Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Voting in a Wheelchair

I am not exactly disabled - at least I choose not to call myself that or take money that may be due to me.  Instead, I am hopeful it will get better.  I have a wheelchair just in case I need to wait in line or want to do something that might involve walking more than a few steps on a hard surface like tile or concrete.  Today, my husband broke out the wheelchair so I could vote.  I told him before we left that I was curious how this would go.  He was totally optimistic, saying they are required to accommodate handicapped people....

My voting location, which I have used for the last eleven years, is an older church.  As I waited for my husband to haul the wheelchair out of the trunk, I noted the cement walkway and the tiles inside that I could see through the windows.  Good thing I had the wheelchair; there was no way I could have walked even with my cane.

When we approached the door, we noted there was no way for someone in a wheelchair to open it.  The doors were narrow and the handle was too high.  I am not sure if I could have successfully wheeled myself through it alone.  When we approached the desk, everyone was happiness and smiles - as I have discovered most people are when you roll up in a wheelchair.  They happily told me I could vote at the end of the table where they were signing people in since the little voting booths were too high for someone in a wheelchair.  Wouldn't it be nice if we all could sit?  Why do they have to be so high?

So I got to vote at the end of the table in the open air without the courtesy of the little facade of separators everyone else is entitled to.  Everyone could see my bubbles. 

I wasn't voting for anything that seemed confidential to me except the school levy.  If there were anyone there that I knew, that was a teacher or lived in the neighborhood, I wouldn't necessarily think it was their business to see my vote on this topic.  My vote was public, which is just not the way it is supposed to be.

As soon as the governor's race in my state is decided, I will write a letter and ask for short voting booths and voting locations with handicap doors.  I cannot be the only person in a wheelchair trying to vote - we all deserve privacy. And I shouldn't be denied the right to vote or be deterred from voting if I don't have a helper to go with me to open the door.

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