OPA: An election worker's guide

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An election worker’s guide to assisting
voters with disabilities
The Poll Worker plays a large role helping citizens access the ballot.
Ensure polling site is accessible
Be an effective communicator
Be familiar with the accessible voting machine

Assist voters with all types of needs

Locate and use election accommodations

PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES are individuals with families, jobs, hobbies, like and dislikes, and problems and joys.
While the disability is an integral part of who they are, it alone does not define them.
Don't make them into disability heroes or victims.
Treat them as individuals.
~  ADA Disability Etiquette Book
"Access:  permission, liberty, or ability to enter, approach, or pass to and from a place or to approach or communicate with a person or thing."
                                                             ~ Merriam-Webster Dictionary
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Poll site accessibility checklist
At Check-In...
{arrow}   Magnifying devices are out and readily available.
{arrow}   Seating is available for voters who need it while waiting.
{arrow}   Accessible spaces (in Connecticut known as handicapped parking) are marked with appropriate signage.
{arrow}   There are enough accessible spaces. At least 1 accessible space for every 25 parking spaces with a minimum of 2 accessible spaces.   Every 8th accessible parking space starting with the first, must be van accessible. 
Walkways are …

{arrow}   Wide enough for a wheelchair or walker.  (min. 36 in.)

{arrow}   Free of debris, snow, and ice.

{arrow}   Marked with signs clearly pointing voters to the accessible entrance.
Inside the Polling Site….

{arrow}   All doors have levers or push bar handles.

{arrow}   All doors on the accessible route are unlocked and can be opened by the voter.

{arrow}   Accessible pathway inside the polling site is free of hanging or obtruding objects.

{arrow}   Doorways are a minimum of 32 inches wide.  Hallways and voting areas are wide enough to maneuver a wheelchair (minimum 36 inches.)

{arrow}   Temporary ramps are placed in the proper locations and elevators are in working conditions.
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The voting process can be intimidating, especially because most citizens only vote every two to four years.  As a poll worker, voters will go to you for assistance. You should know that there are different communication needs you might encounter.
Are you an accessible poll worker?
Understanding effective voter communication
Depending on his or her disability, a voter may require:
{check mark graphic}   Assistive Technology (see glossary)
{check mark graphic}   Pen & Paper
{check mark graphic}   Lip-reading
{check mark graphic}   American Sign Language Interpreter
{check mark graphic}   Communication Board
Remember to be patient:

{check mark graphic}   Some voters communicate in a way that may be difficult to understand.
{check mark graphic}   They may require an assistant to help translate.
{check mark graphic}   Allow voters time to finish their thoughts or actions.
{check mark graphic}   Repetition may be necessary, for you or the voter.
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"If a voter requires assistance to vote by reason of disability, inability to write or read the ballot, help may be provided by a person of the voters choice except :
1) the voter's employer;
2) an agent of the voter's employer;
3) an agent or officer of the voter's union;
4) a candidate for any office on the ballot, unless the voter is a member of the immediate family of the candidate."  (Definition of "immediate family" is located in the glossary at the end of this booklet).
                   Connecticut General Statutes §9-264
Make no assumptions
Ask if assistance is needed
Allow space for the voter to speak
Communicate directly with the voter
Use People First Language
Speak at a normal volume unless otherwise asked
Repeat yourself as often as needed
Open doors
Answer questions
Give directions
Guide a voter around the polling place
Complete voting forms
Adjust voting machine
Activate voting machine accessibility features
Read the ballot for the voter
Mark a voter’s choices
Demonstrate Respect.
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Respect the voter ….
As poll workers, you are responsible for offering assistance to every voter.
* * *  Remember  * * *
Be Respectful

Voters with disabilities want to be treated the same as everyone else.  Show them the same respect you expect to receive.
Use People First Language

Always put the person before their disability:

Person who is blind.”

Voter who uses a wheelchair.”
Address the Voter

Some voters may have an assistant or an interpreter.

Always look at and speak to the voter, not the assistant.
Just Ask

Offer assistance to every voter.  However, don’t automatically assist unless the voter clearly needs help or has asked for assistance.
… relax and use common sense
Assisting voters with physical or mobility disabilities
Can I assist you?      
"Yes, I need help…"
    * Filling out paperwork.
    * Adjusting the voting machine for my wheelchair.
    * Removing barriers from my path.
    * Opening a door
"No, thank you."    
Respect the voter’s request.
Proceed with voter verification and ballot request.
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Helpful Notes
    {Young woman in wheelchair sitting with Poll worker}
   When communication with a voter who uses a wheelchair, give them some space and speak with them at their eye level.
      When helping someone take a step or move, ask which is the best way to do so.
Assisting voters with sensory and speech related disabilities…
{arrow}    Changing the color contrast on the voting machine.
{arrow}    Using the audio headset on the voting machine.
{arrow}    Knowing where to go
{arrow}    Communicating
Assisting voters who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing...

Let the voter establish how they want to communicate. 
Examples include: paper & pen, lip-reading, and sign language.
Directly face the voter when you speak.  
Speak normally and respectfully.
Be prepared to move to a quieter area if necessary.

Assisting voters who have a Visual Disability...

Always verbally identify yourself and others.

When guiding someone, ask the best way to do so. 
Describe any obstacles as you approach them.
{Person using a guide dog}
Guide Dogs – Do not pet or distract a guide dog.  It is responsible for its owner’s safety.
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Assisting Voters with a Disability that Affects Speech...
•   Be attentive, patient, and always allow the voter to complete their thoughts.

•   Repetition is a normal part of conversation.  Indicate if you do not understand.

•  Voters may use different forms of assistive technology to speak for them or to help them communicate.
•  Accessibility features may include adjustments, audio headset, color contrast, accessible touchpad or swivel dial.
Important . . . . 
   Every polling place is
      Required by law to have an accessible voting machine.
         Make sure you know how to activate the machine and its
             accessible features.
Can I assist you?
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Assisting voters with cognitive & intellectual disabilities
{check mark graphic}   Simplifying all the steps to casting a ballot.
{check mark graphic}   Understanding how the voting machine works.
{check mark graphic}   Reading the ballot.
{check mark graphic}   Communicating.
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Helpful notes
Voters with a Cognitive Disability that affect Communication
  {arrow}    Keep your communication simple and respectful.
  {arrow}    Stay on point by focusing on one topic at a time.
  {arrow}    Repetition – if appropriate, repeat back any messages to confirm mutual understanding.
  {arrow}    Allow the voter time to respond, ask questions, and clarify your comments.
   {arrow}   Focus on the person, paying attention to any body language or gestures.
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   Accommodate ….
      To give consideration;
                  Make room for;
                          Find a suitable fit;
                                     To provide helpful service as desired or needed.
                                                               -    Merriam-Webster Dictionary
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There are many accommodations provided by your Election Office
You may be familiar with some of them …  
participate: vision &  audio aids
•  Magnifying lenses
•  Signature guides  to help voters sign  their name
•  At least one voting machine in every polling place that  offers:
  • Headphones for voters to hear their ballot
  • Color contrasts on the voting screen, such as white  text  on a black background, for voters to read their ballot other voter accommodations
• Voters  may bring  completed sample ballots to help remember  their  selection.
• Voters  may request  assistance from  a poll  worker  or someone  of  their  choice.

permission, liberty, or ability to enter  to and from  a place or to approach  or communicate  with  a person  or thing
American Sign Language (ASL):
the primary  language of  many individuals  who are deaf, conveyed  by a system of articulated hand gestures  in relation to the upper body

Assistive  Technology:
assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices  used to aid people  with  disabilities in everyday activities such as communication and mobility; e.g. electronic  communication devices, voter-owned voice boxes, screen readers  for  people with  vision  loss, etc.     
Cognitive  Disability:
a disability that  affects conscious  intellectual activity such as thinking, reasoning, or remembering
                                                          -merriam-webster  dictionary
Immediate Family:
for the purposes of Connecticut General Statutes §9-264 "Immediate Family" means a dependent relative who resides in the individual's (voter's) household or any spouse, child, or parent of the individual.
People First Language:
the practice of referring to the person before their disability
Examples:  "Voter with vision loss"   "Woman with cerebral palsy"  "Man with Down Syndrome"  "Someone who uses a wheelchair"

Physical  Disability:
a disability that affects mobility in any part of the body

Sensory Disability:
a disability that affects the senses, including vision, hearing, and touch

Signature Guides:
a plastic mask with an opening to correspond with a standard signature area
{Vote is shown in ASL}
Voter's Bill of Rights
Every registered voter in Connecticut has the right to:

1)  Inspect a sample ballot before voting;

2)  Receive instructions concerning how to operate voting equipment, on sample voting equipment before voting;

3)  Cast a ballot if the voter is in line when the polls are closing;

4)  Ask for and receive assistance in voting, including assistance in languages other than English where required by federal or state law;

5)  Vote free from coercion or intimidation by election officials or any other person;

6)  Cast a ballot using voting equipment that accurately counts all votes;

7)  Vote by provisional ballot if the individual had registered to vote and the individual's name is not on the voter list;***

8)  Be informed of the process for restoring the individual's right to vote if the individual was incarcerated for a felony conviction; and

9)  Vote independently and privately at a polling place, regardless of physical disability.
Connecticut Voter's Bill of Rights - Connecticut General Statutes §9-326b
Poll Workers' Resources
Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities
60B Weston Street
Hartford, CT   06120-1551
Phone:  (860) 297-4300 (Voice)
TTY:  (860) 297-4380
Voice/TTY (800) 842-7303 (toll free in CT)
Office of the Secretary of State
30 Trinity Street
Hartford, CT   06106
Attn:  LEAD
Phone:  (860) 509-6100
Toll-free: (800) 540-3764
Registrar of Voters Association of Connecticut
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This Booklet was funded by the Help America Vote Act of 2002
Special Thanks to DLACtn
Concept and Content by the Disability Law and Advocacy Center of Tennessee.   www.DLACtn.org


Content Last Modified on 10/12/2016 4:02:28 PM