“They said it was locked for security reasons, but you can’t both lock something for security reasons and call it the accessible entrance,” Ms. Ladau, 29, said. “Small things like this add up and send a message that people who are working the polls don’t really care about giving people with disabilities the same kind of access as nondisabled voters.”
The barriers don’t stop at the door. Polling sites are required to have accessible voting machines — for instance, ones that can read text aloud for people with visual disabilities — but several voters recalled showing up for past elections and being told that the only accessible machine was broken, or that poll workers didn’t know how to operate it.
Stacy Cervenka and her husband, who live in Lincoln, Neb., are blind and normally vote in person using accessible machines. But Ms. Cervenka, 40, said they were hesitant this year because their son has a metabolic disorder that puts him at high risk for Covid-19. And because they only recently moved to Nebraska, they don’t have family or friends nearby to help them complete mail-in ballots.
“There really is no great option,” Ms. Cervenka said. “We want to be able to vote in person as much as anyone else, but we want it to be safe. It’s really going to depend where the numbers are in November if we do that, and if not, we’re going to have to find a trusted person who we feel comfortable reading us all the ballot measures and marking them correctly.”
Historically, disability rights were a bipartisan issue. The Americans with Disabilities Act was introduced by Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, a Democrat, and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush, a Republican, in 1990. But recent discussions of disability policy have come overwhelmingly from Democrats.
During the presidential primary, more than 10 Democratic candidates released disability-related plans, many of them more sweeping than anything proposed in previous campaigns. (President Trump has not published such a plan.) Several advocates said that surge in attention had made the obstacles to voting this year harder to swallow.
Rebecca Cokley, director of the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress, said it had been thrilling to see Democrats engage with people with disabilities on Twitter and include them in the process of writing policies, and to watch candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Julián Castro turn broad debate questions into ones specific to the disability community.