One in 5 voters with disabilities either needed assistance or had difficulty voting in 2022 — three times the rate of people without disabilities, according to the most recent survey from the U.S. Election Assistance Committee (EAC).

The survey report, “Disability and Voting Accessibility in the 2022 Elections,” highlights the difficulties faced by the estimated 30 million Americans with disabilities who are eligible to vote and the subsequent negative impact on their civic engagement.

The survey assesses the accessibility of elections by exploring points like voter turnout, difficulties faced while voting and treatment by election officials.

People with disabilities had a 20 percent likelihood of having difficulties voting in-person, compared to 6 percent for people without a disability. With a mail-in ballot, the likelihood of difficulties voting for people with disabilities was 6 percent, compared with 1 percent of people without disabilities.

Maryland-based disability rights advocate Ola Ojewumi knows the challenges in accessing the ballot all too well. Ojewumi is a multi-organ transplant survivor and immunocompromised, and she uses a wheelchair.

Usually, an absentee ballot would suffice, but a serious hospitalization led to Ojewumi missing the deadline to request one and having to go in person to vote in the November 2022 election. After waiting hours for an accessible Uber that could accommodate her wheelchair that never came, she drove herself to the polls. When it was her turn to vote, she requested a voting station she could sit down in and was initially met with reluctance from polling officials. A poll worker told her that she didn’t look disabled.

She was eventually given a chair and an accessible voting station, but by then the damage had been done.

“No one should have to prove their disability — no one. It’s dehumanizing. You should have access to whatever you need to do whatever you need for your life. Period,” Ojewumi said.

Challenges like the ones she faced keep voters from even trying to vote, the survey found.

After the 2020 survey, the EAC estimated that if voters with disabilities had voted at the same rates as voters without disabilities, there would be around 2 million more votes cast. It also found that disabled people voted at a 3.6 percent lower rate than those without disabilities, though that number narrowed to 1.5 percent after being adjusted with updated Census data.

Voting difficulties were most common among people who have vision and cognitive disabilities, and people were more likely to experience difficulties voting at polling places than mailing in their ballots. Nearly three-fifths of voters with disabilities voted with a mail ballot or early in person in 2022, compared to just over half of voters without disabilities.

The voting difficulties cited included getting inside the polling place because of steps; reading or seeing the ballot; difficulty using the voting equipment; writing on ballots; or communicating with poll workers or other officials.

Read the full article about voting access for people with disabilities by Katherine Gilyard at The Conversation.