Access to Independence wants to be your first source for information concerning disabilities. However, if there’s something you need that someone else can better accommodate, let us help you get to the right place. Access to Independence can provide resources to all members of the community about a wide range of information relevant to people with disabilities.

Dispelling Disability Myths

Like the rest of the world, the challenges and opportunities for people with disabilities are changing at a rapid pace. Get the facts straight from the source here:

Fact: Actually, most workers with disabilities do not require any special accommodations. When accommodations are necessary, about 20 percent cost nothing, and 50 percent cost less than $500. There are a variety of national and community-based organizations that help employers identify low-cost or no-cost accommodation alternatives. Employers have always made adjustments in the workplace to accommodate employees’ needs. That same flexibility should be extended to people with disabilities.

Fact: Everyone can contribute to change. You as an individual can help remove barriers by advocating a barrier-free environment. Speak up when negative words or phrases are used in connection with disability. Write producers and editors a note of support when they portray people with disabilities as they do others in the media. Accept people with disabilities as individual human beings with the same needs and feelings you have. Hire qualified candidates with disabilities whenever possible. Encourage people with disabilities to participate in community activities by making sure that meeting and event sites are accessible.

Disability Etiquette

One way that we achieve our goal of advocating for the disabled community is through education.

Fear of the unknown and lack of knowledge can lead to uneasiness when meeting a person who has a disability.

You can’t always see some one’s disability.  Let common sense and friendship break down any barriers you may encounter.  A great “rule of thumb” is to just be yourself!

Following these guidelines may help prevent uncomfortable situations. But for more detailed information call Access to Independence at (619) 293-3500.

Basic Points of Etiquette

If you have personal questions about some one’s disability, ask if your questions are welcome, be sensitive and show respect. Do not probe, if the person declines to discuss it.

Be considerate of the extra time it might take for a person with a disability to do or say something.

  1. Be polite and patient when offering assistance, and wait until your offer is accepted. Listen or ask for specific instructions.
  2. When planning a meeting or other event, try to anticipate specific accommodations a person with a disability might need. If a barrier cannot be avoided, let the person know ahead of time.
  3. Be respectful of the rights of people with disabilities to use accessible parking spaces.

When speaking or writing about disability

Refer to a person’s disability only when necessary and appropriate.

  1. Use people first language – refer to the individual first, then to his or her disability. (It is better to say “the person with a disability,” rather than “the disabled person.”)
  2. The following terms should be avoided in a disability context, because they disempower people or have negative meanings:
    • invalid
    • able-bodied
    • wheelchair-bound
    • victim
    • crippled
    • defect
    • suffers from

Voting Information

Voters with Disabilities

Please visit:

Polling Place and Voting Accessibility

Before each election, every registered voter is notified whether their polling place is accessible. This notification comes on the sample ballot mailed to each voter by their county elections official.

Elections officials are required, to the extent possible; ensure that polling places are accessible to voters with disabilities.

The Secretary of State’s Polling Place Accessibility Guidelines (Guidelines) are designed to provide people with easy access to the federal and state requirements for accessible polling places. The Secretary of State, in partnership with the Department of Rehabilitation provides training to county elections officials to help them understand the Guidelines, learn techniques for surveying polling places using the Guidelines, and provide voters with accessible polling places.

To help county elections officials and polling place surveyors create accessible polling places, the Secretary of State’s office produced the Polling Place Accessibility Surveyor Training Video. The training video provides a brief overview of polling place accessibility requirements and does not replace the Secretary of State’s Polling Place Accessibility Guidelines.

The Secretary of State’s “Disability Sensitivity at the Polls” is a helpful reference for poll workers at the polling place on Election Day.

The Secretary of State has approved several voting systems for use that allow voters with disabilities to cast their votes privately and independently. For a list of the equipment used in your county, visit our voting systems page.

All polling places are required to be accessible.  If a polling place is not accessible, folks can contact Ted Jackson (916) 769-8821 or (916) 737-5337 or the Disability Rights California.  Their polling location and voter registration resources can be found on their county elections website, Secretary of State website or the Disability Organizing Network voting page – the info is for 2014 and has not yet been updated but the links to these services are current.

All polling places must provide curbside voting under the ADA.  If they do not please call as directed above.  There should be a bell to ring on a stand and a ballot will be brought out to you.

The hotline comes out only for major elections and is staffed by Disability Rights California, they issue a new number each election and the Disability Organizing Network publishes and promotes it as well.  In the meantime, they can call as instructed above.

Statewide Voting Accessibility Advisory Committee

The Secretary of State’s Statewide Voting Accessibility Advisory Committee (VAAC) is designed to advise, assist, and provide recommendations to the Secretary of State’s office as to how voters with disabilities can vote independently and privately. The State’s VAAC members have been influential in assisting with numerous projects, including the Polling Place Accessibility Guidelines. They have helped raise awareness of disability issues through their involvement in the development of the Voter Accessibility Survey and production of the Polling Place Accessibility Surveyor Training Video. Contact information for current State VAAC members is available on the VAAC Roster. The VAAC Meeting Schedule for 2014 can be viewed online.

For more information about the VAAC, please contact the Secretary of State’s Elections Division at (916) 657-2166, or by email.

Some county elections officials have established local voting accessibility advisory committees to advise and assist on local election issues. If you are interested in creating or joining a local voting accessibility advisory committee in your county, contact your local county elections official. You may also reference the Secretary of State’s Guide to Creating Local Voting Accessibility Advisory Committee (VAAC). This guide advises county elections officials on how to create and maintain an effective local VAAC.

Election Resources in Alternate Formats

The Secretary of State has a New Voters page, plus election-related materials and voter hotline assistance, available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Tagalog, Thai, and Vietnamese. In addition, many services are available to voters who may need special assistance. You can learn about many of them by watching our video, Guide to Voting in California, in American Sign Language (English and Spanish):

You may apply to register to vote by completing a Voter Registration Application online. If you are using a screen reader to register to vote, please ensure that your browser and operating system are configured to play audio files in the .wav file format. Or, you may call (800) 345-VOTE (8683) to request a form be mailed to you.

The Voter Information Guide is published by the Secretary of State prior to each statewide election. The Voter Information Guide contains useful voter information for statewide candidates and measures. Each measure in the guide is accompanied by an impartial analysis of the proposal and the potential costs to taxpayers as prepared by the Legislative Analyst’s Office, arguments in favor of and against it prepared by proponents and opponents, a summary prepared by the Attorney General or the Legislature, and the full text of the proposed law, as well as other information. The Secretary of State provides the Voter Information Guide in a downloadable audio format at approximately 29 days before the election. Please complete our online order form if you would like to order the CD or audio cassette version of the Voter Information Guide, or you may call (800) 345-VOTE (8683) to request a copy.

Voter Accessibility Survey

Prior to each election, the Secretary of State asks voters with disabilities to participate in a brief confidential survey. If you would like to participate in the survey contact Todd Wallace, Project Manager, at (916) 657-2376, or by email at Survey results help identify whether there is a need for more training, modified services, or enhanced outreach programs for voters with disabilities.