By Maurie HillImage of Vote sign

By law, everyone has the right to vote freely and independently but enjoying that right may depend on where you live and your circumstances. Your rights could always change after any election’s outcome, so voting is your greatest tool for empowerment. Disabilities and challenges catch up to all of us eventually, but they do not minimize the weight of our voice. Here’s a simple guide to navigate barriers to expressing your choice this year.

1. Register to Vote
2. Contact your polling location
3. Decide your method of voting and plan ahead

You can check or change your registration status or learn the voter registration deadline, methods, and ID requirements in your state from this register to vote link. Use this polling location link and contact your polling location. Ask about your voting options considering your disability. Is the building and room physically ac
cessible to you? Do they have an accessible voting method that would work for you? Is there someone there that knows how to use it? If not, requesting an absentee ballot may be the best option. Request it in plenty of time to review it and get assistance if needed. By the way, when the polling location receives the ballot, they have procedures in place to ensure your vote is anonymous. Make sure your ballot will arrive at the poling location by 7 pm on November 8th! You can either mail it or have anyone drop it off for you.

I called our town clerk’s office to discuss my options, as sometimes it changes from one year to the next. They have a vote-by-telephone method which can only be accessed at the polling location. Next year they will have a new electronic accessible method which election officials will be trained on. You can also bring any device to help you. For this year’s primaries, I brought my foldable CCTV magnifier and they were happy to provide me a table to fill out the ballot.

Lines on November 8th will be super-long this year, so consider that when choosing a method. Some states have early voting days. Transportation, perhaps our biggest daily challenge, is eliminated when voting by mail using the absentee ballot. But there are plenty of free transportation choices on Election Day. Plan ahead and make sure you have the best option that will work for you. To investigate my options, I browsed the internet using ZoomText software to see and read the web pages.

When exercising the right to vote, I like it to be a shared experience, so I’ll be using a mixed voting method. After receiving my absentee ballot. I’ll fill it out in my own time using my own equipment, a CCTV reading machine. Instead of mailing it, I’ll walk to my polling location. They say I can walk right in and hand it in without waiting in line. But I’ll have comfortable shoes, a full tummy and a bottle of water just in case. Election Day weather may determine if I consider the long line as part of the shared experience but will not suppress my voice. Don’t stand by and watch which way the winds blow on Election Day.

To learn more on this topic, check out these great articles:
A Blind Voter’s Experience
The Blind and Visually Impaired Voters Guide
The Joy of Voting As A Blind or Visually Impaired Citizen
People with Disabilities Voting
Blind voters to get more access: Legal deal allows visually impaired in county to vote remotely, privately
A Victory for Voters in Maryland and Perhaps Beyond