Washington, Feb. 1 – The political world is focused on Iowa today as voters head to the caucuses held around the state this evening. There, Iowans will publicly pledge their support to one of the Democratic or Republican candidates and by the end of the evening, each county will have a winner.
But some people with disabilities may be unable to caucus although they want to. Since the Iowa caucuses are organized by the state’s political parties, they are not run like typical elections. That means many of the rules and procedures in place to ensure access in a traditional election may not apply.
The Iowa Democratic and Republican parties have been working to ensure that all of their caucus locations – which may include religious institutions and private homes that are not necessarily accessible according to the Americans with Disabilities Act – are indeed accessible for wheelchair users and others with mobility limitations. Even something as simple as whether a caucus location has direct, snow-shoveled access from the parking lot to the front door could make a difference for a person with a disability wishing to participate.
In addition, some caucus goers who are deaf or hard of hearing need an ASL interpreter or communication access real-time translation (CART), a system of real-time captioning by converting speech to text.
Jane Hudson of Disability Rights Iowa (DRI), partnering with partnering with the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council, has been producing information to empower and encourage Iowans with all abilities to participate in the upcoming 2016 caucuses.
Hudson has been working with people looking for ASL interpreters or CART and, through conversations with the Iowa Democratic and Republican parties, has secured these accommodations for five individuals requesting these services. While there was discussion on who should pay for this, the Iowa Democratic and Republican parties are footing the bill.
Voters in Iowa who may encounter accessibility issues during tonight’s caucus can contact their state parties for assistance. Call the Iowa Democratic Party at 515-207-9227 for issues leading up to and during tonight’s caucus. Starting tomorrow, call 515-244-7292 if you would like to share information on any accessibility issues after the fact. The Iowa Republican Party can be reached at 515-282-8105. In addition, as Iowa works to make the caucuses more accessible, it is important for DRI to be aware of any issues people may have. Please call DRI at 800-779-2502.
Following the caucus, DRI is asking caucus-goers to fill out a survey about their experiences at the Iowa Caucuses and if they encountered any barriers to attending. You can find the survey here: 2016 Iowa Caucus Experiences.