Disability and Democracy: Barriers in Arizona Elections (AZ UCEDD)

April 22, 2019

The Institute for Human Development (IHD) at Northern Arizona University has been awarded funding to conduct a year-long, statewide research project identifying barriers to voting for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Arizona from the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council (ADDPC).

On election day, what prevents you from casting your ballot? Whether it's getting time off work, arranging transportation to the polling place, or ensuring that one's vote-by-mail ballot is received in time, every voting citizen must negotiate certain obstacles in order to participate in our democracy. How does a citizen's ability to participate in elections change if one lives everyday with disabilities that impact their lives?

Propelled by a dearth of published research, and inspired by preliminary data from ADDPC, IHD will conduct interviews with persons with disabilities, their families, and service providers to learn what visible and invisible obstacles prevent election participation. Project Director Arden Day: "Much of the past research in this area has focused only on legal perspectives, and very little information is available from the perspective of individuals with disabilities. We want to know: Are Arizona polling sites accessible to people with disabilities? Can they understand the language on the ballot? Do they need assistance from a care provider to vote?"

A planning team consisting of partners from agencies and organizations serving persons with disabilities from across the state will provide valuable input to the researchers. Principal Investigator Dr. Kelly Roberts: "We assembled the planning team to ensure that we ask the right questions to understand how voters-and potential voters-with disabilities experience and engage with the voting process. We expect that voters with disabilities must contend with and overcome impediments not experienced by most people."

In an era where elections are often decided by razor-thin margins, capturing diverse perspectives and attitudes from all our citizens is paramount to the health and vitality of a truly representative democracy.

About the Institute for Human Development: IHD is home to a wide range of interdisciplinary programs, the efforts of which collectively support its mission of facilitating on-going improvements in access, attitude and inclusion for people with disabilities. IHD, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, is one of the nation's premier centers focused on promoting full inclusion by advancing attitudes that value persons with disabilities and enhancing access to all aspects of the human experience. IHD is a dynamic, multi-faceted environment staffed with faculty and professionals representing a range of human service disciplines and offering a broad spectrum of resources and programs for both NAU students and members of the community. Some of IHD's programs provide direct services to the community; other IHD programs focus on a number of research initiatives, training and academic programs, and/or information dissemination about disability-related topics. Link: www.nau.edu/ihd

For more information, or if you're interested in being part of the project, please contact Program Director Arden Day (arden.day@nau.edu), or Principal Investigator Dr. Kelly Roberts, (kelly.roberts@nau.edu).