LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Jennifer Restle has been visually impaired her whole life, but that has never kept her from voting.
“I am totally blind,” she said. “I have a bunch of chronic health issues.”
People with disabilities often face barriers when trying to cast their ballots during the election. This year, with the added health risk of the COVID-19 pandemic, they must overcome even more obstacles to make sure their voices are heard.
“This election feels monumental even above all the elections I’ve been around for,” she said.
Restle, and others with disabilities, may not be able to visit polling locations in person for various reasons related to their health. Instead, she’s been trying to register for the remote accessible vote-by-mail system in San Diego County.
The system allows Restle to use her screen reader on her computer to fill out and print a ballot that can be mailed in. The process has already proven to be challenging. Restle said she is still trying to fill out the correct forms.
“I’m just trying to vote,” she said.
People with disabilities make up about 20% of the electorate, said Judy Mark, co-chair with Disability Vote California — a campaign aimed at eliminating barriers to vote for people with disabilities.
“Yet, they don’t vote in those same numbers,” she said.
The following options are available to people with disabilities in Los Angeles and San Diego counties: vote by mail, request a remote accessible vote by mail system, have access to accessible voting machines at polling places, get assistance at polling locations, and use curbside voting.
“What might seem like a small thing is actually a lot more meaningful when you think about how many people might not be voting because they don’t have the access that they need,” Restle said.
Park said she’s working hard to ensure everyone can exercise their right to vote.
“I am hopeful that we’re all gonna get out to vote, and this is gonna be a record-setting election for our community,” she said.
Across Los Angeles, there are 400 remote ballot drop boxes that people with disabilities can use to drop off their mail-in ballots.