At two civil liberties events hosted by CDS to mark its 25-year anniversary, elections and disability rights experts ripped the pervasive injustices and inadequate accommodations that suppress voting and political engagement among people with disabilities in the U.S. and around the world. The experts, including a Stanford Law School professor, Delaware’s attorney general and three leaders from Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organizations, cited physical barriers, poll workers’ lack of knowledge, decades-old prejudices and poor enforcement of voting rights legislation, among other factors. They suggested that educating election officials, raising disability awareness and boosting political participation could increase the presence and sway of people with disabilities in elections.
A forum organized by the University of Delaware’s Center for Disabilities Studies focused on how to make voting more accessible for people with disabilities. In 2016, 60 percent of polling places had impediments for voters with disabilities. Forum panelists pointed out that because one in five adults has a disability, people with disabilities could have a powerful impact on elections if they received legally mandated voting accommodations.
The University of Delaware’s Center for Disabilities Studies held a forum on issues related to voting and disability. The panel of national experts discussed how to increase voter participation among people with disabilities, how to engage politicians in issues affecting people with disabilities, and how to include people with disabilities in decision-making processes surrounding elections. Center for Disabilities Studies Director Beth Mineo hopes that the forum sparks further civic engagement in the disability community.
Five UD students next year will receive communication, independent-living and career development coaching as the first cohort of Spectrum Scholars, a JPMorgan Chase-UD collaboration administered by CDS. The program, which is open to computer science and engineering majors, will also seek to train college faculty and area businesses in creating environments that embrace neurodiversity.
Backed by a 10-year grant from JPMorgan Chase and administered by UD’s Center for Disabilities Studies, Spectrum Scholars will provide a comprehensive support system and career exploration opportunities to UD students with autism majoring in computer and information sciences and in electrical and computer engineering.