Regarding the June 15 article, "Voting machine use questioned," Southeast Alaska Independent Living would like to offer several comments.
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First, we thank the Ketchikan Daily News staff for removing the word "handicapped," a slur published in the Juneau Empire.
For the past 200 years, people with various disabilities have not had the option of a secret ballot, a constitutional right most people take for granted. The new touch-screen voting machines finally overcome this barrier to provide equal rights and access to all Americans, including people with disabilities. Nonetheless, it will take time before the general public is educated that these universally designed machines exist and use them to their fullest extent.
Perhaps Rep. Mike Doogan, D-Anchorage, should imagine voting with a visual impairment and what these machines might mean then, given the probability that each of us will experience a disability as we get older, be it hearing loss, vision loss or something else. Such changes in our bodies do not negate our absolute right to vote privately.
One of the many functions of independent living centers across America, including SAIL, is to educate individuals with disabilities about options to remain independent in all areas of life, including voting. Besides an article detailing the voting machines in SAIL's September 2006 newsletter, available at www.sailinc.org, SAIL's Low Vision Support Group in Juneau tried out the touch-screen machines prior to the first election in which they were used, with much success and excitement.
Another SAIL mission is educating people who don't have disabilities about equal access in many areas, such as curb cuts for wheelchairs, sign-language interpreters and basic constitutional rights made accessible by new technology. We appreciate the opportunity Doogan has given us to share that the Help America Vote Act, created through advocacy from disability organizations such as SAIL, is an important extension of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Keep voting, Americans with disabilities, and request an accessible voting machine in the next election to guarantee your right to a secret ballot.
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