Wednesday, January 25

Why does a polling place need a handicapped accessible bathroom?

I have been voting for almost twenty years now. I try to never miss an election; city, county, State or federal.

In all that time, I have never had to wait in a polling place for more than about 5-10 minutes. I go in, sometimes have to wait for an extremely short time in line, vote, get my sticker and go out.

So, the county is now considering more than halving the number of polling places. At least at my polling place, the closure is considered because of the need for a handicapped accessible bathroom.

Let's review; food is not served, and "patrons" use the facility for an extremely limited time.

So why the fuss? Why is a bathroom inherently necessary in a polling place?


DOMAN said...

You are right the voters aren't there very long but what about the election officials that are there ALL day. They need a place to go! Some may even be disabled! The American Disabilities Act may even require handicapped accessable bathrooms in a public place along with the regular ones. A Google search of the ADA will provide alot of great info on this subject.

Treasure State Jew said...

Doman; A very good point, and one I hadn't considered. Thank you.

Could handicapped accessible portable toilets more economically solve this problem?

DOMAN said...

Portables could be an option although I have never seen a handicapped portable toilet. As you know they would have to be much larger so the person could line up his wheelchair for a transfer. I know there are Federal specifications for the size of a permanently built handicapped toilet.

SEAN said...

Yes, there could be handicapped accessible portable toilets, but it would incur heavy costs.

Dave Ketelhohn said...

I help administer HAVA funds to improve accessibility at Montana polling places. The ADA does not "require" polling places have an accessible bathroom. In plain language, it requires that if you allow the public to use your bathroom at a polling place, it has to be accessible.

Some use that as an excuse to close polling places. That's their call. I know of one school principal who told me she can not keep her students safe by allowing the public to use the school's bathroom on election day. Use your imagination and you might envision what she is describing: some "voter" grabbing a student in a stall. Her solution, but not exactly ADA-approved, is to allow elections workers to use the teachers' lounge bathrooms, and not allow the public to use the bathrooms.

There is money available to remodel accessible bathrooms, but in the grand scheme, let's first worry about providing safe and accessible parking spaces, routes, and entrances to the polling place. And even if you don't need to use a ballot-marking machine like the AutoMARKs, you and everyone else -- disabled or not -- will benefit from accessible, universal designs.

It's about being given the same independence and dignity given to any voter on election day. If you had to wait for someone to open a door for you or pull you up a few steps before you could vote, how would you feel?

ADA is not just for the disabled. It makes life more level for parents pushing strollers, veterans returning from war, and all of us who slow down as we grow older.