By Christie Post - email
LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Early voting for the November elections is just around the corner, and one portion of the Lubbock community is thankful they get a voice.
The disabled community has specific machines that cater to their needs, giving some a chance to vote for the first time.
"We want everybody to have a voice and we're doing everything that we can to make sure everybody gets their opportunity to have their voice heard," said Lubbock County Elections Administrator, Dorothy Kennedy.
The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) requires a minimum of one disability assessable voting booth at each precinct. But now Lubbock has gone above and beyond the requirements using two American Sign Language or ASL interpreters during election time.
"We want everyone to come out and vote. And these machines allow you to because they have headphones, we also have textile or jelly switches and we also have the capability for folks that have the sip and puff device to be able to attach," said Kennedy.
A few years ago Advocacy Inc. noticed a missing component, nothing catered to the deaf community, who for most English is their second language making it hard to read voting information.
"We're talking about people who have probably voted one or two times in their lifetime and said it's too much trouble, now they have equal access," said American Sign Language Interpreter Rok King.
Rok King is one of the 47 ASL interpreters during election time. He translated Debra Shaver-Price's interview who is hearing impaired. She said before there were interpreters, voting was intimidating.
"A long time ago we didn't have interpreters there, there was no advertisement, no captioning, we didn't know what was going on at all. We didn't know who that person was, we didn't know who we were supposed to be voting for," said Debra Shaver-Price who uses ASL interpreters during voting.
"With the commissioners agreeing to pay for the interpreter which is very rare, and having the vote centers make that available to us, I think it's really broadened this out to people who are deaf.
Who can remember all the names, but when you read the blurb you say oh that's the person," said Advocacy Inc. managing attorney, Danette Vaughn.
Now everyone has a voice. Rock said a number of deaf citizens who vote increases every year.
"They felt more motivated to go to the polls and voice their opinion. The numbers have probably increased ten times more than when they first began," said King.
"It's really exciting to learn how to use the machine and be able to vote. It kind of increases my self esteem ya know. I'm able to make the right decision," said Shaver-Price
Lubbock is one of the few counties in the region that offer ASL interpreters allowing equal communication across the board.
Early voting locations with ASL interpreters:
Elections locations with ASL interpreters:
Advocacy, Inc. will also hold a training session on the use of voting machines October 14, 2010 at 6pm located at 4747 South Loop 289, Suite 120. They will have American Sign Language interpreters on hand to accommodate those with hearing impairments.
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