, which is the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) promoting community integration of individuals with psychiatric disabilities. Topics in this issue include: UPenn Collaborative awarded additional 5-year RRTC grant funding; new resources on community integration, voting rights, and creating a mental health crisis plan or psychiatric advance directive; initiative to target child custody laws that list a mental illness or disability as grounds for not providing reasonable efforts to reunify a family; innovative community integration initiatives series; and certified peer specialists are still needed for online job survey.

Dickson, A. (Ed.).  (2008).  Technology and disability policy highlights 8.04: April 2008.   
NARIC Accession Number: O17305
Project Number: H133E060061
ABSTRACT: Newsletter summarizes legislative and regulatory activities, highlights recent technological and policy advances, and tracks emerging issues related to universal access to wireless technologies for individuals with disabilities. In this issue: (1) legislation concerning accessible communications in rural areas, Internet accessibility, pedestrian safety, cell phone taxes, and wireless Internet nationwide; (2) Federal Communication Commission ruling regarding the commercial mobile alert system; (3) updates recommended for Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Communications Act of 1996; (4) report on emergency preparedness and disability; (5) report describing data on people with disabilities in the United States; (6) accessible voter participation; (7) best practices research; (8) funding opportunity for developmental disabilities policy research; (9) new online community for parents of visually impaired children; (10) wireless research updates; and (11) upcoming events.


(2007).  Preserving ballot access for the blind.   Braille Monitor, 50(3), 174-175.
NARIC Accession Number: J52480
ABSTRACT: The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) requires that accessible voting technology be universally deployed to ensure that people who are blind have the opportunity to vote independently and in private. However, concerns about the security and reliability of electronic voting systems have resulted in a threat to access for the blind and Congress faces substantial pressure to amend HAVA. This article calls for Americans to take action to protect the rights guaranteed to the blind under HAVA in light of changes that may be made to existing voting systems.


(2006).  Civic engagement: How to get involved in your community.   Community Integration Tools.  
NARIC Accession Number: O16505
Project Number: H133B031109
Available in full-text at:  http://search.naric.com/research/rehab/download.cfm?ID=102446.  
ABSTRACT: Fact sheet presents information to help people with mental illness to actively participate in social, political, and/or religious activities in their communities. It includes suggestions for ways to get involved in the community including: attend town meetings, vote, volunteer, participate in a community garden, get involved with a civic association, help throw a block party, be a mentor, participate in or organize a sports activity, take part in school activities, join local faith-based organizations, volunteer for a political campaign, organize or participate in a town clean-up, and get involved in mental health advocacy. A list of Internet resources is included.


Putnam, M.  (2005).  Conceptualizing disability: Developing a framework of political disability identity.   Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 16(3), 188-198.
NARIC Accession Number: J49840
ABSTRACT: Article proposes a conceptual framework for understanding the political actions related to disability. The author identifies 6 primary domains of political disability identity: (1) self-worth, (2) pride, (3) discrimination, (4) common cause, (5) policy alternatives, and (5) engagement in political action. The rationale for these domains are discussed, as well as their significance in relation to the development of a measure for empirical research in disability identity.


(2004).  A guide to disability rights laws.   
NARIC Accession Number: O17600
Available in full-text at:  http://www.ada.gov/cguide.pdf.  
ABSTRACT: Booklet provides a brief overview of 10 Federal laws that protect the rights of people with disabilities. They are: (1) Americans with Disabilities Act, (2) Telecommunications Act, (3) Fair Housing Act, (4) Air Carrier Access Act, (5) Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act, (6) National Voter Registration Act, (7) Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, (8) Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, (9) Rehabilitation Act, and (10) Architectural Barriers Act.

Finn, C., Hayden, M., Powers, L., & Smith, J. (Eds.).  (2004).  Feature issue on political activism and voter participation by persons with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.  Impact, 17(2), 1-23.
NARIC Accession Number: O15667
Project Number: H133B031116
Available in full-text at:  http://search.naric.com/research/rehab/download.cfm?ID=98157.  
ABSTRACT: This issue provides information about how to vote, who can vote, and ways to change voting laws that limit the opportunity to vote for people with disabilities. Topics include: (1) eight ways to be involved in politics, (2) political activism and voting, (3) guardianship and voting, (4) exercising the right to vote, (5) Project VOTE!, (6) state listing of voting information, (7) involving youth with disabilities in politics, (8) using direct action to change society, (9) the Free Our People March, and (1) resources for further information.

Kasnitz, D., Seekins, T., & Shuttleworth, R.  (2004).  Rural civic leadership and disability: Positive perspectives on participation and advocacy.  
NARIC Accession Number: O15980
Project Number: H133B030501
ABSTRACT: Interviews were conducted with rural political leaders with disabilities to better understand how disability issues are integrated into rural political practice. Analysis of the interview transcripts focused on 5 aspects of the participants’ political experience: (1) events that led them to become political leaders; (2) barriers they faced; (3) strategies they used to overcome those barriers; (4) their own and others’ perception of them; and (5) skills they found useful in their political practice.

Kelso, D., Krueger, M., & Vanderheiden, G.  (2004).  Extended usability versus accessibility in voting systems.   In D. Anson (Ed.), Proceedings of the RESNA 27th International Conference: Technology and Disability: Research, Design, Practice and Policy. Arlington, VA: RESNA Press.  
NARIC Accession Number: O15750
Project Number: H133E030012, H133E980007
ABSTRACT: Paper describes the concept of extended usability, in addition to accessibility, in the design of voting stations. Extended usability refers to enhancing the usability of standard voting stations so that they are more acceptable to everyone, including older individuals who may or may not have a disability, but have a problem with the complexities of the accessible technology. This paper was presented at the 2004 annual conference of RESNA, the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America and is available on CD-ROM.

Washburn, A., (Ed.).  (2004).  Access New England, 8(3).
NARIC Accession Number: O15669
Project Number: H133D010211
ABSTRACT: Newsletter summarizes new developments and issues related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the activities of the New England ADA Technical Assistance Center. This issue focuses on voting access for people with disabilities. Topics include: barriers to voting and legal strategies to expand voting rights; the project director’s report, frequently asked questions about the ADA; online information resources; project news and updates; product profiles; list of publications, and events and announcements.


Griffin, L., (Ed.).  (2002).  Disability/access policy highlights 2.4: April 2002.   
NARIC Accession Number: O16037
Project Number: H133E010804
Available in full-text at:  http://search.naric.com/research/rehab/download.cfm?ID=99735.
ABSTRACT: Report summarizes legislative and regulatory activities, highlights recent technological and political advances, and tracks emerging issues related to universal access to wireless technologies for individuals with disabilities. In this issue: (1) funding for centers for independent living; (2) reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; (3) special education finance; (4) voter accessibility; (5) Social Security Administration seeks technical assistance; (6) court cases; (7) other activities and items of interests; and (8) Websites, journals, and books.

Schriner, K.  (2002).  The competence line in American suffrage law: A political analysis.   Disability Studies Quarterly, 22(2).  
NARIC Accession Number: J48924
Project Number: H133G990188
ABSTRACT: Article describes how competency laws have been used in the United States to prevent people with mental and developmental disabilities from voting. These laws are compared to similar prohibitions based on gender, race, and other discriminatory statuses. The author also discusses the legal and political implications of the laws.

Vanderheiden, G.  (2002).  Building natural cross-disability access into voting systems.   In R. Simpson (Ed.), Proceedings of the RESNA 25th International Conference: Technology and Disability: Research, Design, Practice and Policy. Arlington, VA: RESNA Press
NARIC Accession Number: O14460
Project Number: H133E980008
ABSTRACT: Paper describes a prototype electronic voting system that is designed to be used by everyone. The system is accessible to individuals with low vision or who are blind, are hard of hearing or deaf, who have physical or cognitive disabilities, or have reading difficulties. Initial feedback regarding usability and acceptance are discussed. This paper was presented at the 2002 annual conference of RESNA, the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America.


Barnatt, S., Schriner, K., & Scotch, R.  (2001).  Advocacy and political action.   In Gary L. Abrecht, Katherine D. Seelman, Michael Bury (Eds.), Handbook of Disability Studies, 2001, Sage Publications, Inc., Thousand Oaks, CA, 430-449.
NARIC Accession Number: J47114
Project Number: H133G990188
ABSTRACT: Chapter discusses political activity by and on behalf of people with disabilities, focusing on participation in electoral politics and disability social movements. Authors describe the political activities of people with disabilities as voters, candidates and elected officials, and representatives of political organization; the influence of lobbying and pressure groups; and social movement activities in the disability community.


Ochs, L., & Schriner, K.  (2000).  “No right is more precious”: Voting rights and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.   Policy Research Brief, 11(1).  
NARIC Accession Number: O15238
Project Number: H133B980047, H133G990188
Available in full-text at:  http://search.naric.com/research/rehab/download.cfm?ID=96873.  
ABSTRACT: Brief describes state laws that prevent individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities from exercising their right to vote. These laws are put into historical context to underscore their similarities to voting prohibitions based on gender, race, and other historically discriminatory statuses. The legal and political implications of the laws are also discussed.


(1999).  Disenfranchised: People with disabilities in American electoral politics.  
NARIC Accession Number: O13250
Project Number: H133F80030
ABSTRACT: Paper reviewing research on the role of persons with disabilities in the American political system. Discusses factors affecting political participation by persons with disabilities in light of political science and social construction theories and empirical research.

Batavia, A.I., Schriner, K., & Shields, T.G.  (1999).  The Americans with Disabilities Act: Does it secure the fundamental right to vote?.   
NARIC Accession Number: O13248
Project Number: H133F80030
ABSTRACT: Article on the role of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in ensuring voting rights for people with disabilities. Topics include: requirements of Title II of the ADA; regulatory and administrative guidelines for applying the ADA to voting rights, including regulations of the Federal Elections Commission (FEC); voting rights cases that have reached the courts or been settled out of court; and accommodations for specific disabilities, including secret ballots for blind voters, and accommodations for people with learning disabilities (LD) or mental retardation.

Ochs, L., Schriner, K., & Shields, T.  (1999).  Democratic dilemmas: Notes on the ADA and voting rights of people with cognitive and emotional impairments.   
NARIC Accession Number: O13249
Project Number: H133F80030
Available in full-text at:  http://search.naric.com/research/rehab/download.cfm?ID=91318.  
ABSTRACT: Paper on the history and current status of voting rights for persons with cognitive, emotional, and psychiatric disabilities. Discusses state laws permitting disenfranchisement of persons with certain disabilities, and relevant provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act, Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act, Voter Registration Act, and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The contradictions in state and federal law are given an historical explanation in terms of the federal government’s leading role in developing social policies affecting people with disabilities based on the minority group model, and state prerogatives in establishing electoral qualifications. The potential influence of the ADA in securing voting rights for people with disabilities, especially those with cognitive and emotional disabilities, is discussed. The authors conclude by proposing reforms.

Schriner, K.  (1999).  Empowerment in the electoral process: A study of registration and voting among Americans with disabilities.   
NARIC Accession Number: O13251
Project Number: H133F80030
ABSTRACT: Report summarizing results of a research project on the participation of people with disabilities in electoral politics in the United States. Discusses research questions, data sources and analysis, and selected findings, and lists other reports resulting from the project.


Schriner, K.F.  (1998).  Political empowerment: Introduction to special section on the political participation of people with disabilities.   Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 9(2), 1-2.
NARIC Accession Number: J37614
Project Number: H133F80030
ABSTRACT: Brief introduction to a special section of the Journal of Disability Policy Studies containing 4 studies concerning the political empowerment of people with disabilities. Discusses the relevance of political empowerment to disability studies in general and disability policy studies in particular.

Schriner, K., & Shields, T.  (1998).  Empowerment of the political kind:  The role of disability service organizations in encouraging people with disabilities to vote.   Journal of Rehabilitation, 64(2), 33-37.
NARIC Accession Number: J35207
ABSTRACT: Article about the role disability service organizations can take to promote registration and voting by the 54 million Americans with disabilities. The article discusses data on the relatively low voter registration and voting rates of people with disabilities. It discusses the requirements of the Motor Voter bill and how disability agencies can implement those requirements. It also discusses means of getting out the disability vote, and of educating voters about candidates and issues (keeping in mind the importance of nonpartisanship).

Schriner, K., Schriner, K.F., & Shields, T.G.  (1998).  The disability voice in American politics.   Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 9(2), 33-52.
NARIC Accession Number: J36588
Project Number: H133F80030
ABSTRACT: Article reports on the available research demonstrating that individual factors that influence political participation and considers the role of disability in affecting participation. The research indicates that registration and voting rates among individuals with disabilities are well below those of nondisabled people. Further, people with disabilities are much less likely to vote as they age, unlike nondisabled individuals, who are more likely to vote as they age. These results suggest that people with disabilities are a pivotal test of the generalizability of current knowledge regarding why Americans do and do not participate in political life.

Schriner, K., Schriner, K.F., & Shields, T.G.  (1998).  Influences on the political participation of people with disabilities.   Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 9(2), 77-91.
NARIC Accession Number: J36590
Project Number: H133F80030
ABSTRACT: This study examines data collected by Louis Harris and Associates during the 1984 and 1986 elections to begin to understand the determinants of political participation among people with disabilities, the largest minority group in American politics. Findings include that the political activity of people with disabilities appears to result largely from psychological involvement, retrospective evaluations of government performance, and the behavior of political elites rather than from demographic or resource factors. Interestingly, employment status had little effect on the probability that a person with a disability voted in 1984 or 1986. The findings also suggest that candidates who take clear and positive steps to communicate policy positions and reach out to people with disabilities may greatly increase participation among this group.

Schur, L.A.  (1998).  Disability and the psychology of political participation.   Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 9(3), 3-31.
NARIC Accession Number: J36587
Project Number: H133P50005
ABSTRACT: This study explores the connections among political involvement, locus of control, person efficacy, experiences of stigma and discrimination, and views of disability among 64 people, both political activists and nonactivists, who have spinal cord injury. The experiences described suggest that social context and circumstances are important in who becomes politically active, indicating that outreach policies of disability organizations can play a large role in creating conditions that encourage political participation.

Documents from the Center for International Rehabilitation Research Information Exchange (CIRRIE-3) search at cirrie.buffalo.edu are listed below:


Keeling, A., Maina, E., Pattni, P., & Redley, M.  (2012).  The voting rights of adults with intellectual disabilities:  Reflections on the arguments, and situation in Kenya and England and Wales.  Journal of Intellectual Disability Research: JIDR, 56(11), 1026-35.
ABSTRACT: Article 29 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities guarantees equality of political rights, including the right to vote and stand for election. The affirmation of these rights, first guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, raises an important question given the long-standing association between political rights and beliefs concerning the abilities of citizens to reason and act independently: how and to what degree can people identified as having intellectual disabilities participate in a defining act of the democratic process? Focused specifically on the right to vote, this paper addresses the question by (1) introducing the debates that have surrounded the voting rights of this population; and (2) reporting on recent attempts in Kenya, and in England and Wales, to promote voting by people with intellectual disabilities. It concludes by considering the effectiveness of the different approaches these countries have adopted.


Bosquet, A., Mahe, I., Medjkane, A., & Vinceneux, P.  (2010).  Voting by cognitively impaired persons:  Legal and ethical issues.  Psychologie & Neuropsychiatrie du Vieillissement, 8(1), 33-42.  [Article in French].  
Available in full-text at:  http://tinyurl.com/hf9sk4x.
ABSTRACT:  In democratic countries, cognitively impaired persons are a substantial and growing group of citizens. Most of them are citizens with dementia. In dementia, cognitive impairment induces a loss of some capacities, resulting in vulnerability and increased need for assistance. Voting by cognitively impaired persons raises any questions about the integrity of the electoral process, the risk of fraud and the respect of their citizenship. In France, the law is not definite about the voting of cognitively impaired persons. An objective assessment for voting capacity may be useful both for professionals in charge of voting organization and for guardianship judge in order to help him in his decision to remove or keep the voting right of persons placed under guardianship. Assessing the reality of voting by cognitively impaired citizens is necessary to advance respect for their right to vote.


Nash, M.  (2002).  Voting as a means of social inclusion for people with a mental illness.  Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 9(6), 697-703.
ABSTRACT:  People suffering from mental illness are often disenfranchised from many functions of society. Voting is one such area where disenfranchisement and exclusion are unnecessarily experienced. The emphasis on service provision as a means of achieving social inclusion for those with mental illness may relegate it to a principle of treatment compliance. Should measures of social function remain the main indicators of successful community care or should measures of social integration be identified, assessed and maintained? Mental health professionals should actively pursue users’ voting rights in light of the changing legal climate and the introduction of human rights legislation into United Kingdom law. With the potentially huge political capital in this area the author believes that the current debate regarding social inclusion cannot be adequately addressed unless this fundamental and democratic principle is included more extensively.

Documents from the Education Resource Information Center (ERIC) search at www.eric.ed.gov are listed below:


Agran, M., Andren, K.A.K., & MacLean, W.  (2015).  “I never thought about it”: Teaching people with intellectual disability to vote.  Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 50(4), 388-396.
ERIC Number: EJ1082390
ABSTRACT:  Despite an increasing commitment in promoting the full inclusion of people with intellectual disability in their communities, it appears that few adults with intellectual disability participate in elections as registered voters. We surveyed a variety of stakeholders about voting by people with intellectual disability using quantitative and qualitative methods. The majority of respondents indicated that people with intellectual disability knew what voting is, expressed an interest in voting, and were registered to vote. However, few respondents indicated that individuals with intellectual disability were provided with voting instruction or had voting included in their service plans. Barriers to greater participation are discussed and future areas of research are suggested.

Bonati, M.L., Dymond, S.K., Mann, J.A., & Neeper, L.S.  (2015).  Restrictive citizenship: Civic-oriented service-learning opportunities for all students.  Journal of Experiential Education, 38(1), 56-72.  
ERIC Number: EJ1058786
ABSTRACT:  Citizenship education that uses service-learning continues to be implemented in a manner that may restrict many students from full, meaningful participation. The authors contend that much of the literature on civic-oriented service-learning unnecessarily positions successful projects at the extremes: (1) political socialization versus civic altruism and (2) monism versus cultural pluralism. Each extreme, while seemingly supportive of advancing important objectives of citizenship, limits the experience of service-learning participants through narrowly conceived visions of civic action. These differing visions significantly affect the participation of students with disabilities, limiting access for some students and weakening the overall potential to foster sustained, age- and ability-appropriate engagement in civic life. After a discussion of how restrictive service-learning opportunities affect those with disabilities, the authors call for more civic-orientated service-learning opportunities that transcend these polarized relationships. Recommendations are provided for supporting less extreme conceptions of service-learning outcomes with the goal of broadening the participation of students with disabilities within civic-oriented service-learning.


Clare, I.C.H., Holland, A.J., Keeley, H., & Redley, M.  (2008).  Participation in the 2005 general election by adults with intellectual disabilities.  Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 52(3), 175-181.
ERIC Number: EJ784729
ABSTRACT:  Background: International and UK legislation confirms and supports the right of adults with intellectual disabilities (ID) to vote. It is widely accepted, although not previously empirically confirmed, that citizens with ID are under-represented at the polls. Method: To document the extent of their under-representation at the polls, the names and addresses of adults using services for people with ID in one county in the UK, were compared with the marked electoral register following the 2005 general election. Adults using services for people with ID were identified either as un-registered, as registered to vote but not having voted, or as having voted. Results: Adults with ID living in the county at the time of 2005 general election were substantially under-represented at the polls. Compared with the general population, proportionally fewer of them were registered to vote, and proportionally fewer of them voted. Compared with adults living in private homes, those in supported accommodation were more likely to be registered to vote, but less likely to use their vote. The most significant predictor of participation was living in a household with at least one other active voter. Conclusions: The importance of the close proximity of an active voter is likely to be different for adults in supported accommodation compared with those living in private households. Further research is required to understand what features of these two very different types of residences are affecting voting opportunities.
Haas, M.E., & Rodeheaver, M.D.  (2008).  Question: Who can vote?  Social Education, 72(5), 230, 232-235.  
ERIC Number: EJ812713
ABSTRACT:  This year’s rollercoaster primary elections and the pending national election, with an anticipated record voter turnout, provide the perfect backdrop for an examination of the questions: (1) Who can vote?; and (2) Who will vote? Historically, the American government refused voting rights to various groups based on race, gender, age, and even mental capacity. Currently, there remain several groups without the right to vote. Of equal concern are those who “choose” not to vote. The issue of who can vote remains relevant and highly debated. This article highlights a few of the historical events that changed voting practices as well as current issues related to voting, and provides a teacher-tested lesson on voting.

Redley, M.  (2008).  Citizens with learning disabilities and the right to vote.  Disability & Society, 23(4), 375-384.
ERIC Number: EJ811459
ABSTRACT:  This paper asks, in the context of recent legislative changes, what can be done to support more citizens in England and Wales with learning disabilities to vote in national elections? This issue is addressed through (1) a review of recent disability access campaigns that have reported discrimination against, and the under-representation of, adults with disabilities in UK elections; (2) a review of recent research undertaken in the USA into the assessment of competence to vote and research undertaken in England that conclusively documents the under-representation of voters with learning disabilities in the 2005 general election. It is proposed that a “functional approach” to developing an individual’s capacity to vote could help to fulfil Article 29 of the United Nations’ “Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities” that gives all people the same political rights.


Vorhaus, J.  (2005).  Citizenship, competence, and profound disability.  Journal of Philosophy of Education, 39(3), 461-475.  
ERIC Number: EJ723273
In this paper, I argue that reflection on competence and enfranchisement in relation to profound disability forces re-examination of the grounds of citizenship, with implications for theories of distributive justice in education. The primary purpose is less to point up that some people are disenfranchised without injustice; it is more to advance the view that, since enfranchisement is not an option for some profoundly disabled people, we require a conception of citizenship that is more sensitive to their distinctive needs and interests.


Dunlap, G., & Jordan, B.  (2001).  Construction of adulthood and disability.  Mental Retardation, 39(4), 286-96.
ERIC Number: EJ630950
ABSTRACT:  This article describes adulthood in general and that of individuals with severe cognitive impairments. It examines traditional roles, rites, and rituals of adulthood, including: voting, marriage, consensual sex, and moving out. How one parent intends to assist her daughter in accessing these markers of adulthood is discussed.

Documents from the National Library of Medicine PubMed search at www.pubmed.com are listed below:


Bigby, C., & Frawley, P.  (2011).  Inclusion in political and public life: the experiences of people with intellectual disability on government disability advisory bodies in Australia.  Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disability, 36(1), 27-38.
PMID: 21314592  
ABSTRACT:  BACKGROUND: Civil and political participation lies at the core of citizenship.  Increasingly, people with intellectual disability are members of disability advisory bodies. This study investigated the political orientations of advisory body members with intellectual disability, their participatory experiences, and the types of support they received.  METHOD: The 9 people with intellectual disability who in 2005 were members of disability advisory bodies at a state, national, and Victorian local government level were interviewed, together with 12 other members or secretariat staff of these bodies. Observations were also conducted of advisory body meetings.  RESULTS: The political perspective of members with intellectual disability varied, but all had a background in self-advocacy. They found the work hard but rewarding and encountered both practical and intangible obstacles to participation. Members received varying types of practical support, but a supportive collegial milieu was characteristic among members who felt most confident about their participation.  CONCLUSIONS: The milieu, structures, and processes of advisory bodies must all be adjusted to accommodate people with intellectual disability if they are to participate meaningfully.

Hudson, N., McRory, B., & Regan, P.  (2011).  Patient participation in public elections:  A literature review.  Nursing Management, 17(10), 32-6.
PMID: 21485910  
ABSTRACT:  Healthcare organizations and nurse leaders have an important role in promoting patients’ right to vote, through the development of policy guidelines, integrated networking and innovative practice. Patients’ mental capacity to vote is usually assessed by nurses, who must therefore be aware of clients’ voting rights and if the right resources are in place to help them do so. Patients’ rights, as citizens, are recognized in law and in professional guidelines, but more needs to be done to protect their voting rights. There should also be better access to transport and family support, and more flexible electoral procedures. This article reviews the literature on promoting patients’ participation in local and general elections and suggests that their voting rights should be endorsed by organizations and nurse leaders through policy guidelines and a flexible and proactive nursing approach to participation.


Bosquet, A., Mahé, I., Medjkane, A., Vinceneux, P., & Voitel-Warneke, D.  (2009).  The vote of acute medical inpatients:  A prospective study.  Journal of Aging and Health, 21(5), 699-712.
PMID: 19584412  
ABSTRACT:  OBJECTIVE: There may be ethical issues associated with allowing certain inpatients to vote as some may be cognitively impaired. During the 2007 elections in France, we conducted a prospective observational study on voting among hospitalized patients.  METHOD: Patients hospitalized in an Internal Medicine and Geriatric Department on election day were included. The primary outcome was the turnout among registered inpatients, and secondary outcomes were Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scores and reasons for abstention.   RESULTS: Of 142 inpatients (mean age 73 years), 84 were eligible to vote, and 22 actually voted (turnout 25.2 percent). Among the voters, 23 percent had an MMSE score of less than 12; 58 percent of abstentions were procedure-related.  DISCUSSION: In our study, some inpatients did not vote as a result of procedural issues. When patients with severe cognitive impairment vote, there is a potential risk of vote diversion. Voting procedures should be improved to give inpatients easier access to the ballot while protecting them from the risk of fraud.

McEldowney, R., & Teaster, P.B.  (2009).  Land of the free, home of the brave:  Voting accommodations for older adults.  Journal of Aging & Social Policy, 21(2), 159-71.
PMID: 19333840  
ABSTRACT:  Voting is a fundamental right for all United States citizens, one that usually continues for elderly people as long as they are alive. As adults age, certain issues regarding voting warrant deeper consideration than in previous years, especially those presenting as a result of impaired sight, hearing difficulty, dementia, or other special needs. What will happen to millions of men and women who have taken the right to vote for granted, but who gradually become immobile or physically impaired? What are states doing to help secure the enfranchisement of an increasing number of older adult voters? The purpose of this article is to address these issues by focusing on the following questions: What has been the historical nature of polling place accommodations for elderly people? What are states doing in terms of accommodating older voters at the polls while ensuring the integrity of the voting process? What effect has recent Help America Vote Act legislation had with regard to polling place accommodations? Our results indicate that accommodations for older voters are being made but are not yet at a level required to serve a rapidly aging population.


Appelbaum, P.S., Bonnie, R.J., James, B.D., Kane, R.A., Karlan, P.S., Karlawish, J.H., Knopman, D., Lawrence, T., Lyketsos, C.G., & Sabatino, C.  (2008).  Identifying the barriers and challenges to voting by residents in nursing homes and assisted living settings.  Journal of Aging & Social Policy, 20(1), 65-79.
PMID: 18198160  
ABSTRACT:  To ascertain the need for and to inform development of guidelines for voting in long-term care settings, we conducted a telephone survey of Philadelphia nursing (n = 31) and assisted living (n = 20) settings following the 2003 election.  Substantial variability existed in procedures used for registration and voting, in staff attitudes, and in the estimated proportion of residents who voted (29 percent+/-28, range 0-100 percent). Residents who wanted to vote were unable to do so at nearly one-third of sites, largely due to procedural problems. Nearly two-thirds of facilities indicated they assessed residents’ voting capacity before the election. However, methods differed and may have disenfranchised residents who were actually competent to vote. Current procedures in many facilities fail to protect voting rights. These data suggest that rights might be better protected if election officials took charge of registration, filing absentee ballot requests, ballot completion, and trained LTC facility staff on voters’ rights and reasonable accommodations.


Kanter, A., & Russo, R.  (2006).  The right of people with disabilities to exercise their right to vote under the Help America Vote Act.  Mental and Physical Disability Law Reporter, 30(6), 852-7.
PMID: 17265747  
ABSTRACT:  As the U.S. Supreme Court wrote in 1964 in Wesberry v. Sanders, “No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make laws under which, as good citizens, we must live. Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined.” However, for many people with disabilities, the right to vote has remained illusory. People with mobility impairments have been prevented from gaining access to polling places; people who are blind have been unable to complete most types of ballots (if they were able to register in the first place); and for people who remain in nursing homes, institutions, or other residential facilities, voting at the polls is often impossible. Further, no constitutional principle protects the right of people with disabilities to accessible polling places, or to vote secretly and independently. This articles discusses the role of the Help America Vote Act in facilitating the right to vote for people with disabilities, including an analysis of a recent New York case involving implementation of the Act.


Sabatino, C.P., & Smith, A.  (2004).  Voting by residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities: State law accommodations.  Mental and Physical Disability Law Reporter, 28(5), 663-70.
PMID: 15658036  
No abstract is available.


Appelbaum, P.S.  (2000).  “I vote. I count”:  Mental disability and the right to vote.  Psychiatric Services: A Journal of the American Psychiatric Association, 51(7), 849-50,63.
PMID: 10875944  
Available in full-text at:  http://ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/pdf/10.1176/appi.ps.51.7.849.
No abstract is available.

Quick Looks

Online Resources Related to Enfranchisement and People with Disabilities

2016 is a general election year, with that in mind, here are some resources related to enfranchisement, voting, and political participation for people with disabilities:

Accessible Voting Technology Initiative:  Designing Accessible Elections through the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

ADA Checklist for Polling Places
HTML:  www.ada.gov/votingchecklist.htm.
PDF:  www.ada.gov/votingprt.pdf.  

ADA National Network
Toll Free:  800/949-4232 (V/TTY)
Contact:  adata.org/email-us.
ADA Portal Search “Voting”:  adata.org/ada-document-portal/results?query=Voting.    

The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) Information Page for the REV UP:  Register, Educate, Vote and Use your Power Campaign
Toolkits:  www.aapd.com/our-focus/voting/rev-up-images-and-toolkits.
State Resources and Events:  www.aapd.com/our-focus/voting/state-resources-and-events.  
2016 Presidential Election—the Candidates on Disability:  www.aapd.com/our-focus/voting/2016-election.
Statistics/Demographics:  www.aapd.com/our-focus/voting/statistics.  

The Americans with Disabilities Act and Other Federal Laws Protecting the Rights of Voters with Disabilities – From the US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section

Maintained by the National Association of Secretaries of State, this website provides information on locating your polling place, knowing what identification to bring, information on absentee and early voting, and information the candidates.  Selecting one’s State takes users to their state’s board of election where they may find information for voters with disabilities.  

The Center for an Accessible Society – People with Disabilities and Voting
Accessible Voting Machines:  www.accessiblesociety.org/topics/voting/votekiosk.htm.  

Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002
Information on and resources related to HAVA

Inclusive Civic Engagement:  An Information Toolkit for Families and People with Intellectual Disabilities

National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) – Voting Rights Subcommittee
Various resources and statistical data on the disability gap by state is available.
Contact:  www.ncil.org/contact-ncil.  
Update from the NCIL Voting Rights Subcommittee:  www.advocacymonitor.com/an-update-from-the-ncil-voting-rights-subcommittee-2.  

National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) – Voting
National Disability Voter Registration Week (July 11th – 15th, 2016)
National Mail Voter Registration Forms from the Election Assistance Commission
PDF documents require Adobe Reader which is available for free through Adobe.

National Technical Assistance Center for Voting and Cognitive Access (NTAC)
NTAC is managed and operated by leaders in the self-advocacy movement – Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE).
Learn more about voting-related topics:  www.sabeusa.org/govoter/voting-info.
Resources:  www.sabeusa.org/govoter/resources.  
VOTE Project Toolkit:  www.sabeusa.org/govoter/vote-toolkit.  

Nonvisual Election Technology Information Page from the National Federation of the Blind
Nonvisual Election TechnologyTraining Curriculum:  nfb.org/hava-training-video.  

The Presidential Commission on Election Administration
Materials and research submissions include literature on voting and disability:  

Solutions for Five Common ADA Access Problems at Polling Places From the US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section
HTML:  www.ada.gov/ada_voting/voting_solutions_ta/polling_place_solutions.htm.  
PDF:  www.ada.gov/ada_voting/voting_solutions_ta/polling_place_solutions.pdf.

The Temple University Collaborative on Community Inclusion of Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities Resource Page on Civic Activity (Mental Disability and Voting Access) – Webpage includes toolkits, monographs, and guidebooks related to civic activity.  

Ten Suggested Practices to Improve Accessible Voting

US Census Bureau – Voting and Registration
This resource includes data, a library, tables, publications, and other various statistical information from the Current Population Survey (CPS) on voting and registration including stats by turnout, age, race, and origin.
Voting and Registration Data Tools:  www.census.gov/topics/public-sector/voting/data/data-tools.html.  

United States Election Assistance Commission Resources on Voting Accessibility and Voters with Disabilities

Created through the League of Women Voters Fund (LWVEF), VOTE411.org is a “one-stop-shop” for election related information.  The site provides nonpartisan information to the public with both general and state-specific information on various aspects of the election process.

Voting Information for People with Disabilities from Disability.gov

Voting and Elections Information from USA.gov
Includes information on voter registration and deadlines, locating state election offices, and common questions.

Voting Success for People with Disabilities
This AbleData publication provides individuals with valuable information on assistive technologies designed to help voters with disabilities.  


Search Terms for Enfranchisement and People with Disabilities

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  • Universal Design

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  • Voting

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About reSearch:

reSearch is a new information product from the National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC). Each issue is based on real-world queries received by our information specialists from researchers, educators, and rehabilitation professionals around the world.

We search several sources both in-house and online, to fill these requests including:

We hope you find these reSearch briefs informative in your own research.

- NARIC Information and Media Team