Tennessee Launches New Accessible Absentee Voting Process

July 21, 2020 NASHVILLE, TN — The State of Tennessee has begun offering accessible absentee ballots for people with print disabilities in response to a demand by Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) in collaboration with the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center and National Federation of the Blind of Tennessee. The recent expansion of absentee voting during the COVID-19 pandemic is offering many a pathway to exercise their right to vote without risking exposure to the virus. However, until now absentee voting in Tennessee has not been accessible to voters with print disabilities due to the use of paper ballots. A print disability interferes with the ability to effectively read, write, or use print materials and includes blindness, low vision, and some physical disabilities such as paralysis. The new accessible absentee ballot process allows voters with print disabilities to use supporting technology like screen readers and others to complete absentee voting forms. “This month we celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The State’s decision is a timely reminder that it is possible to ensure that public services are available for all,” says Brian Keller, DRT Public Policy and Voting Attorney. This new offering by Tennessee ensures that people with print disabilities will be able to exercise their right to vote independently and privately while voting absentee, not only during the current crisis, but in future elections as well. “We are pleased that the state moved swiftly to secure the rights of blind voters without the need for litigation,” said Terry Smith, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Tennessee. “Equal access to voting...

Happy Anniversary ADA!

July 26, 2020 is the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). During these 30 years, people with disabilities and their allies have used the ADA to reshape our society. Many people with disabilities have a place at the table and a clear path to get there both figuratively and literally. And yet much work remains to be done. This significant anniversary is a time to celebrate the many successes and renew our commitment to continued advocacy until all the barriers are gone and disability discrimination exists only as a part of history. The foundational concepts of the ADA are accessibility and equality. These concepts overlap. So, for example, holding an event in a room that’s not accessible for wheelchair users is equivalent to posting a “no wheelchair users allowed” sign even if the organizers have no objection to people with mobility disabilities attending. Similarly, when a doctor’s office refuses to provide a sign language interpreter to a deaf patient, that office may as well say they don’t serve deaf people since they’re not offering equal services. There can be no accessibility without equality and vice versa. I’ve had the good fortune to practice disability rights law for over 20 years. One of the things I love about this area of law is the variety of issues. People with all types of disabilities are protected by the ADA. And, with a little creativity and persistence, the ADA can be applied in some way to almost every situation and barrier. Early on the focus of ADA advocacy was physical accessibility for people with mobility disabilities. And that’s still...

Welcome Parima!

CREEC is thrilled to welcome paralegal, Parima Kadikar!  A recent graduate of Columbia University, Parima is drawn to public interest work and looking forward to utilizing what she’s learned in school and internships in the world of nonprofit civil rights advocacy. Before joining CREEC, Parima held legal internships at the Vera Institute of Justice’s Guardianship Project and the City Bar Justice Center of the New York City Bar Association, and policy internships with the NY State Office of the Attorney General and at the Solidarity is Global Institute – where she studied the impact of labor laws on refugee women in Jordan. From direct client interaction, to gaining a comparative perspective, these professional experiences helped solidify Parima’s interest in civil rights and immigration justice. In addition, Parima’s recent community involvement has included work at the New Sanctuary Coalition helping pro se litigants in immigration proceedings in New York and as Co-President of the South Asian Feminism(s) Alliance at Columbia University. Parima states, “I was especially drawn to CREEC because of the opportunity it offers to make an impact at the intersection of civil rights and immigration law. Combined with its focus on disability and health advocacy, this intersection makes CREEC a unique and vital organization both in times of pandemic and beyond.” Passionate about communicating with others in their first language when possible, Parima is fluent in English and Gujarati, works at the intermediate level in Arabic, and is conversational in Spanish and Hindi. She will be putting some of her language skills to work at CREEC with clients whose first language is not English. Outside of work and...