Kellar Institute Staff Member Works for Equal Access to Polls

Posted: October 30, 2001 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Elena Barbre

In the late 1980s, Annette Carr, conference coordinator for the Graduate School of Education’s Kellar Institute for Human disAbilities, experienced difficulties in voting because of her visual impairment. Since then, she has funneled her energy into making voting accessible to citizens with disabilities. The teenage election assistants, or pages, you may see posted at Fairfax area polls next week are testament to her efforts.

After her experience at the polls, at the request of City of Fairfax general registrar Larry Lamborn, Carr began training the city’s election officials on accessibility issues for people with disabilities. Then in 1999, she and Lamborn created the Election Page Program, an effort to train high school seniors to provide assistance to people with disabilities on Election Day.

“The officers of an election have plenty to do in the polls, and high school seniors need civic credits to graduate,” says Carr, a Mason special education graduate and former member of the Fairfax Disability Services Board. She helps train the students on the election process and how to assist voters with disabilities ranging from mobility problems to hearing impairment to invisible disabilities such as dyslexia. Pages may explain the voting process, read instructions aloud, assist with curbside voters, or help find accessible entrances.

The City of Fairfax piloted the program in 1999, and it was so successful that Fairfax County jumped onboard in 2000. The Virginia House of Delegates, State Senate, and Gov. James Gilmore endorsed the program, and it became law in the Code of Virginia in the spring of 2000, allowing any high school senior to help election officers at the polls. Carr hopes the program eventually will spread nationwide.

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