FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Barry C. Taylor, Legal Advocacy Director
(312) 895-7317; TTY (800) 610-2779
Equip for Equality to Provide Election Day Help Line for Voters with Disabilities
Help Line is Part of Comprehensive Agency Voting Initiative
CHICAGO (October 27, 2004) -- Equip for Equality (EFE) announced today that it will staff a statewide Help Line for voters with disabilities on Election Day, November 2, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The Help Line will provide voters with information regarding the accessibility of polling places and the rights of voters with disabilities, will document denial of access to voting, and will provide immediate assistance to voters where feasible.
The Disability Voter Help Line numbers are: 1-800-537-2632 (Voice) and 1-800-610-2779 (TTY).
The Help Line is part of Equip for Equality's wide-ranging 2004 Voting Rights Initiative. "The Help America Vote Act has focused much needed attention and resources on the continued denial of access to private and independent voting for citizens with disabilities throughout the county," says Karen Ward, Senior Counsel at Equip for Equality, who is heading up EFE's 2004 Voting Rights Initiative. "Through our Voting Rights Initiative, EFE is undertaking a sustained multi-faceted approach to eradicating all barriers to voters with disabilities in Illinois."
In addition to the Help Line, Equip for Equality's voting activities have included:
- Polling Place Accessibility Survey. EFE conducted an accessibility survey of a large number of polling places in Chicago, Cook County, and downstate Illinois on Primary Election Day, March 16. The survey focused on issues such as accessible parking, signage, ramps, doorway widths, door weight and hardware, communication (with voters who are deaf, hard of hearing and those with speech impairments), and assistive devices (for voters with visual and dexterity impairments). Following the survey, EFE provided the results to the voting authorities to assist them in making improvements for the November election. On November 2, EFE staff will re-visit the most problematic polling places to check for accessibility improvements.
- Disability Rights Training. Through its Training Institute on Disability Rights, Equip for Equality has trained hundreds of citizens with disabilities and their families throughout Illinois about their rights as voters with disabilities, from registration through the general election.
- Election Judge Training. EFE partnered with the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners and the Cook County Clerk to provide disability rights and sensitivity training to approximately 17,000 election judges prior to the November 2 election.
- Illinois Disability Vote Project. EFE has joined with the Illinois Centers for Independent Living, the League of Women Voters, and other organizations serving and advocating for individuals with disabilities in Illinois, to form the Illinois Disability Vote Project, a statewide initiative to facilitate voting among Illinois citizens with disabilities. The purpose of the project is to increase individuals with disabilities' awareness of the power of the vote to effect change, and to encourage and enable voters with disabilities to use that power in the voting booth. Recent activities included a non-partisan Disability Vote Rally held on October 19 in Chicago.
"Voting is the most fundamental right of a citizen in a democracy, and is a key to real power for people with disabilities," says Barry Taylor, Equip for Equality's Legal Advocacy Director. "In this election year, nothing could be a more important project for us to undertake. Equip for Equality is committed to obtaining full access to the voting process for citizens with disabilities in Illinois."
Equip for Equality is a private, not-for-profit entity designated by the Governor to administer the federal Protection and Advocacy System for safeguarding the rights of people with physical and mental disabilities in Illinois. It is the only comprehensive statewide advocacy organization providing self-advocacy assistance, legal services, disability rights education, public policy advocacy and abuse investigation.
For more information contact Barry C. Taylor at (312) 895-7317 or TTY (800) 610-2779.