Accessibility/Voters with Disabilities

The Board of Election Commissioners for the City of Chicago offers a variety of programs and services to assure that all voters may cast a ballot privately and independently. 

Polling Places

The Election Board also continues to work with the U.S. Department of Justice on efforts to designate Election Day polling places that meet all of the latest standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). As of 2023, this work remains a work in progress at physical polling places as all layers of government work to catch up after the devastating and ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Much work towards improving and fixing accessibility issues at public parks and school buildings are undergoing a multi-year remediation process. 

Year round, the Board works with Equip for Equality and the U.S. Department of Justice to survey the physical accessibility of in-precinct polling places and Early Voting sites. This includes: inspecting entrances and routes for steps, measuring ramps and doorway widths, and evaluating other aspects of sites that might have one or more barriers that could impede the access for a voter who uses a wheelchair or who has another type of mobility impairment. 

The CBOE has categorized our survey data into three levels of polling place accessibility for voters with mobility impairments. These ratings are based on a voter with a mobility impairment’s ability to use the polling place independently. Please note: These ratings do not include the accessibility of parking, passenger drop-offs, or restrooms. These ratings also do not include evaluation of architectural barriers for people who are blind or low vision; all protruding objects will have at a minimum temporary cane-detectable features (usually orange cones) on Election Days.

Low to No Accessibility

Voter-used areas have at least one feature that is substantially out of compliance with ADA Standards for New Construction and is likely to exclude many people with mobility impairments, including: voters must use 1 or more steps, exterior or interior, in order to get to voting stations; voters must use walkways or ramps that have excessive slopes, substantially out of compliance with ADA; or voters must use one or more doorways or routes that are too narrow or that may lack sufficient maneuvering clearance for many people with mobility impairments.

Medium Accessibility 

Voter-used areas do not have steps but may contain another type of obstacle that would impede some voters with mobility impairments but not others, for instance: an entrance doorway that is just shy of the ADA-minimum width but that is wide enough to accommodate people who use smaller wheelchairs and many others with mobility impairments; an entrance that lacks a large enough flat landing area at its top or bottom; or a sloped corridor that may be too steep for some. 

High Accessibility

Voter-used areas are fully compliant with all ADA Standards for Accessible Design. 

Unknown (At This Time)

The CBOE does not have sufficient information at this time to assess this polling place’s accessibility to voters with disabilities.  

If any voter has any question about polling place accessibility, please call 312-269-7976 or email ADAaccess@chicagoelections.gov 

 

Vote By Mail - Accessible Option

Chicago voters with accessibility issues may contact [email protected] for information on an accessible mail-in balloting option. This program allows voters who have accessibility issues that do not allow the voters to read and mark their ballots privately and independently to access and mark their ballots through an online system, and then print out their ballots and mail in those ballots.

Please note: this is not an online voting system. The ballots in this program must be printed out and mailed to the Election Board or delivered in a Ballot Return Envelope.

Applications to use the accessible system may be submitted through the online Vote By Mail application, where you will be asked to choose the Accessible Option in Step 3.

You can also download this form to print and sign, and email to [email protected], mail it to 69 W. Washington St. Suite 800, Chicago, IL, 60602, or by fax at 312-269-0626.

For those who miss the deadline to apply to Vote By Mail, voters can still Early Vote or on Election Day, vote at your local precinct polling place or available vote center from 6:00am to 7:00pm.

 

Curbside Voting

Curbside Voting is provided when voters file a request for assistance in cases where they are unable to gain access to their polling places because of structural features of the building. Every effort is made to use buildings that are fully accessible. However, some centralized voting sites are not fully accessible, and in other cases, owners of accessible buildings have not allowed their buildings to be used as polling places.

Please note: by law, the Election Board must receive a request for curbside assistance no later than 5:00 p.m. on the day before Election Day at 69 W. Washington St., Suite 600, Chicago IL 60602. By filing a Request for a Ballot by a Voter who is Unable to Enter the Polling Place (please include the voter's name, address, precinct, ward and polling place, the hour the voter expects to arrive, and, if available, a cell phone number), the voter is requesting that two (2) judges of election of opposite political parties bring a ballot to a location where forward motion toward the polling place can no longer be continued; but, in no case shall a ballot be delivered to the voter beyond 50 feet of the entrance to the building in which the polling place is located. At this location, an application for ballot must be completed by the voter and verified by the judges. The voter will be allowed to cast the ballot privately. The Board will notify the judges of election at the appropriate precinct polling places of requests filed at least one day before Election Day.

If the voter cannot file that request a day in advance, the voter may still go to the polling place on Election Day, and if that site is inaccessible, relay the request to alert the Judges of Election to make curbside voting available. If there are questions, the Judges of Election may refer to the Election Judge Handbook, and/or the Judges or Voters may call Election Central at 312-269-7870.

 

Voting for Permanently Disabled / Residents of Licensed Care Facilities

Registered voters who are permanently disabled or incapacitated or are residents of a licensed nursing home or care facility may request an Affidavit and Application for Disabled Voter or Resident of Nursing Home or Care Facility, Form 504DVI.

Once certified, a voter with a Disabled Voter's Identification Card (Form DVI) will receive a Vote By Mail application automatically for all elections during the next five (5) years.

The DVI certification requires the signature of the applicant's physician and the date of the medical license. Once this certification has been completed, it should be returned to the Board of Elections, Vote By Mail Department, 69 West Washington Street, Suite 600, Chicago, Illinois 60602. Submit requests to the Vote By Mail Department at 312-269-7967. The DVI form is available here.

 

Hospitalized Voters

A registered voter who is hospitalized not more than 14 days before an election may request a Vote By Mail ballot.

  1. This application must be completed by the voter, the voter's attending physician, and the voter's representative (a relative or another registered voter from the same precinct).
  2. The completed application may be submitted in person at 69 W Washington, 8th Floor or by email to [email protected]
  3. The voter's representative will be responsible for picking up the ballot at 69 W. Washington, 8th Floor, delivering the ballot to the voter, and also returning the voted ballot to 69 W. Washington, 8th Floor.
  4. If the voter's application form was submitted by email, the original signed and notarized application form must be submitted with the returned ballot by 7 p.m. on Election Day.

By law, a Vote By Mail ballot cannot be submitted by email or fax.

 

Accessibility Devices and Features in Polling Places

In Chicago polling places, the Election Board offers various tools to help voters with different physical abilities:

Ballot Marker Grippers allow voters to easily hold the marking pens for paper ballots.

Large Ballot Viewers are magnifying lenses designed to enlarge the print on the paper ballots to assist voters who require assistance to read the names of offices, candidates and referenda.

Wheelchair accessible voting booths are available in each polling place. Voters who are unable to stand for long periods of time also may use this unit and a provided chair.

Audio Controller Unit and Audio Ballots in the touchscreen voting units allow a visually impaired voter to hear the balloting instructions, offices, candidates and referenda and allow them to make their choices and cast their ballot by use of a hand held controller unit and supplied headphones. This controller can also be affixed to the arm of a chair or wheelchair by using the Velcro straps attached to the unit.

Audio Visual Ballots on the touchscreen allow voters who may have difficulty moving their arms or dexterity issues to use the keypad and the headphones but also see the ballot being displayed on the screen.

Sip-and-Puff Devices on the touchscreen voting units can be used in conjunction with the audio controller. The sip and puff device will navigate the voter through the audio ballot.

Door Bells are offered outside entrances to polling places with heavy doors. When voters ring the bells, a judge of election will come and open the door for the voter.

Threshold Ramps are placed at polling places where the door threshold is such that a voter in a wheelchair may have difficulty entering. The threshold ramps will make for easier entry into the polling place.

An Information and Services Notice ("Need Help Voting?" sign, Form 25) is printed in large type. This Notice lists services and rules for voters who may receive assistance while voting. This Notice is to be posted on a wall in each polling place.

Alternate Entrance Signs, where needed, will be posted at polling places to direct voters with disabilities to the entrance that offers the easiest access.

Assisted Voting is available to those who designate a trusted family member or other friend to help the voter cast a ballot. An affidavit must be signed by the voter and the person assisting. The voter also may request the assistance of two judges of election, one from each major political party, to help the voter cast a ballot.

Designated Parking is provided at polling places thanks to the City of Chicago Department of Streets & Sanitation, which helps assign temporary spaces for vehicles that display the placards for drivers with disabilities.

 

Questions?

Before Election Day: Call 312-269-3259 or send an email to ADAaccess@chicagoelections.gov
On Election Day: Election Central at 312-269-7870 with any questions