Disability voter registration week

“Focus on Independence” is the theme of a series of roundtables that will take place around Northwest Georgia this week to mark the 29th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“We’ll be in five locations for focus groups, with lunch provided, to talk to communities about what people with disabilities need,” said Christina Holtzclaw, assistant director of the Northwest Georgia Center for Independent Living.

“Each community is unique and we want to hear about the ways we can help them bridge gaps and move forward.”

Enacted in 1990, the ADA guarantees people with disabilities equal opportunity in five areas: public accommodations, employment, telecommunications, transportation and government services.

Focus groups are scheduled for Rome, Cartersville, Bremen, Ellijay and LaFayette.

The events follow on the heels of National Disability Voter Registration Week, proclaimed locally last week by the Rome City Commission and statewide by Gov. Brian Kemp.

Vincent Olsziewski of Rome is finishing up a term as co-chair of Rev Up Georgia, a nonpartisan network aimed at increasing participation in the electoral process by people with disabilities. He said there can be many obstacles to registering — and casting — a vote.

“One in five people have some kind of disability. They’re in a chair, blind, deaf ... but if you’re on the autism spectrum, that doesn’t forgo your right to vote,” Olsziewski said.

People who are visually- or mobility-impaired can’t just jump in a car and drive to the registration office, he noted.

And while online options are a boon to many, they’re not the solution for all.

“There’s a lot of crossover between the elderly and the disability community. Most people do have internet access, but if you’re living on a fixed income you may not be able to get WiFi,” Olsziewski said. “This past week was a reminder to help someone get out, or help them get absentee ballots.”

Holtzclaw said staffers at the Center for Independent Living are often called to nursing homes to help residents there get ready to vote. They’re also ready to assist anyone who asks. The center is at 527 Broad St. in Rome and the phone number is 706-314-0008.

Olsziewski said he’s heard few complaints about Floyd County’s operation. The polling sites are accessible and poll workers are generally helpful, he said.

“We also have Sunday voting here,” he said. “I’m a big advocate of Saturday and Sunday voting because it’s easier for people to drive you to the polls then,” he said.

Floyd County’s chief elections clerk, Robert Brady, said he’ll be at the Rome roundtable on Friday.

“I need to make contact with those folks. I want them to tell us what we can do to help,” Brady said.

The session will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Goodwill Career Center, 154 Hicks Drive. The Cartersville session will be Tuesday, at the same time, in the Goodwill at 929 Joe Frank Harris Parkway.