CHICAGO, Nov. 8, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, Equip for Equality, in partnership with the Chicago Board of Election, will be surveying 1700 polling places to identify barriers to voting for people with disabilities. Voting Access Chicago is a new initiative to ensure that 100% of Chicago's polling places are accessible to voters with disabilities by March 2018, the next major election.
"The right to vote is one of the most fundamental rights we have as Americans," said Barry C. Taylor, VP for Civil Rights and Systemic Litigation at Equip for Equality. "People with disabilities have a right to vote privately and independently like all citizens, and this initiative will ensure that becomes a reality in Chicago."
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) launched a proactive election access initiative, focusing on 28 cities across the country, including Chicago. DOJ identified numerous problems in polling place access for people with diverse disabilities nationwide. In Chicago, DOJ is working collaboratively with the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners and Equip for Equality to ensure that barriers to the election process for voters with disabilities and older adults are removed.
"Equip for Equality is proud to partner with the Chicago Board of Election," said Zena Naiditch, President and CEO of Equip for Equality. "Rather than being defensive about the findings by the Department of Justice, Executive Director Lance Gough and the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners saw this as an opportunity to address barriers to voting facing people with disabilities in Chicago."
In order to survey 1700 polling places, Equip for Equality staff will be joined by pro bono volunteers from many of the leading law firms and corporations in Chicago, including Hinshaw Culbertson, Jones Day, Kirkland & Ellis, McDermott Will & Emery, Neal Gerber & Eisenberg, RMB Capital, Seyfarth Shaw, United Airlines and Winston & Strawn, which each hosted trainings at their offices. Also, students from Chicago Kent, DePaul, Loyola, Northwestern, University of Chicago, and University of Illinois at Chicago are participating in this initiative. "We couldn't have completed this initiative without the support of our outstanding pro bono partners and student volunteers," said Olga Pribyl, VP for Special Education and Pro Bono. "Equip for Equality is so grateful for their tremendous support."
Today, Equip for Equality will also be staffing a statewide Helpline (1-800-567-2632) to assist voters with disabilities. "The Helpline allows Equip for Equality to help voters with disabilities address any problems they face when voting," said Cheryl Jansen, Director of Public Policy at Equip for Equality. "The Helpline also helps us to identify potential systemic barriers in the electoral process across Illinois."
Equip for Equality
Equip for Equality is a private, not-for-profit entity designated in 1985 by the Governor to administer the federally mandated protection and advocacy system for safeguarding the rights of people with physical and mental disabilities in Illinois. For more information, visit www.equipforequality.org
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SOURCE Equip for Equality