Accessible Elections Legislation Has Not Helped Much

Polling place check-in and the voter registration process is still not universally accessible.

Accessible elections have not helped much.

Many have worked hard to make the election process accessible to voters with disabilities. Many have not taken advantage of it though, if they had, HR 620 would not be such a threat to disability rights.

The Oct 2017 GAO report on the accessibility of polling places painted a dismal picture of election accessibility. If Americans with disabilities forced the issue and collectively used the ballot box we would be an unstoppable political force.

The political pendulum currently at the extreme right will swing back to a more even distribution of power in this nation. We must work to move it towards that tipping point where the rights of people with disabilities and so many others will be safe again.

Access to the entire election process is vital. This must include a voter driven transparent and accessible check in process at polling places.

Election accessibility and accessible voting technology for all.
Election accessibility and accessible voting technology for all.

VOTEC Corporation is the only election system vendor that has engaged the disability community on the development of an accessible check in kiosk for polling places. The result is a 508 compliant product that serves the widest range of people possible.

Douglas George Towne
Chairman Disability Relations Group

The Disabled Community Should Not Need to Prove Their Right to Access

When members of the disability community advocate for access to technology, education, transportation, or healthcare, why are people surprised?


Each time we open a new advocacy campaign on a subject not previously considered by those in power: They
always act surprised. They seem to think that people with disabilities should be happy with a bite of the apple
and should not want the whole pie.
Whether it concerns new election technologies, software that makes the workplace accessible or policies and
programs that include us in community life, We must keep speaking truth to power. America is our pie too.
Why is it that whenever people with disabilities or any minority group seek their rights under the constitution, we
have to force those rights from the very government that was established to guarantee them. Remember, “life,
liberty and the pursuit of happiness” belongs to us all.
Having been recently in front of several Secretaries of State and Election Directors discussing the expansion of
access to elections through accessible poll books, I was struck by the attitude that we needed to convince them
why we should have equal access. We need to convince them, when it is their sacred duty to provide equal
access to all eligible voters.
Since the inception of the Americans With Disabilities Act and many other civil rights laws whose birth did not
come without painful debate: There have been those trying to undo the civil rights of other Americans. What is
it that fires such animosity toward minority rights?
In one way or another we are all part of a minority group. We all have friends or family who are touched by
disability, poverty or some other factor that by choice or chance imposes the heavy burden of the label minority.
There was a time when disability was thought to be a bipartisan issue. Now given the efforts of many that may
no longer be the case. The question is will we accept second class citizenship?
As a minority group people with disabilities are in a special position to bring understanding into many debates.
It can be fairly said that as the first and second generations of advocates have gotten older and passed that we
have not done enough to fire the energy, willpower and dedication of up and coming younger advocates. We
must do better.
We must seek a new growing national group of young zealots ready to yank the political pendulum back from
the extreme right to a place where outcomes are more evenhanded. Advocates who take the surprise of the
power brokers and use it to make the point that we want the whole pie and we will not be relegated to second
class citizenship under any circumstances.
What is amazing is that any public official in 2018 would even consider an action or inaction that would relegate
any American to second class Citizenship. Have we not fought those battles over tyranny and triumphed?
Perhaps it is only the giant providers of tyranny that have been defeated.
Perhaps it is the local, state and Federal officials of small minds and hearts that feel the rush of power in their
bellies when they get to put down the rights of others? All minorities must meet the small despots with the
same determination that defeated the giants of past tyrannies.
Douglas George Towne
Chairman Disability Relations Group

Demand a Disability Policy Advisor in the White House

Is the Disability Community Adequately Represented to the White House?

As we file our tax returns this week it is time for the disability community to take stock of our position in this Republic. Looking at the evidence, the picture is not good on many fronts where our participation in the life of the Republic is concerned. Parts of Congress, the Judicial and the Executive branches of our own government appear to have declared war on us. 

Looking at elections, The General Accounting Office Report issued in 2017: found continued barriers and that 60% of polling places surveyed had one or more impediments to the participation of voters with disabilities. The Congressional response was to pass HR620 the ADA Notification and Education Act virtually stripping the teeth out of the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

On elections, approximately $380 million in funding for states (and hopefully local election authorities) was recently appropriated by Congress. These funds, administered under Section 101 of the Help America Vote Act, will provide a much-needed cash infusion into elections. The National Disability Rights Network is calling for at least 10% of this money to be spent on accessibility. 

Accessible absentee voting is a hot issue. Ohio was just ordered to provide accessible absentee voting for the blind and other states will surely follow. Some have also pointed out that voter check- in systems or new electronic poll books may not be accessible for many voters. 

The California Council of the Blind announced the final settlement of their federal lawsuit against the County of San Mateo and the State of California challenging the unlawful and discriminatory exclusion of blind and low vision voters from the County of San Mateo’s absentee voting program. 

The National Council on Independent Living is celebrating a 12 million dollar increase in funding for Centers for Independent Living. Part of the most recent budget bill to pass Congress this money was a hard-fought victory. 

At the White House, unlike many Presidents before him, this President still has no Special Assistant or recognized Policy Advisor on disability.  Perhaps, like in all other things, he considers himself an expert on disability. That would explain why he believed gutting disability services in his budget proposal was the right thing to do?

The Presidents vast understanding of disability may come from his and his company’s history with the Americans With Disability Act. We have not had much public review of that history. Is that because there is none or is it because like in other “affairs” there have been gag orders put in place to keep plaintiffs silent? 
With all the issues, questions and bureaucracy Americans with disabilities must face every day, we must admit that things are better than they once were. There are no more forced sterilizations or involuntary medical experiments. Children with disabilities go to the same failing public schools as every other American child and can incur the same level of student debt as well. 

Many public office holders with disabilities ignore us with the same level of commitment as their non-disabled counterparts. With all that being said, we still have the same basic rights as every other American which allows me to write this article in the safety and security of the knowledge that I am protected by the Constitution as an American Citizen. May God bless America. 


Douglas George Towne

Chairman, Disability Relations Group


Proposed Budget Cuts will Negatively Impact the Disability Community

NOW is the time to advocate for Disability Programs Like Independent Living.

Many members of the disability community have historically looked to the Presidency for understanding, protection and support when it could be found no
where else. In this Presidency, Americans with disabilities and many other minorities find no shoulder to lean on.

I am a fiscal conservative disgusted by a bloated federal budget full of half hearted programs designed to give
the allusion of action.  However, MR President, minority communities like those with disabilities need help and your
protection, not to have programs cut with no replacement that would actually work. That is the opportunity.

The Budget Proposal Cuts Independent Living and other vital disability programs based on what I
must assume is a lack of understanding. I base this on the fact that to the publics’ knowledge he has no
qualified person with a disability advising him on these matters inside the bunkered White House.

MR President you are the most media aware person to ever sit in the Oval office. The disability community will
make you and the Congressional majority regret these cuts if they become reality. We are a tsunami of voters
sixty two million strong.  Since the disability rights movement began it has been the consensus that our issues were non-partisan.  This proposed budget has made disability a partisan issue for the first time in my memory. So be it. We must rise to meet the challenge.

Douglas George Towne
Chairman Disability Relations Group

Advocate Apathy is Hurting the Disability Community

One Danger the Disability Community Faces is Advocate Apathy

Advocate apathy is a growing problem across the disability community.   As I travel across the nation and discuss issues as important as access to independent, private and accessible elections. I am frequently amazed at the lack of commitment by the rank and file.

When disability advocates are asked to make a simple phone call or send an email the results are often lackluster at best.  I believe many have forgotten or never knew the struggles of the past that have advanced disability rights to the current state. 

Civil rights leaders from other minority communities have expressed concerns about advocate apathy to me.  Older advocates are weary and younger people sometimes take for granted those rights that came at great cost. 

Tackling advocate apathy could be over complicated, we cannot force people to be outspoken.  We can offer historical briefings to educate the young on disability rights.  Leadership could offer mentoring programs matching senior advocates up with younger ones to learn the art of advocacy.  Young in disability rights does not necessarily mean young in age. 

If the trend in advocate apathy continues there will come a day when we face a true destruction of our rights and have no soldiers with which to fight the battle. Disability leaders are responsible and must act to reinvigorate the power behind our past victories which has always been the individual advocate. I will do whatever I can and call on disability leaders to do their part. The time to act is now. 

Douglas George Towne (Doug) 
Disability Relations Group