Making Voting Accessible Means Millions More Votes

Lilian Aluri, REV UP Voting Campaign Coordinator

This blog was originally posted by US Vote Foundation on their blog and reposted with permission as part of a series of blogs. The US Vote Foundation recently published their Resources for Voters with Disabilities initiative in honor of Disability Voting Rights Week.

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38 Million. That’s the number of eligible voters with disabilities in the U.S. This week, September 12-16, is Disability Voting Rights Week. Learn why the disability vote matters and how you work to build the power of the disability vote with us.

Disabled voters make up one of the largest voting blocs in the country. Many politicians and lawmakers prefer to think of us as passive members of society, content to be left out of the political process. But this could not be farther from the truth.

Disabled people are activists and organizers, candidates and voters, caregivers and recipients of care, community leaders and volunteers, patients and doctors, employees and CEOs. We have many reasons to care about elections and how they impact our lives. The people and policies we vote on impact our access to transportation, employment, healthcare, community, privacy, and so much more.

Even though voters with disabilities have many reasons to vote in elections, there is still a 6% turnout gap between voters with and without disabilities. This means that fewer people with disabilities are voting than non-disabled people. Our community has less of a say in the very policies that impact our lives. This doesn’t mean that disabled voters are less politically engaged than voters without disabilities. Access barriers create this turnout gap.

Some barriers that keep disabled voters from participating in elections include inaccessibility at every part of the voting process, discrimination from others, exclusion from the political process by candidates and campaigns, and social isolation from digital and physical access barriers to the community.

Disability Voting Rights Week, September 12-16, 2022, - on the right of the text is a blue and white and red ballot box with a blue fist on one side.

In 2016, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) launched the REV UP Voting Campaign and Disability Voting Rights Week to address this gap in voting outreach and advocacy. REV UP builds the power of the disability vote through grassroots coalition building, voting outreach to disabled voters, and advocating for more accessible voting.

Closing the 6% voter turnout gap between people with and without disabilities would mean close to 2 million more votes from people with disabilities. Learn how you can join REV UP in making sure disabled voters are registered and ready to vote and have access to the ballot in 2022 and beyond!

Find REV UP at and on social media at @RevUPCampaign.

Action Alert: Ask Your Senators to Confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson!

April 04, 2022

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was just voted out of committee and is poised to become the first Black woman Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, pending a full vote by the Senate.  Today, we are calling on our network to take action by reaching out to your Senators and pushing them to ensure the fair, swift, and bipartisan confirmation vote that Judge Jackson deserves.

Read AAPD’s press release applauding the vote advancing Judge Jackson out of committee and AAPD’s press release celebrating her nomination. To learn more about her track record on disability and civil rights you can read the Bazelon Center’s research memo on Judge Jackson’s decisions.

Take action by contacting your Senator through phone, email, or social media and urging them to confirm Judge Jackson!

Dial 888-852-7561 and the #ConfirmJackson hotline will connect you to your local Senator or tag your Senator on Twitter and use the #ConfirmJackson hashtag. 

Sample Email/ Phone Script:

Hello, My name is [Your name]. 

I am contacting you today to urge you to support Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Jackson’s personal and professional experiences will increase public trust in our courts and improve judicial decision making on a number of issues, including disability rights. 

In numerous decisions, from her time as a federal public defender to her service on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Judge Jackson has shown deep appreciation for our nation’s disability rights laws. She has represented defendants with mental health disabilities and ensured that they would receive a fair day in court. She has ruled on many cases that affirm people with disabilities deserve equal opportunities for participation in our workplaces, government programs, and places of public accommodation. 

As a member of the disability community, my life has been directly impacted by the decisions of the Supreme Court. It is important to me that the Supreme Court understands the importance of disability rights and civil rights more broadly, and Judge Jackson has demonstrated that she does. All Americans will benefit from Judge Jackson’s presence on the Supreme Court!

Sample Tweets: 

[@Your Senator] the #SCOTUS decisions impact people with disabilities & Judge Jackson has exhibited an exemplary track record on disability & civil rights along with a dedication to equity. We deserve a Justice like Judge Jackson. Vote yes to #ConfirmJackson #CripTheVote

[@Your Senator] I am calling on you to recognize Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s exceptional record and to deliver the fair and swift confirmation vote that she deserves. We need a Supreme Court that will represent all Americans. #ConfirmJackson #CripTheVote

We need [@Your Senator] to #ConfirmJackson, not only for a more reflective and equitable Supreme Court but also so that we can have a highly qualified Justice that is impartial and fully dedicated to disability and civil rights for all. America needs Judge Jackson. #CripTheVote

The Mouth Painter

Image of a painting of a bearded Black man.

By Morgan Dunn | November 08, 2021

Glenneisha Darkins, better known as Glenn, is a Black quadriplegic artist and mouth painter from Miami, Florida. She was involved in a fatal car accident in 2010 that caused her quadriplegia, and soon after she became determined to change how the world viewed her disability. Two years after her accident, she learned how to mouth paint from other young Black artists on Youtube. By operating breathing controls, navigating brush strokes, and mastering oil painting techniques, her efforts turned into a full-fledged business! She finds inspiration for her paintings from many sources:  her childhood, difficulties she experiences, navigating life, and her surroundings. She later received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology with an emphasis on Women and Gender studies from the Florida Int’l University in 2018.

Glenn’s goal is to inspire and motivate others through her personal story and art. She hopes to educate the world on dismantling the misconceptions of individuals with disabilities and help others feel the courage and strength to discover their purpose and share their stories.

I met Glenn on the audio-based social app ClubHouse; while listening to her perspective on the lack of visibility on black disabled artists, I recognized how her story could positively impact others.

Image of Glenn, a Black quadriplegic woman, in a wheelchair in front of a white tent and a sign with a photo of her and her name.

M: What advice would you give other disabled artists and creatives?

G: I would strongly advise other disabled artists and creatives to please keep going— keep creating and keep sharing your story. Throughout my journey as a disabled artist, I learned discipline and consistency is very much needed. When my purpose looked slow, bleak, I stretched whatever strength I had to find ways to stay creative. All sorts of challenges and obstacles definitely found its way to me, but I also found a way to make it work in my favor. I personally don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me or my situation so I strive to be better than I was yesterday. I look at myself as a source of motivation to keep creating what I want and what makes me happy. I found that those same challenges and obstacles makes for a beautiful story to share. You never know who’s watching!

M: What are you looking forward to in the future?

G: I want to continue to create so I’m able to be a household name in museums, in celebrity homes. I want to share my journey on a TedTalk. I honestly just look forward to expanding my art business and staying healthy!

M: What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?

G: I schedule days to be in nature to see how colors complement each other. I listen to music and other creatives via podcasts or Youtube. I’m always looking at tutorials or documentaries on color mixing and oil painting portraits. I’m very motivated by other artists and when I see my earlier work, I challenge myself.

Image of a painting - the background is white, and in the center is a man with black hair and big black beard and white-ish gray skin wearing a gray jacket with gold collar.

M: Thinking about the things you have created, is there something you hated but the public may have loved – and perhaps purchased?

G: Yes, all of my Nipsey portraits. As I’m painting, I see it one way but at a distance, I second guess everything. Instant cringe. I want to do better when I capture him. I’m working on doing practice pieces with only him.

M: Has rejection ever affected your creative process? Explain

G: No, but criticism has definitely fueled my motivation to prove others wrong. I’m very sensitive when it comes to my art. Sensitive in a way that I’m motivated and inspired to prove to myself I am a real artist. I’m working on being more confident in art that isn’t what people want, but what I like and see as a masterpiece. So critics and negative comments has definitely affected how I approach my work.

M: In your opinion, how can black disabled creatives stay connected to each other? What is missing? What’s already there?

G: As of now, I found social media platforms such as Instagram, TikTok and Twitter are most effective in connecting to disabled artists. I utilized Clubhouse as well. I’m still learning myself but I know that browsing social media sites has connected me to some very dope disabled creatives. I also learned that getting into local events as a vendor helps as well. So, establishing yourself on social media and participating in local events, in my opinion, can help disabled creatives to stay connected.

M: Anything else you’d like to share?

G: Do things for the greater good. Your purpose is bigger than yourself. Stay creative and never give up!

A Milestone for the Disability Vote: Advocates Meet with the Vice President

A racially diverse group of women, non-binary people, and men dressed professionally stand or sit together and smile at the camera against a white wall with windows on either side. From left to right and top to bottom, the people are Mathew Yanez, Jalyn Radziminski, Dr. Ricky Scott, Howard Porter, Olivia Babis, Maria Town, Morgan Dunn, and Lilian Aluri.

By Lilian Aluri | September 20, 2021

As we close National Disability Voter Registration Week, we wanted to share a blog documenting a key moment for the disability vote this year. This blog shares highlights from a meeting that disability advocates had with Vice President Harris in July of this year to talk about gaps in voting access for voters with disabilities.

When I told my mom that I was going to meet with disability advocates after their meeting with the Vice President, she immediately thought I was going to meet with the Vice President myself. I had to temper her excitement slightly. But she was right to be excited, for the folks who actually got to meet Vice President Kamala Harris.

On Wednesday, July 14, seven disability advocates from across the country met with Vice President Kamala Harris for a roundtable discussion on access to voting at the White House. During this meeting, coordinated by Emily Voorde, Associate Director in the Office of Public Engagement at the White House, each advocate had a chance to share their personal experiences with the range of barriers that keep disabled voters from participating in democracy. 

The organizers present included many from the REV UP network whom I had spoken with several times but never met in person, as well as other advocates who have been working outside REV UP in their communities advancing the rights of disabled and Black communities. The advocates included:

  • Olivia Babis  |  Senior Public Policy Analyst at Disability Rights Florida and Member of REV UP Florida
  • Anthony Bonnelli  |  Freelance Journalist and Advocate for People with Disabilities
  • Dessa Cosma  |  Executive Director at Detroit Disability Power and Partner of REV UP
  • Howard Porter, Jr.  |  Advocate in Alabama
  • Jalyn Radziminski  |  Communications Manager at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Founder and President of Count Us IN, and Fannie Lou Hamer Leadership Program Alumni
  • Dr. Ricky Stott  |  President at The Scott Institute and Former Board Member of the NC Council of the Blind, Raleigh Mayor’s Committee for Persons with Disabilities, Raleigh Human Relations Commission and the Governor Morehead School Human Rights Committee
  • Mathew Yanez  |  Legal Intern at United States Attorneys’​ Offices and Partner of REV UP

Following their meeting with the Vice President, all of the advocates, except Mr. Bonelli and Ms. Cosma, joined myself and several of my colleagues for lunch at AAPD’s office. Over lunch, the advocates shared key moments and reflections on the meeting. It seemed that each of the advocates felt a mixture of hope and despair, a mix of emotions many feel when advocating for a more equitable world. This meeting felt like a new milestone in the ways that our political leaders are acknowledging both the existence of the disability vote and the access barriers disabled voters face. At the same time, as many of the attendees expressed, this was one, short meeting focused on a topic that needs more discussion and concrete action.

As Mr. Porter stated while we munched on sandwiches, he has been fighting to make a difference for so long with the hope of making a better world for his kids, and yet in many ways we are in the same place. You can read some of Mr. Porter’s testimony on page three of the NC District Court opinion. Statewide attacks on voting rights threaten to reverse the gains in voter turnout we saw during the 2020 elections, and the efforts to make voting more accessible, like the For the People Act, have failed so far to pass Congress and even fail to include people with disabilities from the start. Other efforts, like the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, have yet to even be introduced. 

Despite the threats to our voting rights and access, disability advocates in each state continue to reach out to their communities, call on their elected leaders, keep their election officials accountable for holding accessible elections, and collaborate with one another to build the power of the disability vote. The work of the REV UP network and the many disability organizations advancing the disability vote has rarely felt more important. For me, and I hope for the advocates who spoke with Vice President Harris, this meeting felt like a sign of a shift that has been happening, and started well before I came to AAPD, towards meaningful recognition of the disability vote from the highest offices in the country.

Yes, it was just one meeting, and talk means little without actions. But this meeting between disability and voting advocates and the Vice President represents a significant moment for the disability vote nationally. And so yes, my mom was right to be excited.

Learn about National Disability Voter Registration Week that ends today at and…

Action Alert: Ask your Senators to Protect Our Access to Voting!

September 17, 2021

Today, we are calling on our network to take action to protect access to the ballot. The U.S. Senate is considering a voting rights bill called the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Week. This bill would restore the power of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to protect our right to vote from restrictive laws that seem to limit voting access for people with disabilities, people of color, and disabled people of color.

Learn more about the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and take action below!

Check out all of the activities taking place this week at and…

How Can We Increase the Disability Vote?

*This is the first of a series of blogs based on the report “Increasing the Disability Vote” written by Rachita Singh for Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy

Image of multiple stickers patriotic stars and stripes stickers scattered across a surface all saying "I voted".

By Rachita Singh | September 16, 2021

The disability vote describes a powerful voting bloc consisting of over 38 million eligible voters and spanning all races, ethnicities, localities, sexual orientations, gender identities, religions, and ages. Historically, the disability vote has been lower than that of people without disabilities, with a gap of over 2 million votes in the most recent election. Despite the fact that 1 in 4 American adults has a disability, candidates rarely address the disability community and issues important to us, and campaign websites, town halls, and debates are frequently inaccessible and not inclusive. The disability vote is too often overlooked and forgotten.

In order to counter this, AAPD asked the following question: What are effective strategies organizations can implement in order to raise awareness and increase the disability vote? 

And to answer this question, I carried out a series of interviews with people from various disability rights and voting advocacy organizations, such as Crip The Vote, Voto Latino, Human Rights Campaign, and more. I also conducted case studies on groups that have shown success in encouraging voter turnout within their communities.

During the interviews, I talked with a diverse set of advocates about the many barriers to voting and ways to overcome them. The four barriers most common to people with disabilities, people of color, disabled people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, and other marginalized groups were:

  1. Discrimination. Interviewees from disability rights/justice organizations discussed implicit and explicit ableism, while those from other voting rights groups described experiences of marginalization at the polls based on race or gender identity.  
    “Every marginalized group has experienced discrimination personally and that links them together…” – Leslie Adames, Voto Latino
  2. Voter Suppression.  Voter suppression is used to influence the outcome of elections by discouraging or preventing certain groups of people from voting. Interviewees detailed tactics such as voter I.D. laws, eliminating early voting or same-day registration, and unnecessarily shutting down polling places.
    Disability laws are being used to target minority leaders, putting bogus charges on them such as ineligibly helping someone else to vote. This has a chilling effect on many communities.” – Michelle Bishop, National Disability Rights Network
  3. Voter Apathy. People are not going to the polls simply because they do not care or do not see the point. This is especially true within the disability community, where politicians continually overlook them and do not bring their issues to the forefront.
    “For voters who argue their vote doesn’t matter or that nothing can ever change, engage in simple questions: If your vote doesn’t matter, why do we have gerrymandering or voter suppression? [These issues] are carefully orchestrated to limit voting power. ” – Halley Rogers, When We All Vote
  4. Lack of Information. There is an information barrier when it comes to voting and many of the interviewees believed that if people understood what they were voting for, and how to do it, then they would take more of an interest and engage
    “Civics courses are not as fruitful as they should be…there are people my age, around 27, who do not know the three branches of government and don’t understand what they do or what impact citizens can have.” – Deandrea Newsome, Local Progress

In the next few months, we will be posting blogs that dive deeper into these four key barriers, as well as the case studies I conducted on a few key communities. The interviews and case studies are ways to gain insight into how organizations like AAPD can better build the disability vote and accurately amplify the already amazing work advocates are doing. In order to learn more about what gaps exist in the field and why some strategies have a better impact than others, I conducted a comparative case study, examining three underrepresented groups: the Latinx/Hispanic community, the LGBTQIA+ population, and the youth of America. Given the multitudes of backgrounds and identities that exist within the United States, these case studies are just a drop in the ocean. But they can give us a better understanding of how factors such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and age influence the way communities work together to address issues.

Stay tuned for the other blogs in this series that will delve deeper into the interviews with advocates, who they were, and what was discussed, along with the specific findings from the case studies that describe how each group increased voter turnout. 

Check out all of the activities taking place this week at and…

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