Voters with disabilities won a major victory after a federal court ruled New York City’s polling places all must be accessible. The August 8 ruling resulted from a decade-long struggle between disability advocates and the city. United Spinal Association and Disabled in Action filed suit in July of 2010 after the city resisted removing barriers such as steep ramps, locked accessible entrances, and a lack of signage at numerous polling places.
Disability Rights Advocates represented the plaintiffs, and DRA attorney Christine Chuang is pleased with the decision. “This decision says people with disabilities have the right to access the polls … just like everyone else,” says Chuang. “They should not have to vote with absentee ballots or compromise their secret ballot.“
The implications of the ruling will likely be felt nationwide. Chuang says she hopes the decision will prompt other cities to ensure equal access at polling places because they’ll be held liable if they ignore barriers. Stephen Kitzinger, senior counsel for the city, said in a statement, “We are disappointed with the decision and respectfully disagree.”